Thursday, December 6, 2012

West Point Cadet Quits Over Christian Proselytizing

Updated Dec. 5, 2:25 p.m. ET: Cadet Blake Page has learned from his superiors at West Point that he will be given an honorable discharge and not be required to pay "recoupment" costs for three and a half years at the military academy. He told NBC News that when out-processing is finished, he will move to Minnesota and "continue the work I've started in whatever way I can."

Original Post: A West Point cadet publicly announced his decision to quit the prestigious military academy just months before graduating to protest what he sees as the illegal infusion of military procedures and events with fundamentalist Christian proselytizing.

To call attention to his move, senior Blake Page wrote a scathing commentary on West Point, published Monday in the Huffington Post.

"Countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution," wrote Page, who was slated to graduate in May. "These men and women are criminals, complicit in light of day defiance of the Uniform Code of Military Justice through unconstitutional proselytism, discrimination against the non-religious and establishing formal policies to reward, encourage and even at times require sectarian religious participation."


Police Detain 9 Christians, Send Two to Labor Camp for Holding Free Medical Clinics & Evangelizing

ULANHOT, Inner Mongolia, —Nine Christians providing medical services in rural areas of Inner Mongolia were detained by local police who also confiscated medical equipment and sentenced two of the Christians to labor camp.

On July 26, six Christians set out from the city of Tongliao in Inner Mongolia for rural parts of the autonomous region, stopping in places such as Jarud Banner, Tuquan County in Hinggan League, and the village of Shumugou, in Alide Sumu (township), in the Horqin Right Front Banner, where they held free medical clinics and evangelized among those who came for medical attention.

Five days later, on Aug. 1, they were in the hamlet of Zhongxinbu, in Shumugou village, Horqin Right Front Banner, in the city of Ulanhot, where they were providing medical services to the local people. Around 4 p.m., a local resident warned them that the police might be coming and advised them to leave quickly, which they did. However, they were stopped on the road by Domestic Security Protection agents of the Public Security Bureau, who detained them at the Horqin Right Front Banner police station and confiscated their van, medical equipment including an EKG machine and a laptop.

At 5 p.m. on Aug. 3, the Horqin Right Front Banner’s Domestic Security Protection agents notified the families of the detainees and said they were being held for engaging in illegal evangelism. However, the Domestic Security Protection agents never provided the families with the legally required written notifications of their detention. It was not until Aug. 22, when the wife of Chen Hong, one of the detainees, went to the Domestic Security Protection Squad that she was able to get hold of the formal detention notice, but the families of the other detainees still have not received the formal written notifications. The deputy squad head asked Chen’s wife questions related to the religious beliefs of the detainees. The reason given for their detention was that they were suspected of using cult activities to interfere with law enforcement.
The six detainees were:
  • Chen Hong (male) (of Tongliao city, Inner Mongolia)
  • Sun Yuefen (female) (of Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia)
  • Yinhua (Mongolian) (of Tongliao city, Inner Mongolia)
  • Ren Zhimin (of Heilongjiang province)
  • Liu Di (from Nen River County, Heilongjiang province; enrolled in Harbin Medical College)
  • Pan Wenwen (from Changbai county, Baishan city, Jilin province Baishan Mayor White County; enrolled in Changchun School of Medicine)

WEEK OF PRAYER: Persecution reflects faith's authenticity


EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 2-9 with the theme of "BE His heart, His hands, His voice" from Matthew 16:24-25. Each year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists' 5,000 international missionaries' initiatives in sharing the Gospel. This year's offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to

NORTHERN AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST (BP) -- Nik and Ruth Ripken* have served in some of the toughest areas of Africa. They've known believers who have been martyred for Christ. They've spoken with hundreds of Christians experiencing persecution in more than 70 countries.

After all that, they've learned something about persecution.

