Monday, March 03, 2014
Karen Short, the wife of Australia missionary John Short, says there will be plenty of hugging going on when she joins her husband Tuesday in Beijing.
It's been three weeks since she last saw him. That's because the North Korean government arrested John Feb. 16 for leaving Christian tracts at a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang.
The 75-year-old missionary apparently apologized and asked for forgiveness, so the government decided to deport him and send him on his way to China.
I talked with Karen by phone Monday and she said she is surprised by her husband's atypical behavior.
Former North Korean prisoners who have defected say the government coerced them into writing statements of confession, or admissions of guilt for their alleged anti-state crimes.
I first met John Short many years ago, and though I think he would willingly apologize for offending someone, I doubt he would beg forgiveness or apologize for handing out Gospel literature or for trying to introduce someone to Christ. Even under great duress, he would never view those actions as criminal. It's not in his nature.
So what made the difference for Short's quick release?
Prayer, prayer, and more prayer. God's people responded and He answered. Karen said the prayers of people around the world brought her peace; she never feared for John or for their future.
She believes her husband's detention was God's will, and that He has used it to bring awareness about North Korea, to inspire and encourage people to pray for their brothers and sisters in Christ and for the North Korean government leadership.
So keep praying! John said he's exhausted. Your prayers and all those wifely hugs will make a big difference!
Watch my full interview with Karen Short to learn more about how prayer and emails encouraged her during John's ordeal.
Friday, February 28, 2014
It isn't often that we have good news to report about persecuted or imprisoned Christians.
Today is one of those rare exceptions.
We're pleased to inform our readers and viewers that Present Truth Ministries has learned the Iranian government has finally allowed doctors to perform much needed surgery on imprisoned Pastor Benham Irani.
Irani has been jailed in Karaj, Iran since May 2011--more than a year longer than Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini. Pastor Benham needed urgent medical care because he suffered from a herniated disc and frequent intestinal bleeding. It's likely that both conditions were at least aggravated, if not created by the torturous beatings he endured while in custody.
Friends and family members worried that Pastor Beham would die without urgent medical care. PTM's Jason DeMars says Irani is now doing much better since the Feb. 22 surgery.
The house church leader was first arrested in December 2006 on charges that he was acting against Iranian national secuirity. His five-year sentence was suspended, but was later re-imposed after his third arrest and conviction in 2011.
Rarely does the Islamic government arrest and imprison Christians on charges of prosyletism, or conversion. The charge is always "crimes against the state" or against "Iranian national security." The government apparently feels Christians sharing their faith with their fellow countrymen threatens Iranian national security. That's because the ayatollahs fear Islam--and their privileges as rulers--would likely disappear if Christians were free to share Christ with Muslims.
So, Beham Irani's wife Christine, daughter Rebecca, and son Adriel are forced to endure more painful and lonely nights without him. But at least today they--and we--can be thankful for this delayed act of compassion and mercy.
Rejoice! It's answered prayer. Keep writing letters on behalf of Pastor Benham and keep praying for this faithful Christian prisoner and his family.
Watch this Pastor Beham update from Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries:
Thursday, February 20, 2014
John Short: Australian. Christian. Godly man. Missionary to Asia.
Now add "Prisoner for Christ."
North Korean officials stormed into Short's Pyongyang hotel room Sunday and arrested him for possessing Christian tracts. Horror of horrors! Get the nuclear arsenal ready!
This incident demonstrates the paranoia now dominating the pysche of the Kim Jong Un regime.
What threat could this 75-year-old missionary possibly pose to North Korea? Perhaps it's not Short, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is the real threat.
Just imagine what would become of Un and his cohorts if the entire population embraced Christianity instead of worshiping their great leaders (Juche) -- who really aren't so great are they?
I've spent time with John Short on several occasions. He's a wonderful, humble man who loves God. I'm sure his decision to bring Gospel tracts to North Korea was an act of obedience to God. I'm also certain--if Short has the chance--he'll be sharing his faith with inmates and guards in the North Korean Gulag.
Let's pray that he remains healthy and faithful to Christ during this ordeal.
