Persecuted Christians

In China, enjoying a Christmas party could mean jail time for the relatives of Communist Party Members.

In Pakistan, Christians eagerly await donations of bullet-proof vests to wear to Christmas services to protect them in the event of a jihadist attack. And in Egypt, the state is ready to deploy 230,000 security personnel to churches when Coptic Christmas rolls around on January 7.

Christmas can be a stressful, dangerous time for Christians in countries where communist and Islamic majorities see them as enemies of the state, and the state often cannot or will not protect their right to celebrate.

This Christmas season in Pakistan has already resulted in deaths of believers. Last week, suicide bombers attacked the Bethel Memorial Church in Quetta, killing 11 and wounding at least 50.

“We had sung songs, and children had presented a Christmas program. Pastor Simon Bashir had finished his sermon, and we were moving towards the altar when we started hearing gunfire outside the church,” Sohail Yousuf, who lost one teen daughter and has a second in critical condition, told the World Watch Monitor.

Police killed at least one of the attackers before he entered the church. The Islamic State took responsibility for the attack.

“The recent church attack in Quetta, Pakistan points to an ongoing fixation by the Islamic State and jihadi wannabes to target Christians around the world,” investigative journalist Lisa Daftari, who runs the Foreign Desk News daily newsletter, explained.

“Over the years, we’ve seen unfair charges brought against Christians living in Pakistan such as the case of Asia Bibi, the young woman convicted in 2010 when she drank from the same water bucket as Muslims and was then accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammad.”

“Pakistan ranks eighth on the World Watch List of countries where Christians face persecution, according to human rights groups,” she notes. “More recently, persecution and violence against Christian minorities has become systematic in Middle Eastern and North African countries, both in local attacks such as abductions and rapes as well as more organized, targeted ones like the recent church attacks in Egypt and Pakistan.”

Wilson Chowdhry, founder and chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BCPA) said that he expects Pakistani Christians to continue celebrating Christmas despite these threats.

“Pakistani Christians are a hardy bunch,” he notes. “Terror attacks and martyrdom go hand in hand with practicing one’s faith there.”

“They will continue to prepare to celebrate the birth of their Savior Jesus and churches will be packed to the rafters despite the great anxiety many of them will be feeling. They will sing louder and will pray more fervently then ever- fully aware that God is their only hope in these desperate times.”

He notes that Christian leaders will likely request the government aid the community with added security, and “teams of volunteers amongst the young men will be involved in security teams and they will sacrifice themselves if need be for the good of others.”

Christians abroad are aiding Pakistanis with collections for safety materials, he added:

“Christians in the UK and other western nations have been buying bullet-proof vests and sending them to family members in Pakistan especially the young men who will be involved in the volunteer security teams at churches. My wife had to go through the sombre process of buying one and sending it to her brother. Pakistani Christians across the globe will be praying for relatives and phoning, whats-apping and skyping them before and after their celebrations. It will be a stressful time for all but no-one is calling for celebrations or church services to be abandoned.”

Across the border in India, home to another ancient Christian population, many fear that attack from Hindu extremists are possible. The NGO ADF International highlights the case of 32 Catholic seminarians currently facing charges of forcibly converting Hindus, which they incurred after a session of door-to-door caroling. “When other priests came to inquire about the allegations, a mob approached and torched their car in front of the police station,” ADF International notes.

In China, caroling itself can be a crime, not just the implication of conversion. China views the Christmas holiday as “Western spiritual pollution” and the Communist Party has banned both its members and relatives from engaging in any activity that could be interpreted as a Christmas celebration, including making and selling artificial snow.

“Christmas is China’s day of shame,” the Communist Party Youth League posted on its social media sites this month.

The communists are battling a groundswell of mass Christian conversion. An estimated 100 million Chinese people identify as Christian, far more than the 80 million members of the Communist Party of China. China has established an official Catholic Church and a Protestant “Patriotic” Church, deeming all Christians who reject these two denominations, wholly controlled by the state, “illegal” practitioners of the religion. “Unauthorized” practicing of Christianity may result in hefty prison sentences, the demolition of religious buildings, or “disappearance.”

