Chinese Authorities Blow Up Popular Megachurch

China Aid footage of the destruction

Crackdown in 2009 that ended with the arrest of church leaders.

Those church leaders were given prison sentences of up to seven years for charges of illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order, according to state media.

There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China, many of whom worship in independent congregations like the Golden Lampstand. Millions of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims also worship in state-sanctioned assemblies.

But the surging popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, wary of any threats to the officially atheist Communist Party’s rigid political and social control.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under China’s constitution, so local authorities are often seen as using technicalities to attack unregistered churches. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common.

The state-run Global Times newspaper reported the official reason for the demolition was the building did not hold the necessary permits.

“A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association, and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse,” a government department official was quoted as saying.

Religious groups must register with local religious affairs authorities under Chinese law, the report said, adding the church was illegally constructed nearly a decade ago in violation of building codes.

Pictures distributed by ChinaAid showed the church’s steeple and cross toppled in a large pile of rubble.

“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said ChinaAid president and founder Bob Fu.

He added: “ChinaAid calls on the international community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches.”

A pastor at a nearby church, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he saw large numbers of paramilitary police on Tuesday surrounding the area around the church, which was being taken apart by heavy machinery. He later heard a loud explosion.

The Golden Lampstand Church was built by husband and wife evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli as a permanent home for their followers.

The couple had been preaching around Linfen since 1992, establishing congregations in improvised spaces such as factory dormitories and greenhouses.

Though authorities did not block the church’s construction, they later cracked down on it, and the couple and other church leaders were sent to prison.

ChinaAid said authorities also demolished a Catholic church in Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, on Dec. 27. Officials smashed crosses and confiscated statues, the Eucharistic altar and other religious artifacts as they demolished the building with heavy machinery, the organization said.

The demolition prompted more 100 church members to protest in front of government offices this week. 

California May Evict 84-Year-Old for Bible Study in Veterans Home

The California Department of Veterans Affairs is threatening to evict an 84-year-old widow from her California Veterans Home if she continues to hold Bible studies, according to her attorney.

The woman, Artis Breau, has volunteered as a chaplain and led Bible studies over the past decade.

The controversy began last September when one of the residents said he had trouble sleeping after having a conversation with her about heaven and hell. Officials with the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) labeled it elder abuse and emotional abuse, according to the Pacific Justice Institute.

Her volunteer status within the chaplaincy program was suspended in December. Then, on March 1, CalVet told the Pacific Justice Institute that Breau would be subjected to an “involuntary discharge” from the home if she continued leading Bible studies.

Breau believes officials are skeptical of her because she is an evangelical Jewish believer in Christ.

“CalVet’s treatment of this widow is shameful,” said Pacific Justice Institute attorney Matthew McReynolds. “Throughout this process, we have been deeply disturbed not only by the lack of constitutional guidelines, ineptitude, and lack of due process in the investigation, but even more by the notion that discussing religious views on the eternal state of the soul is somehow elder abuse or emotional abuse.

“Our client’s husband fought for his country to preserve the freedoms now being threatened by CalVet. Our veterans deserve better.”

Breau was a civilian employee in the office of the chief of staff of the Army at the Pentagon during the Korean War. Her husband served in World War II and the Korean War.

The Pacific Justice Institute is considering a lawsuit.

“This shocking attack from the State against our client’s exercise of religious convictions is deeply disturbing,” said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute. “The State seeks to punish Artis based on non-existent directives, and deprive her of a personal ministry to the veterans who have benefited from her religious services for years. Artis isn’t fighting just for herself, but for the Gospel and for the residents who are unable to fight for themselves against the State’s attempted intimidation.”

Teacher Apologizes after Demanding Fourth-Grader Remove Ash Wednesday Cross from Forehead

Teacher Apologizes after Demanding Fourth-Grader Remove Ash Wednesday Cross from Forehead

When an elementary school student in Utah walked into class on Wednesday, he was shocked when his teacher told him to wipe his Ash Wednesday cross off of his forehead.

According to Fox News, fourth-grader William McLeod – seemingly the only Catholic in his class – walked into class on Wednesday with a cross of ash upon his forehead. McLeod told the outlet that many of his classmates asked him what was on his forehead and he happily explained to them that it was to bring him “closer to God” on the first day of Lent.

When his teacher noticed the symbol, however, she decided to pull McLeod aside a demanded he remove the cross from his forehead.

McLeod told Fox News, “She took me aside, and she said, ‘You have to take it off.’ She gave me a disinfection wipe — whatever they are called — and she made me wipe it off.”

Later that day, the fourth grader’s grandmother, Karen Fisher, received a phone call from the school’s principal informing her of the incident. Fisher told Fox 13 that she was “pretty upset” about what had happened to her grandson. The teacher who demanded McLeod remove the cross also called the grandmother later that day to apologize.