"The most persecuted person is a lost person who has no access to Jesus," Nik says. "Satan wants to keep people from hearing about Jesus. If he can't do that, he wants to shut you up, to silence your witness." Most American Christians fall into the second category. They experience no persecution because they tell no one about Jesus.

Yet persecution of Jesus' true followers has been normal from New Testament times to the present day. The No. 1 cause -- when people come to know Jesus. The key is how to make persecution count for God's glory, as the early Christians did.

The Ripkens learned that truth the hard way. They served in South Africa and Kenya after sensing a call from God in the early 1980s. They experienced the drama -- and trauma -- of ministry amid racial apartheid, religious and tribal tensions and other challenges. But nothing prepared them for their next place of service: Somalia. The overwhelmingly Muslim East African nation was wracked by civil war, chaos and danger in the 1990s, as it is today.

Loss and sacrifice

"We fed the hungry. We clothed the naked. We were shot at. We buried a 16-year-old son," Nik recounts, referencing the death of their son from an asthma attack in Kenya on an Easter Sunday. And they watched helplessly as nearly 150 Muslim-background followers of Christ in Somalia were martyred. Four of their closest friends died on a single, terrible day in 1994.

The horror continued, and the Ripkens and other workers were forced out in 1998. They have not been able to return.

The Ripkens realized that many of these martyrs died not just for following Christ, but for being openly identified with outside Christian agencies. Thus began their long-term effort to understand the nature of persecution and how God works through it. Trying to stop it in every case or "rescue" every believer experiencing it is a misunderstanding of religious freedom, they contend.

"We need to pray intelligently, not that persecution will increase, but that the peoples of the earth have access to Jesus -- all of them," Nik explains. "When that happens, persecution is going to be a reality. Sometimes God needs to have Joseph in Pharaoh's prison for a purpose. Historically and biblically, persecution is normal. In many places today it authenticates the faith. So persecution is not something you run toward or run away from. Persecution just is. It's what you make of it that counts."

Now based in Northern Africa and the Middle East, Nik and Ruth specialize in training and research to help the global body of Christ, including IMB workers and Southern Baptist churches, understand effective Gospel witness and church planting in environments where persecution is the norm.


Church fined hundreds of dollars for loud services

UC Berkeley Student Government Seeks to Ban…Salvation Army Bell Ringers?

The student government at the University of California-Berkeley (CAL) is taking a stand against the Salvation Army. The group voted to ban Salvation Army bell ringers from campus this Christmas because of the Christian organization’s so-called anti-gay stance.

Campus Reform reports the student group passed the resolution on Nov. 14. It accuses the Salvation Army of intentionally discriminating against homosexuals and asks the University of California-Berkeley to revoke the group’s permit that allows them to collect donations.

“Salvation Army church services, including charity services, are available only to people ‘who accept and abide by the Salvation Army’s doctrine and discipline,’ which excludes homosexuality,” reads the bill, SB 176.

“Allowing the Salvation Army to collect donations on campus is a form of financial assistance that empowers the organization to spend the money it raises here in order to discriminate and advocate discrimination against queer people,” the resolution adds.


NFL Award Winner Jared Allen Talks Faith and Football

Christmas Tree Ban: Seniors decry ban on Christmas tree in their complex in Newhall

Residents in a Newhall senior apartment complex are protesting an order from management to remove their beloved Christmas tree from the community room because, they were told, it's a religious symbol. | 
On Tuesday, Tarzana-based JB Partners Group Inc. sent a memo to staff at The Willows senior apartment building demanding they take down Christmas trees and menorahs in communal areas.
The company has owned The Willows for four years, but this is the first time it's given such a directive to staff.

On Wednesday, two dozen residents in the 75-resident complex gathered in the lobby to place a neon green sign that read: "Please Save Our Tree."

"We're all angry. We want that tree," said Fern Scheel, who has lived at the complex for nearly two years. "Where's our freedom? This is ridiculous."

The Willows staff and JB Property supervisor Wethanie Law declined to comment.