Egypt permits the practice of Christianity and, under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has vowed to protect its Coptic minority. In practice, that mission has met stiff resistance from jihadist groups, who killed 26 people in a Christmas season attack last year and have continued to pose a significant threat to the lives of Christians. In May, jihadists attacked a bus convoy of Christians, killing 29 and prompting protests from the Christian community that Sisi was not doing enough to keep them safe.

This year, Sisi has promised to keep 230,000 security personnel on call during Christmas celebrations, traditionally held by Coptics on January 7, protecting 2,626 churches. Police will install metal detectors at these churches to prevent anyone from entering a service armed.

Muslims Storm Church, Smash Contents, Assault Christians

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China’s War On Faith

“A narrow-minded soul would view any difference as opposition and diversity as adversary. But to a broad-minded one, difference means richness in colors and postures, and diversity embodies unity and harmony,” Mr. Ye Xiaowen at Chung Chi College of Chinese University of Hong Kong stated in 2001.

If you go back a few decades, Mao Zedong stated that, “Atheism must take the place of belief in a God,” according to his writings. And, if you go back even further, Karl Marx, the founding theorist of communist ideology, called religion, famously, the “opiate of the masses,” and that, “communism begins where atheism begins.”

What’s the underlying conflict in these many opinions, though? The reality versus the conceptualized world of philosophy and political ideology.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC), has long been a threat to the faithful living in the realms of the post-modern communistic state. Recently, Freedom House conducted research on the ability of faith practitioners to exercise their beliefs in the communist led state. As expected, per the track record of the Chinese government’s respect of freedom of faith in the past, the faithful are persecuted and repressed at record levels.

Christian denominations, such as main stream Catholicism and Protestantism, make a major cross-section of the accused, based on the Freedom House analysis. Despite a resurgence of faith within the Chinese state, the government has doubled its efforts to crack down on these religious groups.

Christians aren’t the only ones to be singled out either. Though Christians have been classified of being at “high” risk for persecution, members of the Falun Gong, the Uighur Muslims, and Buddhists from Tibet are considered to be at “very high” risk of persecution. Nevertheless, when all of these groups are lumped together, hundreds of millions of people are being persecuted for differing ideology outside the evident rule of atheistic, statist regime.

In fact, based on other recent analysis on the matters, China has, “increased internet surveillance and heavy sentences handed down to human rights lawyers, micro bloggers, grassroots activists, and religious believers.” Other regulation of thought and faith have put several in these communities, in addition, in compromising scenarios that end in the continued deprivation of personal liberties and human rights.

For the past five years, control and repression policies have become tighter on the religious Chinese. And, sadly, the severity of punishments still remains at gruesome highs. Most notable, the practice of forced organ harvesting, brought to light by the massive disappearance of Falun Gong practitioners, persists.

The faithful in the country, admirably, still feel reserved in their beliefs and want to stand up for it.

We need to account for these risks, as well. China’s human rights record is dismal and only getting worse. As the Heritage Foundation argued on 2010, China must account for its restriction of religious practice with an American China policy holding to country accountable through all possible means for violating the most basic human rights of its citizens.

The Ongoing War Against Religion in China
Spreading the Faith Where Faith Itself Is Suspect
When Will China Become the World’s Largest Christian Country?
Chinese Communist Party’s Futile War Against Religion
Cardinal: Vatican Will ‘Sell Out’ Underground Church

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China Bans Children from Church

In one of its more drastic moves to date, China’s ruling Communist Party has issued notices warning Christian parents not to take their children to church or they “will be dealt with severely.”