Fisher told Fox 13 that during her conversation with the unnamed teach she “asked her if she read the Constitution with the First Amendment, and she said, ‘No.’”

According to McLeod, the teacher sent him a note later that day with some candy apologizing for making him wipe the ashes off of his forehead, noting that she hoped they could move forward from the incident.

A spokesperson for the school district commented on the incident noting that he was unsure of how or why the incident even happened. He added, “When a student comes in to school with ashes on their forehead, it’s not something we say, ‘Please take off.'”

Canadian Supreme Court Rules 14-Year-Old Can Have Hormone Injections without Parental Permission

The Supreme Court of British Columbia, Canada ruled last week that a 14-year-old girl can receive testosterone injections without parental consent.

According to The Federalist, a school counselor encouraged the girl to consider a gender change, and Dr. Brenden Hursh at BC Children’s Hospital agreed to provide testosterone injections for the girl.

The girl’s mother was initially OK with the treatment, but her father expressed concerns and wanted to wait until the 14-year-old was older.

Hursh said he was able to complete the treatment with the girl’s consent only under the BC Infants Act, but the girl’s father sought an injunction.

The court ruled, however, that the girl is “exclusively entitled to consent to medical treatment for gender dysphoria.”

“Attempting to persuade [the girl, identified by a pseudonym, Maxine] to abandon treatment for gender dysphoria; addressing [Maxine] by his birth name; referring to [Maxine] as a girl or with female pronouns whether to him directly or to third parties; shall be considered to be family violence under s. 38 of the Family Law Act.”

In response, however, the father said the government had “taken over” his parental rights.

“They’re using [Maxine] like she’s a guinea pig in an experiment … Is BC Children’s Hospital going to be there in 5 years when she rejects [her male identity]? No, they’re not. They don’t care. They want numbers.”

He said the family would be appealing the case.

“Her DNA will not change through all these experiments that they do,” he said. “We’re gonna fight this right up to the Supreme Court of Canada. We’re not quitting.”

Canadian Supreme Court Rules 14-Year-Old Can Have Hormone Injections without Parental Permission

Report Shows 57 Percent Jump in Aggression against Christians in India


NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Cases of hate and violence against Christians in India increased 57 percent the first two months of this year compared with the same period last year, an advocacy group reported.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Religious Liberty Commission (EFIRLC) documented 77 incidents of hate and targeted violence against Christians in January and February, up from 49 cases during the same period last year. The cases include the murders of one Christian in Odisha state and another in Chhattisgarh state, both in February.

“We have reasons to believe that both men, who were in their 40s, were killed because of their faith,” the Rev. Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the EFI, told Morning Star News. “We have recorded cases where Christians have been facing social boycott and have been excommunicated from their villages, and in a few instances have had to flee to save their lives.”

Of the 77 incidents, 16 took place in Tamil Nadu state, 12 in Uttar Pradesh, six in Maharashtra and five in Chhattisgarh, the report found. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and, surprisingly, Kerala each saw four cases, followed by other states, Lal said.

The 49 cases recorded in the first two months of 2018 followed the documenting of 50 cases during the same period the previous year.

In one of the incidents this year in Uttar Pradesh, female police officers on Jan. 13 disrupted a Sunday worship service and arrested four women and two men, including the female pastor leading worship. At the police station, a female police officer physically assaulted the woman pastor, Sindhu Bharti, who fell unconscious.

“Boiling tea was forcibly thrust in her mouth because the police thought that she was feigning her unconsciousness,” an eyewitness, Madhu Bharati, told Morning Star News. “When that did not work, they poured two jugs of cold water on her face, not caring that it was already severely cold due to winter.”

Those arrested were charged with intent to hurt religious feelings, defilement of a place of worship and rioting, among other charges. The intervention of Christian leaders resulted in police freeing the arrested female Christians, but the men were kept under judicial custody.

Pastor Bharti received medical treatment for her injuries.

In the murders, two Christians were killed by Maoists, known as Naxalites, after area tribal people influenced the rebels in Odisha and Chhattisgarh respectively.

“Munglu Ram Nureti from Kohkameta village in Chhattisgarh was killed because villagers who were opposed to his practicing the Christian faith falsely reported him as a police informer to the Maoists,” Lal said. “Anant Ram Gond, from Nabarangpur in Odisha was killed a day before Munglu Ram Nureti in a similar but more gruesome manner. He was already being persecuted for his faith for some time. It has been reported and verified by credible sources that he was reported to be a police informer by villagers [who were angry at him becoming Christian] to the Maoists, which led to his killing.”

Gond had been living outside the village for some time after facing social boycott because of his faith, Lal said.

“There have been occurrences where Christians have been taken to temples and made to chant Hindu verses and seek forgiveness for the ‘sin’ of conversion,” he told Morning Star News. “At least two instances have been recorded where public banners against Christians have been placed outside Navsari, Gujarat and in Alangulam village near Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. The Navsari banners prohibit the entry of Christians in the town, while those in Tamil Nadu, apparently put up by the Hindu Munnani, reportedly ask the Hindus to awake against religious preaching in the village.”

