Support Letter Oct 08
By Chris Wren
Thursday, 02 October 2008
People often wonder what I do when not at sea running retreats or on outreach. One area close to my heart is those imprisoned unjustly [as I once was]. I am also greatly concerned for those persecuted just for being Christians, even tortured to death!
Who cannot be moved after watching Release International's DVD "Remains of the Day" wherein a mother relates how her family were barricaded in her home during an anti-Christian riot? She heard them screaming as they burnt to death.
There are three main objections to people helping: -
- There are so many suffering, how can I possibly make any difference?
- How can I do anything effective?
- No-one in authority listens to anyone.
I have these responses: -
- There was a small child walking along a beach. It was littered with starfish that had just been washed up. They were drying out in the sun and would soon die. His mother saw him throwing them back into the sea one by one: "what are you doing" she cried? "You cannot possibly save them all." As he threw one back he said: "I saved that one!" You may not be able to do everything, but you can do something!
- Today there are Christian organisations that can communicate efficiently about issues worldwide. Through email and fax one can lobby quickly and efficiently with politicians and ambassadors in this country and the country of concern. Even letters sent to prisoners can have a significant effect on those persecuting: they know that those suffering are not forgotten and they may not so easily get away with torture. One of the blessings of email or fax is that one can respond very quickly following reports of extreme prejudice. This can save lives.
- The usual reaction of corrupt authorities is that they appear unmoved as they either say it is none of anyone's business outside their country or that they simply deny any wrongdoing. Blatant lies often seem far more acceptable in some countries.
However these seemingly impermeable barriers sudden dissolve upon success. If you cannot believe this, read the following sample stories: -
Many Christian supporters prayed and wrote letters to the Chinese authorities concerning Mr Yoo Sang-joon, a North Korean activist who faced trial in China for his work in helping North Korean refugees. After just four months' detention, Mr Yoo was released, and is now safely back in South Korea. Mr Yoo has expressed his heartfelt thanks for all the care and action focused on him during his imprisonment, saying, "I am grateful from the depths of my heart to Christian Solidarity Worldwide and CSW supporters for all the deep concern, prayer and advocacy on my behalf while I was in prison."
In 2007, CSW, with the help of John Bercow MP, campaigned extensively to ensure that the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) changed its stance on cross-border aid into Burma. As a result, the House of Commons International Development Committee agreed to hold an inquiry into DFID's Burma policy, and finally, DFID agreed to lift its restriction on the use of its funds. In its report, the House of Commons International Development Committee adopted all of CSW's recommendations, paving the way for more aid to reach those suffering inside Burma. In late 2007, we asked our supporters to write to the Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander, asking him to accept and implement the recommendations. Thanks to those letters, along with the lobbying efforts of CSW and others, Douglas Alexander MP announced in the House of Commons that the British government would double aid to Burma, from £8.8 million to £18 million, by 2010, and that a proportion of the new funds would be used for cross-border aid.
In July 2007, CSW saw the release of Marie-Therese Nlandu, a Christian human rights lawyer who had been imprisoned in the Congo since November 2006. Seemingly a race against time as her health rapidly deteriorated, CSW pulled out all the stops in lobbying for Marie-Therese's release and mobilising supporters to pray on her behalf. Following months of consistent hard work, staff and supporters were able to welcome Marie-Therese back into the UK following her release.
Eritrean gospel singer Helen Berhane was released from prison after being beaten to within an inch of her life. CSW helped her to safety in Denmark after two years of imprisonment; she alone received over 400 cards at Christmas. "I have no words to adequately express my love and admiration for all the care and love you have bestowed on us. It gives me great pleasure to be writing this message to you, not just writing it with pen and paper in my hand but as a loving expression coming out of the depths of my heart. I thank you for you have been with me every step of the way over the last three years; praying for me, supporting me financially and writing to me with words of encouragement. I am convinced that it is through your prayers that I was able to survive all the trials I faced. Together we have overcome the evil one and victory has indeed been ours."