In their latest attack on Christianity, authorities have told more than a hundred Christian churches that children are now forbidden from attending church services and joining Christian groups. The latest move may respond in part to a new study from the University of Shanghai, which found that more than 60 percent of students are interested in learning more about Christianity and that young catechumens in official and underground Christian communities have been steadily increasing in number.

In August, communist officials issued notices to over a hundred churches in Wenzhou, within the largely Christian Zhejiang province, informing Christians that children are no longer permitted to enter any church. The notices stated that minors attempting to enter a church would be turned away at the door, even if accompanied by their parents.

Along with students, school teachers have also been banned from attending church. The Yonglin district instructed schools that “the higher authorities strictly forbid all secondary and primary school teachers, students and toddlers to join Catholic or Protestant churches.”

Chinese authorities have justified their action by alleging that church attendance and religious instruction keep young persons from developing “a correct worldview and set of values.”

“Minors receiving religious education and formation too early in churches would seriously affect the normal implementation of the education system,” the Ouhai district’s notice declared.

Authorities further warned church leaders that government inspectors will “launch open and undercover investigations” on Sundays in both state-sanctioned churches and underground communities to enforce the ban.

“There have also been attacks on Sunday school,” a pastor told the Vision Times. “It is very serious… This is very disrespectful to human rights, and we are firmly opposed… We really don’t know why authorities are doing this.”

The new norms not only forbid children from attending church service, but also prohibit minors from joining any Christian group, taking part in any religious activities or listening to sermons. The Communist authorities have also ruled that Christians may no longer run summer camps for children.

The new measures are part and parcel of China’s draconian policy on religion, and against Christianity in particular.

According to the International Religious Freedom Report (IRFP) released in August, the Chinese Communist government “physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups” throughout 2016.

The abuse of people of faith in their religious practice included members of unregistered Christian churches (also known as “house churches”), the State Department’s annual report added.

The IRPF noted that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to exert absolute control over religious activities in the country. “Only religious groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned ‘patriotic religious associations’ (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant) were permitted to register with the government and officially permitted to hold worship services,” the report stated.

This means that any religious group that does not submit to state control, such as the Roman Catholic Church or Christian “house churches,” has no official status in the country and is subject to regular sanctions and arbitrary harassment.

Since 1999, the U.S. State Department has designated China as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act for having engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

We mustpray” for those in China who fight against “religious persecution” as the government attempts to erase any knowledge of the “one true God” of the universe.

China bans children from attending church services
Chinese authorities ban children going to churches
China bans children teachers from churches

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Emperor For Life

Five years ago, Xi was basically unknown in Chinese politics. Now he has been lifted to the status of the hallowed Mao Zedong. What does this mean for Beijing and the world?

Walking through the streets and hutongs of China’s vast capital city Beijing, it does not take long to notice that two faces are virtually everywhere. They peer benevolently at shoppers from countless commemorative key chains and plates.

They look out at bustling streets from the covers of books, magazines and newspapers. They gaze with Mona Lisa smiles upon pedestrians from larger-than-life posters.

They are the faces of Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping. Mao was the founder of the People’s Republic of China who ruled the nation with an iron fist from 1949 until his death in 1976. Xi is the nation’s current leader.

The fact that Xi’s status is now equal to that of the legendary authoritarian Mao has sobering implications.

From Obscurity to Potency 

Five years ago, Xi Jinping was an obscure figure in Chinese politics. The public knew little about him except that his wife was a celebrity singer, and that his father had been a comrade to Chairman Mao. As Xi assumed the office of General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in November 2012, many experts believed he would lead in the tradition of his most recent predecessors, unobtrusively and unambitiously maintaining the status quo. But Xi’s first five-year term confounded those early forecasts.

Instead of maintaining the “first among equals” style of leadership used by his recent predecessors, he adopted a strongman approach. He bypassed State Council authorities by forming policy making party groups, many of which he chairs himself. He took personal control of writing policy on everything from China’s economy and international relations to its environmental strategies and Internet regulations. He implemented painful military reforms that positioned him as unchallenged commander in chief of the enormous People’s Liberation Army. “He not only controls the military but also does it in an absolute manner,” said Shanghai-based military affairs commentator Ni Lexiong. And Xi has used his military power to assert China’s authority on the global stage.

