In this week's episode of VOMRadio we talk with Dr. Berhane, a Christians from the small African nation of Eritrea--a nation where almost 1,000 Christians are currently in prison for their faith.
Dr. Berhane spent 11 months in prison for his Christian work; he watched friends and fellow prisoners led away to execution. But he also saw God’s hand at work as fellow prisoners accepted the gospel message and turned their hearts toward Christ.
Dr. Berhane shares movingly the lessons God taught him through days of dark suffering, and how he prepared himself to face persecution. He also offers updates on the current persecution of Christians in Eritrea and how we can pray for that nation.
Among the gems from the interview:
“I think we have to read the Scripture as it is. Sometimes we select some Scriptures that deal with blessing and we just want to meditate on them. But we have to balance it. Of course God is the God who blesses us. But sometimes also He lets us go through suffering in order to share in His suffering. How do we understand the cross unless we suffer?”
There are currently three Christian prisoners from Eritrea listed on PrisonerAlert. Write letters to them, and to Eritrean government officials, here.
You can also listen to previous episodes of VOMRadio, including discussions of China, Iran, Iraq and other nations.
VOM's Todd Nettleton was interviewed this week by Mission Network News about possible developments in Indonesia that could be good news for our Christian brothers and sisters. Here is a portion of the resulting story from MNN:
Indonesia (MNN) — The world’s largest Muslim country may be looking at some significant change for religious freedom priorities soon. It’s an about-face from the Yudhoyono administration.
One month into his new presidency, Jokowi Widodo, is living up to his reputation as a reformer by proposing a controversial change. The Voice of the Martyrs-USA spokesman Todd Nettleton explains, “He’s proposing a bill. He says it will come before the Parliament within the next six months to protect religious minorities. That would include Christians. There’s another facet of change that he wants to make which would remove religious identity from the national ID cards that the Indonesia government issues.” Part of the proposed bill would streamline the process for non-Muslims to get permits for places of worship.
Until now, the government recognized six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism. However, Nettleton says the issue wasn’t a religious one so much as a reaction to the political landscape of the time.
The list and ID card designation are kind of an outdated reaction to a political situation Indonesia in 1969. Nettleton says, “That goes back to a previous dictator fighting against Communism, so putting religion on the ID card was a step toward saying, ‘There is a God. Look! All the people of our country are going to say which god they’re following.'”
Nettleton goes on to add, “Really, the time for that is past. If he [President Jokowi Widodo] can present it in a way that is not so much a religious thing as much as ‘we don’t have to worry about a communism takeover anymore,’ maybe it’ll go smoother, but there will be some push-back against this.”
The proposals seem like a fairly minor issue to people not following Indonesia’s politics. However, Nettleton says, “It is a very significant thing, particularly for those who want to change their religion. If your identity card says you’re a Muslim, and you want to become a Christian, you need to go back to that office and say, ‘I’m a Christian now. I want to get a new ID card.’ That is a choke point for persecution.”
When asked about potential impact of this legislation, Nettleton said it was a step in the right direction, but it’s too early to get excited. “At this point, this is somebody saying, ‘This is what we want to do,’ or ‘This is what we’re GOING to do.’ But it hasn’t been done yet. That’s something that we can pray about, that we can be successful in moving this from the idea stage to actually being passed law in Indonesia.” Lawmakers are still working on putting the legal code together, but expect it to be ready for discussion within six months.
VOM held 40 regional conferences in 2014, in every corner of the United States. Speakers from many different restricted and hostile nations have shared their stories, as well as VOM workers sharing the stories of persecuted believers they have met and VOM projects that have assisted these believers.
This was our first VOM Conference...and we could not have been more pleased, impressed and sincerely spiritually touched. From the moment we walked in the door each and every person was as polite & caring as you can imagine. The Host Church did a fantastic job and the event was life-changing.
We look forward to next years schedule.
Gods Blessings to all involved with such an event as this !
The final conference for 2014 will be held this Saturday in Jackson, Kentucky. (More info and free online registration is here.) Already conferences are being scheduled for 2015, where more encouraging stories will be told.
Make plans now to attend a conference in 2015. If you attend a large church (seating for 600+), consider talking with your pastor about your church hosting a VOM conference.