Open Doors Issues Persecution World Watch List

Tuesday, July 18, 2000 | Tag Cloud

By Dan Wooding

SANTA ANA, CA (July 18, 2000) (ASSIST) -- Although Indonesia is only 25th on the Open Doors .World Watch List of worst persecutors of Christians, it is "rapidly getting out of control," says Terry Madison, USA President and CEO of Open Doors with Brother Andrew.

Madison said from his office in Santa Ana, California, that the situation in Indonesia is becoming very serious as fanatic Muslims and Christians continue to target each other.

"The Indonesian government seems incapable of taking sufficient measures to end the atrocities," he said. "The Indonesian army and police are either unwilling to interfere or they are scheming the clashes to increase their power, which has been clipped by the new regime of President Wahid. Since the war erupted 18 months ago, more than 2,500 people are reported to have died. These are official figures; the actual number of dead may be higher. In the first six months of this year, nearly a thousand people were killed. Most of the victims are Christians."

Open Doors, the ministry that was begun 45 years ago by Brother Andrew, the Dutch-born author of "God's Smuggler," has just announced its findings with the semi-annual release of its closely followed World Watch List. The Top Ten "Hall of Shame" is headed once again by Saudi Arabia -- as the world's worst persecutor of Christians -- closely followed by Afghanistan, China, Chechnya, Sudan, Yemen, North Korea, Maldives, Iran and Morocco.


Northern Nigeria, which is 26th on the list, is also causing great concern to persecution watchers, says Madison.

"Nigeria has experienced a wild start to the year," he said. "There were two major waves of violent clashes between Christians and Muslims. One struck in February, the other in May. Both started in Kaduna, but the waves of violence swept over much wider areas. The divisive force that caused the clashes was the planned introduction of Shariah law in a few northern states. Though the regime of President Obasanjo did its best to stop the violence by issuing a cooling-down period before the introduction of Shariah, it remains to be seen how much authority the regime still has.

"In clear signs of ignoring the regime's decrees, several northern states have by now implemented Shariah law. Many Nigerians give nothing for the chances of the Obasanjo regime, and it seems likely that the country will either split up, or that the army will take power again in another coup d'E9tat. Whatever the future will bring, thousands of Christians have decided to leave the north in order to save their lives. Nigeria may never be the same again."


India, which is 29th on the list, has also become a dangerous place to be a Christian, says Madison.

"In India Christians continued to suffer from a large number of negative events," he said. "Still, the police and the regime of Prime Minister Vajpayee insist that the incidents are not related, and that there is no major plan behind the attacks. As a result, the government is unable to provide the necessary protection to the 25 million Christians in India.

In the first half of 2000 the number of attacks continued at a high level. At least two priests died at the hands of Hindu fanatics, four churches were bombed, and there were numberless cases of harassment, destruction and attempts at 're-conversion' of Christians to Hinduism."


Then, turning his attention to Saudi Arabia, Madison said, "Saudi Arabia's vigilante religious police (Muttawa) raided a private Christian worship service in Riyadh on January 7, arresting 15 of the estimated 100 persons gathered in a private home, including the small children of two families. This time, the Saudis decided not to sentence the Christians to jail. By February 15, everyone was released and deported. Since then, there have been no known Christian prisoners in Saudi.

"At the end of March Amnesty International issued a highly critical report on human rights in Saudi Arabia. The regime, of course, denied all accusations based -- as WEF wryly added -- on their peculiar interpretation of the issue of human rights."

He added: "Despite the fact that there are 600,000 ex-patriate Christians living there, Saudi Arabia still has the unsavory title of the world's worst persecutor of Christians. The kingdom does not permit any practice of the Christian faith."

The Taliban-controlled land of Afghanistan, in which only 2,500 believers reside, is "a close second in its treatment of Christians," revealed Madison.


Madison then turned his attention to war-torn Chechnya. "President Putin's greatest goal was to end the crisis in Chechnya as soon as possible, and to this end a massive military campaign was launched," he said. "Hundreds of thousands of people fled for their lives and thousands perished. The Russian army used its heaviest weapons and dirtiest tactics against the Chechen rebels. This led to widespread western protests of human rights violations, but the Russians went ahead undeterred. Putin became immensely popular among his own people with this hard-line approach. This was demonstrated when, in the May presidential elections, he didn't even need a second round to officially become the next Russian president.