Xi also waged an anti-corruption campaign resulting in the arrest or imprisonment of many CCP members and others being fired from important government positions and, in many cases, incarcerated.

These moves placed Xi at the center of what Time’s Hannah Beech called “a personality cult not seen in the People’s Republic since the days when frenzied Red Guards cheered Chairman Mao’s launch of the Cultural Revolution” (March 31, 2016).

Here is an important reminder: “Under Mao’s despotic reign, between 65 and 75 million people were starved, tortured, bullied to suicide, or executed as traitors.”

Lifted to Mao’s Level

During his first term, Xi accumulated more power than any Chinese leader since Mao. But that was not the end of his rise. About the time that his first term ended in October, the CCP held its 19th National Congress. And as powerful as Xi was when this once-every-five-years meeting began, he emerged from it considerably more so.

At the Congress, Xi unveiled the new lineup in China’s top decision-making bodies, the 25-member Politburo and seven-member Politburo Standing Committee. Both are now heavily stacked with Xi loyalists. These individuals are unlikely to challenge Xi in any meaningful way, thus greatly strengthening his grip on the most important levers of government.

Another momentous outcome from the Congress was Xi’s break from the convention of naming a successor. Precedent stipulates that after a president completes his first term, he and the CCP name his successor during the National Congress. Five years later, after the president finishes his second term, the named successor becomes the new president. Xi’s decision not to name a successor at the 19th Congress strongly indicates that he has no plans to relinquish power at the 20th Congress in 2022. This would give him an unprecedented third term and position him to rule China for the rest of his life.

Also notable was that none of the new Standing Committee members are younger than 60. This is the pool from which the next president is selected. And since committee members serve two five-year terms, and since CCP guidelines say Chinese politicians should retire at age 68, none of these men would be eligible to serve for two terms as Xi’s successor.

Even more astonishing about the 19th Congress was the CCP’s decision to etch Xi Jinping’s name and personal ideology into the Party Constitution.

This is the rarest of honors. Both of Xi’s most recent predecessors, presidents Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, made contributions to the Constitution, but neither was named in the document. Even the contributions of the revered Deng Xiaoping were never named after him while he led China. Only after Deng’s death in 1997 was his name added alongside his contributions.

The only other sitting ruler to have his name and ideology written into the Constitution was Chairman Mao. This essentially equates “Xi Thought” with “Mao Thought,” lifting the president’s status to the level as that of the near-mythical and notoriously despotic Mao.

The message this sends to Xi’s potential rivals is that to defy him at this point would be ideological heresy. It makes any challenge to his power equal to an assault on the CCP itself. “I think it’s intended to give Xi an ideological status that can’t be challenged, like Mao in that sense,” said Beijing-based analyst Wu Qiang.

Asian affairs analyst Chris Buckley said this also means “Xi Thought” will now permeate all aspects of China. “While there may be no ‘Little Red Book’ of quotations for mass consumption like in the bygone Mao era, Mr. Xi’s thinking will now infuse every aspect of party ideology in schools, the media and government agencies” (New York Times, Oct. 24, 2017).

Preparing for a Turbulent Era 

It would be easy to view Xi’s rise as the result of an ambitious individual maneuvering to make himself an authoritarian. But his rapid ascent could not have happened without the full consent and assistance of the upper echelons of the CCP.

The Chinese elite see that the global order is unraveling. They see American power declining and leadership vacuums opening up. They see that the international stage is primed for conflict, that there is a chance for China to take advantage of the volatility and to emerge as a superpower.

There is clear recognition in the highest echelons of Chinese power that, in order to attain superpower status, China’s 1.4 billion people will need a ruler whose hands are not bound by red tape and who is not limited by checks and balances. They need a strongman at the helm who is free of political encumbrances and capable of streamlined decision-making. They need a new Mao.

