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Issue 7 : January 2011 - June 2011

You can encourage persecuted Christians to stand firm in their faith


-just by putting pen to paper!
The simple act of sending a letter or card can bring new comfort, hope and strength to brothers and
sisters who are persecuted for their faith. To assure them that you cover them in prayer, and that they
are not forgotten, is one of the greatest gifts you can give persecuted believers.

Getting started …
There is nothing so great to a person in distress than a word of encouragement. No matter how long
or short the word is; it has the power to heal, console and encourage. In a situation of loneliness, loss
or need, words can turn a painful moment into a moment of courage. Words of encouragement can
serve as a friend in times of loneliness. Letters of encouragement can be a mirror to glance at and a
pillar to hold on to when no one else is around.

Post Letters To:


Letter Writing: Believer’s Name
c/o Open Doors SA
PO Box 1771
Cresta
2118
Here are a few simple guidelines to help you as you write
your letters and cards:

Pray before you start


Ask God to give you the right words to communicate.
Share God’s Word
Share Bible verses that have been an encouragement to you.
Show sensitivity
Please don’t dwell on the recipient’s plight, or share about the blessings of life in your coun-
try.
Translation
Write in simple English.
Keep it short and simple
Posting on short letters cost less for us and are also easier to translate to those recipients
who do not speak English.
Feel free to include your details
It’s fine to include your name and country, but do not include your full address or e-mail
address.
Security
Please do not mention Open Doors in your letters, criticize a country’s religion or religious
extremists, its government, judicial system or political leaders.
Postcards
If you are writing on a postcard, send it in an envelope rather than writing Open Doors’ ad-
dress on the card.
Handmade cards
If you are a Sunday school teacher or youth group leader, making cards can be a great way
of allowing younger people to respond and to do something to connect with the perse-
cuted Church. Please note that any cards or pictures sent, must be small, light and not too
fragile for posting.
Gifts
Please do not send money or make any proposals for financial aid.

WRITING CAMPAIGNS THAT HAVE ENDED ON THE


31ST OF DECEMBER 2010:
The following writing campaigns have ended, so please do not specifically
write cards or letters to them:
CHINA: Zhang Rongliang
NIGERIA: Widows
Updates, additional information & prayer points for all the
current letter writing campaigns:
UZBEKISTAN - Tohar Haydarov: On 9 March 2010 Tohar Haydarov (27), a Believer from a
Musllim Background, was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment after being falsely accused of pos-
sessing and manufacturing drugs.

Tohar is now a member of an unregistered Baptist church in Gulistan. According to the members of
his church, Tohar’s relatives asked local police in January to help them force Tohar to return to Islam.
The police put great physical pressure on Tohar to deny Jesus, but he refused to do so.

On 18 January he was arrested after drugs were unexpectedly found in his pockets and in his apart-
ment, and he was charged with producing and storing drugs. Three days later, Tohar made a brief
court appearance. Church members reported that he could hardly walk and showed signs of having
been badly beaten.

At a court hearing on 4 March, church members were not allowed to testify on Tohar’s behalf and his
lawyer was not allowed into the courtroom. Tohar’s father (72) attended the hearing to support his
son. The next day, he was found
dead in the family’s garage. Police
concluded that he died by acci-
dentally falling onto an electric
heater. Five days later, Tohar was
convicted of manufacturing and
possessing drugs and sentenced
to ten years inprisonment.

His fellow believers insist that


the case has been fabricated
and that the police planted the
drugs on him. Several acquaint-
ances have supplied written
statements to the police, claim-
ing his innocence.

Tohar has since been trans-


ferred to a labour camp in
Qarshi, 400km from his home
town. He is preparing to ap-
peal to the Supreme Court.
Tohar Haydarov
CHINA: On 28 October
2009, Gulnur Yimit’s hus-
band Alimjan, a pastor,
was charged with “providing
state secrets to overseas or-
ganizations” and sentenced
to 15 years imprisonment.
This sentence is the most se-
vere for a house church lead-
er in nearly a decade.

Alimjan is an agricultural
worker, so it is unlikely that
he would have had access
to classified information.
Friends believe his faith is the
real reason for his arrest.