"My family and I will be eternally grateful and indebted to the people of God who from all continents sent us letters and cards expressing support and solidarity with our suffering. I am absolutely convinced that in the moments when I most needed renewed strength, it was those hundreds of prayers which reached the cell where I was imprisoned." Pastor Carlos Lamelas, former prisoner, Cuba.
In 2007, CSW took on the case of Zmitser Dashkevich, a young Belarusian Christian who had been imprisoned for his pro-democracy work. CSW campaigned extensively on his behalf, encouraging supporters to write to the Belarusian authorities, and to offer encouragement to Zmitser while in prison. He was unexpectedly released in early 2008.
Cuba: In April CSW welcomed the release of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, also known as Antunez, who served a 17-year sentence for his calls for democracy in Cuba. Over the course of his imprisonment, his Bible and other religious materials were regularly confiscated as a form of punishment.
Nigeria: CSW was delighted that an abducted minor who had been forcibly converted and married was released following interventions with a local Muslim ruler on her behalf.
CSW released a religious freedom report on Vietnam, and lobbied on policy issues and individual cases in London, Brussels and Washington DC. CSW's advocacy contributed to the release of Christian prisoner of conscience, Ma Van Bay.
Pakistan, April 2008: CSW advocacy ensured 24-hour police protection for Parvez Aslam Choudhry, a Christian human rights lawyer who had received threats on his life.
In December 2006, 23 years after the Callqui Massacre, when six young church leaders were brutally killed during a prayer service in 1984, military officials responsible for the murders were finally formally indicted. CSW partners, Peace & Hope, played a key role in gathering evidence to bring the case to trial, and CSW has repeatedly highlighted the emblematic case in its campaign documents related to truth and reconciliation in Peru.
Walter Cubas Baltasar, who spent 13 years in prison in Peru, said at his release: "I give thanks to God for this freedom and to all of the people and institutions that work for justice and human rights; to everyone who prayed for my freedom, the beautiful letters of support that encouraged me."
Three women in Indonesia, who were arrested and charged with 'Christianisation', were convicted by Indonesian judges and sentenced to three years in prison. Dr. Rebecca Laonita, Mrs Ratna Mala Bangun and Mrs Ety Pangesti of Gereja Kristen Kemah Daud (GKKD), of the Christian Church of David's Camp; were involved in a children's holiday project called 'Happy Week' in Haurgelis, West Java. Murderous threats were made by Islamic extremists inside and outside the courtroom. One was reported to have brought a coffin to bury the defendants if they were found innocent! "The ladies, witnesses and judges were constantly under the threats of violence from hundreds of Islamic radicals who threatened to kill the three ladies, witnesses, pastors, missionaries and even the judges if the women were acquitted," Jeff Hammond of Bless Indonesia Today told Compass. Their story began in 2003, when the elementary school in the area asked the church staff to provide a Christian education programme at their school. The programme consisted of opening and closing prayers, singing songs, practical tutoring in reading, writing and mathematics and trips to parks and swimming pools. The programme was very successful and attractive not only for Christian children, but later for Muslim children as well. The number of children attending the 'Happy Week' reached 40, among them just 10 Christian children. Muslim children, who attended the programme, were doing so with the full consent of their parents. The case of 'Christianisation' was brought against the women by the local chapter of the Indonesian Council of Muslim Clerics (MUI) who alleged that the women enticed Muslim children to participate and that they tried to convert the children to Christianity by giving them gifts. Despite the fact that the families had full knowledge of their children taking part in the programme and did not have any complaints, the women were arrested and charged. Following a campaign, the three women were released on 8.6.07 after serving almost two years of the three-year sentence.
Barnabas Trust: "Thank you for your prayers for Pastor's assistant Aimurat Khayburahmanov, who was imprisoned in Uzbekistan on charges of teaching religion without official approval, and establishing or participating in a religious extremist organisation. Praise God that he was released on Friday 26 September 2008."
A list of my favourite charities is attached. [those I am more involved with in bold].
Please pray: -
- For those suffering persecution and in need worldwide
- That the Shalom Christian Retreat Centre may continue its excellent work.
Blessings to all,
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