It was based on these sentiments that the CCP elite created room for Xi’s political star to rise so rapidly and so high. Now he is the man who will guide China into the turbulent new era.

The fact that Xi’s face in China is now as ubiquitous as Mao’s is deeply significant. His ongoing rise and increasing control over China’s military and foreign policy is vital to watch, as it indicates how the Chinese president could fall in line with his fellow strongman in Russia, and how China will be brought onto its collision course with Europe. It also indicates how near this future clash could be.

Vladimir Putin is Russia’s most powerful leader since Joseph Stalin. Some of his countrymen consider him Russia’s 21st-century czar.

Xi Jinping is China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. During the 19th Party Congress in October, Xi formalized his total control over the Communist Party, which controls all of China. He is now poised to rule “China for life.”

The ideology that is now certain to infuse so much of Chinese culture is officially called “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics in a New Era.” Unwieldy as it may be, that phrase is saturated with significance.

“Xi Jinping thought” consists of 14 key principles. They include handing “absolute authority” of the military to the CCP; reforming the rule of law; closely following socialism with Chinese characteristics; and pursuing environmental conservation.

Its foundational message is that China must continue its rise to become the primary world power. During Xi’s first five years in office, this ambition had already prompted him to focus his attention on muzzling domestic dissent, boosting China’s military power, and earning Beijing a larger role in international affairs. With Xi’s eponymous ideas enshrined in the Constitution, the president will now be able to push toward these goals with redoubled intensity.

Also included in the constitutional revision were the formalization of several of Xi’s core policy initiatives, including his “One Belt, One Road” plan to build infrastructure linking China to the West, and his desire to boost the government’s role in China’s economy.

The most important phrase of the “Xi Thought” expression is “new era.” Xi breaks China’s modern history down into three main epochs: Chairman Mao “liberated” the nation; Deng Xiaoping made it “wealthier;” now in this “new era,” Xi is making it “strong.”

Has Xi Jinping Become “Emperor for Life”?
Xi Jinping ‘Emperor for Life’. But really?

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Year End 2017 Update

Back in 1993 Sherri and I answered God’s call on our lives to join Him in His work with executives and the leadership community. In the process, the Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to focus His efforts toward the people of China. We have had the privilege of witnessing firsthand God’s provisions in our lives. He has moved in the hearts of many people to financially partner with us in this strategic ministry to share Christ with influencers here in Chicago and China. We count it a blessing and honor to be part of a ministry that is making an eternal difference in people lives. September of 2018 marks the 25th Anniversary of that decision.

Over these last 25 years, God has blessed our efforts with the results of thousands of people making the decision to follow Christ.  Without the sacrificial, generous support of many, these results would never have been possible… and for which Sherri and I are eternally grateful.

Unfortunately, the work is not done. Though there are now over 100 Million believers in China, that is only a fraction of the population of 1.4 Billion people. But, the exciting thing is that we have recently begun developing a leadership team to multiply our efforts and associated results. Rolf will return to China at the end February 2018 to continue to develop and train leadership teams so that the impact of this ministry will carry on for generations. 

If this sounds exciting and you have a heart for the lost people of China, this is where we come to the difficult part of this communication. Maintaining the expenses of two apartments, health insurance, ministry materials, air fare and the work Sherri does locally for our church’s women’s ministry and providing weekly child care, without continuing and additional support, it will be impossible to seize the remarkable opportunities before us.

Though our ministry efforts show continuously, ever increasing, exciting results, our financial position has weakened in recent years. This is probably because we have focused on winning souls to Christ rather than on raising support. Now we find ourselves in desperate need of additional support. Our short fall required that we have to sell our townhouse and move to an apartment to cut expenses.