Alliance Defending Freedom-India, which provides legal advocacy for Christians, reported on Feb. 19 that 29 incidents against Christians took place in January.

2018

Throughout 2018, the EFIRLC documented 325 incidents against Christians in India. The previous year, it recorded 351 such cases, up from 230 in 2016.

Its 2018 annual report, “Hate and Targeted Violence against Christians in India,” released on Feb. 22, took note of the “sudden spurt of violence in a few districts of Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous province, and in Tamil Nadu in the extreme south of the subcontinent.”

The cases documented in the report are by no means exhaustive, as it was based on voluntary reporting and civil society investigations, it states. The EFIRLC said most cases go unreported, either because the victim and witnesses are terrified, or the police, especially in the northern states, turn a blind eye and refuse to record mandatory First Information Reports.

With general elections due in April-May, attempts at religious polarization were at an all-time high, the report noted. It added that the “small Christian community, 2.3 per cent of the 1.3 billion population, which seems to be targeted on issues of conversion, is also collateral victim of the hate crimes against the much larger Muslim community, which is about 15 percent.”

Over 40 percent, or 132, of the documented incidents in the 2018 report took place in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where Christians were targeted the most. This was followed by Tamil Nadu with 40 incidents, while Telangana came third with 24.

The increase of incidents in Uttar Pradesh can be attributed to the systematic campaign against Christians in the eastern part of the state, particularly Jaunpur District, where 45 incidents were documented, according to the report.

Churches in Jaunpur have been targeted through a systematic campaign involving Hindu extremist groups, media, local politicians and the state administration, according to the report. Arrests and detention of pastors and the stopping of church services have become commonplace.

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state of India, home to almost 17 percent of the country’s population. Christians make up only 0.18 percent of the state’s population.

The state is currently led by Yogi Adityanath, who along with being the chief minister is also the high priest of the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur. The chief minister is also founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a Hindu youth militia that has been involved in communal violence and in targeting religious minorities.

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. India was ranked at 31st in 2013 but has been ranked worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

“We are still collecting and verifying information almost on a daily basis,” Lal said.

Muslim Mobs Attack 10 Church Buildings in Ethiopia

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Christians in a town in southern Ethiopia were stunned when local Muslims attacked 10 church buildings on Feb. 9, destroying one and burning the property inside all the structures, according to aid agencies.

Chanting the jihadist slogan, “Allahu akbar [God is greater],” Muslims in Halaba Kulito targeted worship buildings belonging to eight denominations, reported Scotland-based aid agency Steadfast Global and Voice of the Martyrs-Canada. Kale Hiwot Galeto church’s building was razed.

“The incensed crowds comprising Muslim residents of all ages from across the town made their way to the churches chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ after being given false information that a mosque in the surrounding countryside had been fire-bombed,” said a Steadfast Global representative who requested anonymity. “The contents of all the churches were removed from the buildings and set on fire on the street.”

Except for some minor vandalism, Christians in the town have not suffered such attacks to this extent, he said. But Halaba Kulito, in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), is a predominantly Muslim town with nearly all Christians there having moved from surrounding villages for work reasons, creating an underlying tension, he added.

He learned from witnesses that an Islamic conference was held in Halaba Kulito about week before the trouble flared that included speakers suspected of holding extremist views, but he said he had no information on what was said at the conference.

Witnesses indicated that the assailants were clearly instructed to target only property and not Christians, he said.

One of the attacked churches, Meserete Kristos Church, has since been vandalized again, and area Christians have faced intimidation and threats, he added.

While Kale Hiwot Galeto church building was destroyed in the Feb. 9 attack, aid workers believe the other nine church buildings were not set ablaze only because of the risk to neighboring Muslim-owned properties.

Municipal police were present during almost every attack but took no action, the agencies reported.

The attacks lasted about five hours, with state police arriving in town in the early afternoon and restoring order. A number of the assailants were said to be arrested and placed in custody, and the aid agencies believe they will be charged and tried.

More than 9,900 worshippers are estimated to attend the 10 churches. A small number of Christians sustained minor injuries and returned home after receiving hospital treatment, including two that were more seriously injured, according to the aid agencies.

Huge amounts of property were destroyed, including Bibles, song books, instruments, benches and chairs.

Despite the destruction, all of the congregations managed to meet for worship the following Sunday, the agencies reported. At the same time, after the attack a significant number of Christians chose not to gather for worship out of fear, they learned. The local government has allocated a police guard to each of the attacked the churches.

Most of the churches are gathering contributions from their members to try to replace damaged items, but they will need help from the wider church, according to the aid agencies, which have distributed emergency funds and are studying ways for ministry partners to help restore and rebuild.