Once a Muslim, Alimjan be-


came a Christian more than
10 years ago and was soon
active in the growing Uyghur
church. He was initially ar-
rested in January 2008, on
an alleged national security
issue and held at Kashgar De-
and her son
tention Centre in China’s Gulnur Yimit
troubled Xinjiang region.

Gulnur and Alimjan have two


young sons. Having been de-
nied all contact with her hus-
band for over two years, Gul-
nur was finally allowed a 20-minute visit with him in April. The family were allowed two further
visits in May and July.

Gulnur is grateful for the support their family has received. “I am greatly moved by our brothers
and sisters who are urgently interceding for us,” she said. “This has sustained Alimjan and our
family and enabled us to miraculously keep standing in faith to this day.”

Please continue to send letters of support to Gulnur and her sons.


ZANZIBAR - Pastor Adriano: Pastor Adriano (42), founder of the Christian Life Church in Zanzi-
bar City, had his church building demolished on 27 December following a land dispute with a
government official.

Christian Life Church was started in 2006 to minister to Believers from a Muslim Background who had
nowhere to worship. “We decided to start a fellowship in one of our members’ homes to make it easier
for Believers from a Muslim Background to attend,” said Pastor Adriano. The church had 52 members.

In May 2008, the authorities ordered them to evacuate the government-owned house. The church
moved to another residence, only to be officially kicked out again two months later. The church was
then given permission to build a temporary assembly hall on land owned by a man named Benedic-
tus. However, on 25 December, the authorities announced that the land belonged to the government
and had been given to another party for the construction of another building.

Pastor Adriano made an appointment with the government minister for land to discuss the matter,
but before the meeting had taken place, labourers demolished the church building. They warned
churchgoers that any attempt to intervene with their work would lead to imprisonment.

Pastor Adriano kept his appointment with the minister, who promised to compensate them with land
in Tunguu area. “But the authorities have done nothing [since],” says Pastor Adriano.

Church members have


decided to join the
neighbouring Church
of God on Sundays
until the dispute has
been resolved.

Pastor Adriano
Nigeria

NIGERIA - Saliha: Saliha* (18) was raised in a Christian family in a village in northern Nigeria. But
when she was 8 years old, her father became a Muslim.

He tried to coax Saliha and her mother into accepting Islam, but when they refused, he disowned
them. Saliha and her mother went to live with her grandparents.

A few years later, Saliha’s mother married a Christian. Saliha was happy for her mother, but the new
husband was unable to provide for both of them, so Saliha had to move in with her elder brother.

Saliha found comfort in the local church. But then her elder brother also became a Muslim, and began
to pressure her to convert to Islam. When she did not listen, his kindness turned into threats. Even-
tually Saliha was forced to return to her father’s house. She was told she was now a Muslim and was
made to attend the local Islamic school. After a few months of misery, Saliha ran away.

Saliha went to her pastor for help and he encouraged her to stand firm. But the local Muslim com-
munity knew her and did not leave her alone. So the church helped Saliha find a family who were
willing to take her in.

Despite the intimidation, Saliha’s faith has remained unshakable. But the pressure has affected her
health. She wants to finish her education, but her illness is slowing her progress and the funding of
her studies remains a challenge.

*Name changed for security reasons


ETHIOPIA - Sintayehu and children:
On 20 December 2009, the body of Sintayehu’s husband,
Markos, was found near the gate of their home in Senkele.
He had been killed with a machete and robbed.

Police claim Markos died because of a family feud. They


swiftly arrested a family member and imprisoned him for
murdering Markos - although he alleged he was tortured
into a confession. Church leaders insist Markos was killed
because he sponsored the legal proceedings of his church
following an attack by Muslim extremists last September.

As a single parent of seven children, Sintayehu now fa-


ces an uncertain future. She was unaware of any unpaid
debts Markos had, but some claims have already been
made.

Additionally, the family continues to face pressure from


the Islamic community. Muslims in Loke recently ac-
cused Sintayehu’s son, Abe, of insulting their faith by
wearing Islamic clothing, which had been lent to him
by a Muslim boy. Church leaders suspect this was an
attempt to endanger Abe.

So Sintayehu has made the difficult decision to send


six of her children to temporarily live with relatives in
Sashemene. Only the youngest, Sarah, still lives with
her.

