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Imprisoned Believers: Vulnerable and Abused

June 8, 2006

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 381 - Thu 08 Jun 2006

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IMPRISONED BELIEVERS: VULNERABLE AND ABUSED
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China Aid Association (CAA) <http://www.chinaaid.org/> reports that
imprisoned South China Church founder and senior pastor Gong
Shengliang (53), who was beaten almost to death by authorities in
Jingzhou Prison in June 2003, has once again been the victim of
serious intentional, totally unjustifiable violence in custody.
According to CAA, authorities at Hong Shan prison, Wuhan, Hubei
Province, assigned a prisoner to watch Pastor Gong and report on
him. On 21 March this prisoner beat him mercilessly, resulting in
some hearing loss and leaving his face so severely swollen and
painful that he was unable to move his mouth for three days. The
prison authorities then rewarded the abusive prisoner and punished
Gong further. Moreover, Christian literature sent to Gong by his
family is denied him, and Gong\'s letters to his family are withheld
by the prison.

This news is a reminder that prison conditions in non-Western
countries are often very different from those in the West. The most
important differences do not revolve around wealth, but around
worldview and ideology. Many Westerners don\'t realise or have
forgotten how crucial Judeo-Christian worldview and teachings
have been in shaping Western laws and values. In particular, the
words of Christ have deeply influenced Western society, providing
a good moral foundation. However different societies are built on
different foundations and their laws spring from quite different
premises. Atheistic Communism cannot find value in the life of an
individual. And whereas the gospel of Jesus explains sin and
justice while offering grace, redemption and transformation,
other religions revolve around works, shame and punishment. In
the non-West, human rights are of less concern and justice (and
injustice) is generally punitive, not restorative or redemptive.

Christians in non-Western prisons are frequently subjected to
appalling hostility and violence. The nations in which they are
imprisoned have lamentable human rights records, torture is routine
and corruption reigns. Christian prisoners must remain in our
prayers always because their physical and emotional suffering can
be severe, continual and inescapable. The devil seeks to gain a
foothold through despair whereby he will tempt suffering believers
to doubt God\'s presence, goodness and love. Numerous Christians
including significant Church leaders are imprisoned in China;
nearly 1800 in Eritrea; and an estimated 100,000 in North Korea!
Other countries where Christians are in prison on account of their
faith include Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam and Laos. If
these prisoners would only renounce Christ and betray their
brethren, then the beatings and torture would end and they could
go home to their families. Instead, they choose to be like Moses:
\'He thought it better to suffer for the sake of the Messiah than
to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the
great reward that God would give him.\' Hebrews 11:26 NLT

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* the Holy Spirit to fill every imprisoned believer with an
unshakeable assurance of God\'s faithful, eternal presence and
love.

* for the Spirit of God to empower imprisoned believers to \'wait on
the Lord\' and find new, supernatural strength in our
strength-sharing, promise-keeping God (Isaiah 40:27-31), so they
will be able to endure suffering, display faith, extend grace,
and keep their eyes fixed on Jesus through every storm.

* God\'s protection and healing for Christians abused in prison.

* our gracious God to bless all Christian witness in prisons, so
that persecutors will be convicted of sin and judgment, godless
prisoners will be drawn to godliness and the gospel, and all
Christ\'s witnesses with this high and difficult calling will be
lights in the darkest of places and be blessed with the assurance
that their struggles are not in vain.

\'Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.\' Matthew 5:10 NIV

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
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IMPRISONED BELIEVERS ARE VULNERABLE AND ABUSED

Countries where Christians are imprisoned because of their faith
are notorious for poor human rights records, such as Eritrea, Iran,
North Korea, China, Pakistan, Vietnam, and Laos. These countries
have a different worldview from the West\'s, and run their prison
systems with different values. In prison, believers suffer frequent
violent abuse at the hands of other prisoners and prison
authorities. Their suffering is severe, continual and inescapable.
They are in a horrendous spiritual battle and desperately need our
prayers. While Christ seeks to use their witness, the devil seeks
to crush their faith. We must pray daily for those in prison on
account of Christ, that they will know his presence and love, they
will find their strength and healing in God, and their witness and
faithfulness will be blessed and used by the Spirit of God.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.