"Most of Chechnya was soon under Russian control, but the Russians never managed to extinguish the Chechen resistance. The Muslim Chechen rebels turned to guerrilla tactics. Everything that was even remotely connected to the Russians became their target. This included Christians. As a result, practically all non-indigenous Christians have now left Chechnya. It is unknown what has happened to those who remained behind. There no longer is a church in Chechnya."


He then spoke about China, a country Madison has visited personally nearly 40 times and in which he took part in "Project Pearl" in 1981 when 1 million Bibles were delivered by Open Doors in one night to waiting believers on a beach in Swatow, south China.

Madison said that in January Time Magazine carried a lead story about China. "The basic theme was 'more tolerance does not mean less control,'" he said. "Time was right about the fact that in China there was no less control, but the events of the first half of this year indicated that there also was no drive for more tolerance. Several sects like Falun Gong were banned, and there were various waves of arrests.

Thousands were sent to labor camps or prison. Harassment was the order of the day. Some perished while in captivity.

"The officially sanctioned churches in China experienced relative freedom (as witnessed by the unprecedented airing of a Christian television program on state television, and within the Patriotic Catholic Church, the re-opening of a seminary). But the unofficial churches, both the underground Catholics and the Protestant House Church movement, encountered many problems. Six House Church leaders and five Catholics, among them a bishop, were arrested in January.

"In February China burnt down and blew up churches and took dozens of clerics into custody, among them another bishop, in an intensified campaign against the underground Catholic Church. In March news leaked out that China had written new guidelines for attacking believers.

"In May there was another wave of arrests, this time in Anhui province. Forty-seven members of the House Church movement were arrested. In the same month a Catholic priest was arrested and sentenced to six years for the printing of Bibles and religious books."

Madison went on, "The West showed how important human rights and freedom of religion are to them. The United Nations, the European Union and the USA all issued sharp criticism of China's record in these areas during the first three months. The USA energetically attempted to get China condemned in the UN. But the end of the affair was predictable: China escaped condemnation in the UN yet again, and eventually it was even granted Most Favored Nation trading status permanently. The inevitable conclusion of these efforts is that while the West may be interested in human rights and religious freedom, when it comes to taking serious actions, economic values still dominate."


He then spoke about Sudan, which has become a killing field for the believers of the South.

"The fighting with the rebels in the south continues with all the atrocities connected," said Madison. "In January the peace talks resumed, but with little hope to end the war. Khartoum extended the existing cease-fire for another three months. In February a government plane dropped bombs on a school, killing 14 children and a teacher. In early March, Sudanese government planes dropped 12 bombs on the Samaritan's Purse hospital. A number of people were killed and others injured. On April 11 the hospital was bombed again.

"Christians in the south had to face another major crisis, but this was not caused by Khartoum. At the end of 1999, the SPLA leaders issued a demand that all Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) active in their area had to sign an agreement. Part of this agreement would mean that the SPLA would be allowed to use transport facilities of the NGOs. Churches, UNICEF and the World Food Program were not required to sign the agreement. Because this would mean that the NGOs could become legitimate targets for the government forces, all major NGOs refused to sign the agreement. The SPLA then told them to leave the region by the end of February. Soon, the majority of the relief work collapsed.

"In March, Human Rights Watch urged the SPLA to start negotiations with the NGOs to save peoples' lives. At the end of June only five NGOs had resumed their work, but the major organizations are still not back. Because Open Doors works in southern Sudan in non-traditional ways, we were able to continue our work of delivering scriptures and humanitarian aid unhindered."


Madison concluded by saying, "Freedom of religion continued to be under pressure in the first half of 2000, as it has been over the past years. Violence against Christians (often accompanied by ethnic and economic tensions) was rampant in many parts of the world. Persecution around the world should be of concern to all Christians. We are instructed to 'bear each others burdens' and we can do this through prayer, by going to encourage them and providing them with Bibles and other tools, and by supporting ministries that reach out to the Suffering Church, such as Open Doors."

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