Despite not having any capital, Sintayehu has also


taken a step of faith and reopened the restaurant
that Markos owned in Loke. “God has miraculously
helped me!” she testifies. “I have not had any serious
[financial] need so far.”
Sintayehu
However, Sintayehu remains in need of encourage-
ment as she comes to terms with her loss and the
realities of single parenthood.

Sintayehu’s church in partnership with Open Doors


is doing all they can to support her. You can partner
with us by writing her an encouraging letter.
MEXICO: On 22 December 1997, 45 Tzotzil Indians were murdered during an armed confronta-
tion in Chenalho, Chiapas, Mexico. Ninety people were imprisoned for the killings, 83 of them
unjustly so. Six were acquitted and one died, reducing the number of men detained without
valid reason to 76.

On 12 August 2009, Mexico’s Supreme Court, ordered the release of 20 men, stating that they
were convicted as a result of unfair trials. On 4 November 2009, they released a further 9 men,
and ordered that 16 cases should be re-tried.

Sadly, the cases of the remaining prisoners remain stalled in a lower state court. Those who have
been released are still in communication with the Christians in this group and are encouraging
them to continue to wait on God.

The released prisoners are very thankful for the prayers and letters sent by Christians all over the
world, which sustained them through their ten-year ordeal.

Those who have been released have not been able to return to their homes—threats made
by the relatives of those
murdered have made it
unsafe for them to do
so. But they are continu-
ing to trust God for the
future.

One believer, Alonso


Lopez Entzin, shared: “It
is God’s will that we do
not return to our homes
yet, as it was His will that
we would be in prison
for some time. We need
to trust God to know
what direction to take in
the future.”

You can still write to the


remaining prisoners and
separately to their wives
and children.

iewees
Acteal Interv
COLOMBIA CHILDREN’S HOME: In January 2000, Open Doors opened a Children’s Centre
for the pastors and church leaders’ children who are targeted and threatened by the civil war in
Colombia.

There are 50 children from different regions of the country staying at the Centre. Even though
their stories vary widely, all of them are heartbreaking.

Diego (14) arrived at the Centre after his father was killed by guerrillas. At first he did not want
to know anything about God. “God does not exist,” he would say, “where was He when those
men killed my father?” But through the love shown to him at the Centre, God has healed Diego’s
heart. “I like to pray now,” says Diego, “it’s good to do it.”

Jacqueline (19) came to the Children’s Centre ten years ago, after the town where she and her
family had lived, was taken over by guerrillas. She was separated from her family when her fa-
ther, a Christian leader in the community, was killed. Despite her circumstances, Jacqueline gives
thanks to God for allowing her to stay at the Centre. “The Centre is my home and everyone who
works for Open Doors is my family,” she said.

Please write to the children staying at the Centre and let them know that their family in Christ
remembers them.

Children’s Home
Uzbekistan

UZBEKISTAN: Marina Shestakov’s husband, Pastor Dmitry, was arrested for illegal
religious activities in January 2007 and was sentenced to four years in the Navoi labour camp.

International appeals for Pastor Dmitry’s early release have so far not been honoured and he is
still facing more than a year in prison. He is aware, however, of all the efforts being made on his
behalf. The family is grateful for the support they receive from Christians around the world.

Pastor Dmitry is reported to be well respected in the prison. He is not allowed to pray openly,
or to read a Bible. “He tries not to pay too much attention to what is going on around him,” says
Marina. “He focuses on Jesus and says, ‘Jesus, You are with me’.”

Dmitry has recently suffered some health problems due to high blood pressure. His main prayer
request is for spiritual and physical health.

Marina and her daughters, Masha, Sasha and Verochka visit Dmitry as often as they are permit-
ted. Marina is supported and encouraged by the letters she frequently receive from all over the
world. Personal cards for the daughters are also much appreciated, as they give the girls the
assurance that they are not forgotten.
Once you’ve posted your
letter, remember to pray for
the person you’ve written to.
Your prayers really make a
difference!

PRAY THAT:
Your letter will arrive safely at its
destination.

The recipient will be blessed by


what you’ve written and com-
forted by the knowledge
that you are praying for them
(Romans 15:30).

God will give the recipient


strength to persevere, and that
they will know His compassion
and mercy (James 5:11).

CHECKLIST:
Have I made sure there is no mention of Open Doors in my card or letter?
Have I included an encouraging Bible verse?
Have I prayed for the person(s) who will receive the card or letter?