Our need is great, our need is now and when those of you who hear this call for help respond, we will know that God has answered our prayers so that we can continue to make this huge impact on the largest country in the world containing millions of lost souls. Would you prayerfully consider sharing this letter with anyone you know who might have a heart for the people of China or who would like to see their generosity multiplied thousand fold?

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Luke 10:2. Thank you for prayerfully considering to begin a monthly commitment or making a generous end of the year contribution. Together, we serve a holy, sovereign and gracious God. We pray that you have a wonderful season celebrating the birth of Jesus. May God’s grace and peace be with you.

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October 2017 Update

“But God has surely listened and has heard my (our) prayer.” Psalm 66:19.

It has been a long and challenging few months but God has answered prayers! The outcome is even better than expected. Five weeks after Rolf’’s hernia surgery and needing to have a catheter and with a persistent bladder infection he was able to finally have the Uro-Dynamics test to hopefully determine what was going on. Meanwhile they took the catheter out, showed him how to self-catheterize and sent him home. A week later he was to come in for the results.

But now the best news is after using the self catheter one time it has not been needed again!! The report showed he had some thickening of the bladder walls and the doctor was not quite sure why he no longer needed the catheter. He has an appointment to go back in two months to see how he is doing and to re-evaluate if any further steps need to be taken. Answered prayer, PRAISE God!!! Thank you for Your prayers! Please continue to PRAY for no re-occurrence.

We have received an update on the apartment situation – the completion date has now been moved to sometime in April and the applications should be sent out in December. Rolf was planning on being back in China during this time……so we need to trust God’s timing is best and for a reason.

Rolf has recently talked to one of his leaders and she was excited to tell him that she has started another “Faith or Fiction” class of 11 in the church along with her class of 9. Everything is going well with her and the other leaders. They are very much appreciative of all the prayers for them from all of you. Please keep them in prayer for protection. They are on fire for Jesus which is wonderful but they need to be bold and cautious at the same time!

All the care and concerns and prayers have meant a lot to both of us. Thank you for all your calls, cards and emails. They have been most appreciated and uplifting during a challenging time. We love you, our team!!

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September 2017 Update

Here we are at the end of September and here in our part of the world it feels like the middle of July!  Boy is Sherri glad we got the air conditioner fixed in her car!  She almost put it off because the weather was cooling off and fall was coming.

Another thing we are very glad about is that Rolf did not go back to China as planned. Actually it is a huge PRAISE!!  He had to have surgery a couple of weeks ago for a ruptured hernia. Unfortunately the news doesn’t get any better.  Unrelated he also has a blockage at the base of his bladder which hopefully surgery will be able to correct.  This involves a catheter until surgery, and a string of doctor appointments.  Meanwhile he has developed a bladder infection which has put everything on hold until that clears up. Needless to say he is very uncomfortable and not very happy.  Please we need your PRAYERS for good results and healing. 

“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Philemon 1:6.

We have some good news to pass along from China.  “Faith or Fiction” classes are continuing on!  Anna’s class of 14 from this summer is finished and all 14 are now brothers and sisters in Christ!!  She is a teacher and has recruited 6 of her students from this new school year to join a new Faith or Fiction” class.  Jennifer is starting a class with 8 from her work place and neighborhood.  Martha has a class of 9 from the church.  Lisa is taking a sabbatical as she is starting a new business but she “cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) and is doing a Bible study with 3 people from her new business! So the word of God spreads. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly,” (In this case Dalian China!) Act 6:7.  PRAISE God with us!

And more good news and an answer to prayer, we have been put in contact with someone who works for the type of housing that we are planning on moving to.  She has been able to answer some of our questions and has told us to call her as soon as we get the application and she will help us complete it.  Her words were, “we will get you in!”  Not that she has pull but that she knows what is needed and how to get it filled in correctly.  We are so relieved and grateful!  Of course this is not a guarantee so keep praying please!

We are so grateful for all your prayers and we are so excited to share how God is and has answered them.  Thank you for holding us and this ministry up before the Throne.  You make a difference.

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