JB Partners Group owns apartments in California, Oklahoma and Colorado.

Resident Edna Johnson said Law had told her the tree had to be taken down because it's a religious symbol.

"We could put out Easter baskets, have turkey for Thanksgiving but no tree for Christmas because it has Christ's name in the beginning of Christmas," Johnson said.


Uzbek Pastor Released from Kazakhstan Prison, Reunited with Family

SANTA ANA, Calif., Dec. 5, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- According to Open Doors News, Uzbek pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov has been released from prison in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

He was released on Tuesday and taken to the airport, where he was reunited with his wife and four children. According to the Norwegian religious freedom watchdog agency Forum 18, they were flown to Germany. After arrival at Frankfurt, they were taken to a safe location in an unnamed European country.

His friends in Almaty told Forum 18 "we need to thank the Kazakh government; they did the right thing."

Border guards at Almaty airport told Djabbarbergenov as he left that he was banned from re-entering Kazakhstan until 2017, according to Open Doors News.

Pastor Makset's release and asylum in Europe was facilitated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Commissioner (UNHCR) representatives met him on release from prison, took him directly to the airport and saw him safely through passport control to ensure there were no last-minute problems.

Almost 3,800 supporters sent emails on behalf of Djabbarbergenov through an advocacy campaign launched by Open Doors USA.

"We are incredibly grateful for Makset's release and thank all of our supporters who advocated on his behalf by sending emails to the Kazakh ambassador to the United States," says Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Lindsay Vessey. "It is good to hear that the UNHCR played a critical role in securing his release as well as in ensuring Makset's safe departure from Kazakhstan with his family."

Djabbarbergenov was arrested in Almaty on Sept. 5 on the request of his native Uzbekistan which wanted him to be returned to face charges that he practiced religion outside state regulation.

Djabbarbergenov became a Christian in 2000 and soon became an active church leader in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, the autonomous republic of Uzbekistan. At present, no Protestant church in Karakalpakstan has an official registration as they are considered illegal.

He was arrested six times and, following a police raid on his apartment in 2007, he and his family fled to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. He crossed into Kazakhstan the following month. His family followed a few months later, according to Open Doors News.

Djabbarbergenov applied for asylum in Kazakhstan, but, despite the fact that the commissioner for refugees said he would face prosecution in Uzbekistan because of his Christian faith, the Kazakh government ruled against Djabbarbergenov at several turns. Finally he was arrested in September and held in prison, pending deportation.

His wife, Aigul, spoke to Open Doors during that period. "Pray that we can follow God and He'll lead us to be where He wants us to be. We want Him to solve and resolve the situation and tell us what to do."

Uzbekistan is ranked No. 7 on the 2012 Open Doors World Watch List of 50 of the worst persecutors of Christians.

An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            888-524-2535      end_of_the_skype_highlighting) or go to

(For more information or to set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            616-915-4117      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or email

Christian Newswire

Lawmakers urged not to join Prayer Caucus

The founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus says an atheist group is attempting to censor the newest members of Congress from voicing their support for prayer by joining the Caucus.

Newly elected members of Congress have received a letter from the American Humanist Association warning them not to join the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, wrote in the letter: "Incoming House members should know that approximately one in five of their constituents are not religiously affiliated, and even more insist on maintaining the wall of separation between church and state."

Speckhardt also argues in the letter that when public officials and Congress explicitly endorse public prayer, "they alienate millions of non-religious Americans who oppose the joining of religion and government."


'Forgotten Christmas' Brings Hope to Thousands in South Asia through Unconventional Christmas Gifts

CARROLLTON, Texas, Dec. 5, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- Thousands of outcast, persecuted and forgotten people in South Asia will be remembered this year with unique gifts donated through Forgotten Christmas. Opportunities to support poor families with essential but unconventional items are available with online shopping at

Forgotten Christmas (, a compassionate ministry sponsored by Gospel for Asia, benefits not only the recipient but also the giver. For people, even devout Christians, caught in the consumerism overtaking the sacred holiday, remembering "the least of these" that Jesus called His disciples to serve is bringing back the essence of the spirit of Christmas.

"Even as the West is caught up in Black Friday, shopping malls and long lines at cash registers, millions of people are struggling to provide the bare necessities of food, clean water and shelter for their families," said K. P. Yohannan, founder and president of Gospel for Asia. "Forgotten Christmas is one way to supply the needs of the most impoverished while rediscovering the true joy of Christmas."

A pair of chickens for $11 will provide a family 200-300 eggs per year as well as hatchlings for food or for sale. A goat for $70 will produce nutritious milk and one offspring per year. A sewing machine for $85 can change a woman's life, taking her from begging on the streets to fully supporting her family. Bibles, women's literacy training, water purification systems and more can be purchased online through Forgotten Christmas.

Many donations to Forgotten Christmas are being made by individuals to honor their loved ones in addition to or in lieu of their regular gift exchange this year.

Forgotten Christmas is committed to using 100 percent of all monies donated to send these gifts directly to the field.

While families and individuals are purchasing these gifts directly online, churches may also become involved. Free resources, including catalogues for distribution and downloadable videos (, are empowering pastors to encourage their congregations to support their brothers and sisters in need in South Asia.

"The priceless gift of Immanuel, God with us, reminds us how to give to those who need it most," said Yohannan. "Now is the time to remember the persecuted believers, those who have never heard the gospel and those who have newly welcomed it in other parts of the world."

To receive free videos, catalogs and church kits containing other promotional materials, or to make a purchase directly online, visit

Gospel for Asia (GFA), a Christian mission organization based in Carrollton, Texas, has brought the Good News of Christ to millions in South Asia since its founding in 1978. GFA provides education, meals and healthcare to tens of thousands of South Asia's impoverished children through its Bridge of Hope program. For more information, visit or on Facebook.

Christian Newswire

Free for Life International is Offering a New Innovative Tool in the Fight Against Sex Trafficking

FRANKLIN, Tenn., Dec. 4, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- Free for Life International is pleased to offer their multilingual phrasebook, an anti-trafficking tool consisting of questions to ask a suspected victim in 47 different languages. This is now available to service providers throughout the world who may want to use it to identify a trafficking victim in the high-risk immigrant and refugee community. This material is a part of a larger Free for Life project called the Emergency Multilingual Phrasebook for Healthcare Providers, a project focused on the medical community.

This Multilingual phrasebook offers 12 questions that a social service provider, law enforcement officer, non-profit organization, or medical provider might use to determine if an individual is a victim of human trafficking. This tool is primarily focused on identifying victims within a population group where English is not the primary language spoken. With questions available in 47 languages, an interested individual can print or download this set of questions in their native language along with a set of questions in the language of the suspected potential victim. This will facilitate the communication between these 2 individuals who may otherwise be unable to effectively communicate. With languages from Albanian to Welsh, Hungarian to Kurdish, including many African and Asian languages, Free for Life believes that this tool can actually bring about the rescue of individuals who are trapped in sex slavery. The material can be printed directly from the webpage in an attractive and easy to read format, and is offered free of charge.

Colette Bercu, CEO & Founder of Free for Life and co-author of this material states; "We would encourage anyone who has a need or an interest in this material to go ahead and use it freely, and to share it with your colleagues or co-workers."

To use this material go to:

Free for Life International is a 501©3 non-profit organization that has been involved in the fight against sex slavery since 2006. Their mission is to provide financial, emotional, and spiritual support to individuals and organizations globally in the fight against sex slavery. The primary focus of their work is on shelter support, border interception stations, scholarships, and sustainable programs. In addition to their work here in the United States, they have been working in Romania, India, Nepal, and Nicaragua during these past six years.

Christian Newswire