Let's not pray for his freedom. John would say he is already free in Christ--no matter where God sends him.
Pray that he'll be reunited soon with his wife Karen at their home in Hong Kong. Also prayGod gives Karen the strength to endure this time without her husband, not knowing his exact whereabouts or status.
Watch my interview with International Christian Concern President Jeff King to learn the real reason behind John Short's arrest:
Thursday, February 13, 2014
It's hard to believe that last year's winner (the first American) of the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice would be the subject of a federal investigation. But that's exactly what happened recently to the man known as "The Machine Gun Preacher."
Last week, as Pastor Sam Childers was busy rescuing South Sudan civil war orphans, FBI agents were raiding his home and ministry headquarters in Somerset County, Pa.
Childers says they drew their guns and then proceeded to pillage through a shipping container of clothing searching for arms allegedly being smuggled to Africa. Problem is, there were no guns.
Childers says it's crazy to suggest he's a gun runner; he's just a preacher called to help orphaned East African kids. He blames his former son-in-law who is currently in a lot of "hot water" for allegedly embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from Childer's Angels of East Africa ministry.
I first met Childers a decade ago when I profiled him and his orphanage in my 2005 CBN News report about the LRA:
The FBI office in Pittsburgh has yet to respond to my telephone inquiry asking for the Fed's perspective of the raid.
In the meantime, watch and listen to Childer's comments via telephone from Nimule, South Sudan:
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
That was the one word reply VOM's Sabina Wurmbrand gave when a friend of mine once asked her to describe the tragedy in Sudan.
Tears are what I have today for Syria's children.
The United Nations has just released its first report on children in Syria's civil war and it comes of no suprise that kids there are suffering. What is astonishing is that not only have thousands been killed, but many have been maimed, tortured, and some have fallen victim to sexual abuse.
The U.N. report examined the period from March 1, 2011 (around the time the civil war started) to November 2013.
The conclusion? According to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Assad government has been responsible for the "arrest, arbitrary detention, ill treatment and torture of children."
Children as young as 11 years old were reportedly beaten with "metal cables, whips and metal batons." The report also states that electric shock was administered to their genitals, fingernails, and toenails were ripped out.
Syrian children have also been victims of "sexual violence including rape and threats of rape." Cigarette burns, sleep deprivation, tied up and suspended from ceilings. The list of tortures inflicted on the children goes on and on.
Moon also says armed opposition groups have recruited and used children "in both combat and support roles."
In Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan--I've seen the trauma in the blank stares of many Syrian refugee children. Without counseling, these kids will continue to suffer for a lifetime. An entire generation is now growing up without education.
What will the future bring for these precious little ones?
You and I can make a difference. Relying on diplomats to negotiate peace in Geneva is not enough. As Christians, we need to get on our knees and pray, and then ask Christ how He wants us to respond.
Helping is not an option. It's a requirement of our faith.
Watch this short video of some of these wonderful Syrian kids. The heart of each one breaks from the "unspeakable horror" they've endured. Yours should too.
Friday, January 24, 2014
I always enjoy sitting down and talking with former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams. He worked for President Ronald Reagan at the State Department, and more recently as Deputy National Security Advisor for President George W. Bush.
These days he serves as a member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and as a Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Abrams always has some interesting and insightful views on U.S. foreign policy--particularly for the Middle East.
I talked with him in Washington this week about the start of the Syria Peace Talks in Geneva and the Iranian nuclear agreement that was implemented on Monday.
Here's my full interview, not a shortened, edited version that fits more comfortably into our 30-minute news shows.
Abrams predicts the Syria Peace Talks will go nowhere because Assad's the problem; how can rebels sit down with those who have slaughtered tens of thousands? He also thinks Iran will continue moving forward little-by-little with nuclear weapons development despite the recent sanctions-lifting agreement with the U.S.
Monday, January 13, 2014
If you think Muslims are the only ones who resort to violence against Christians, then you need to view this video. Buddhist have a reputation of meditating and expressing themselves peacefully. Not so in Sri Lanka.
On Sunday, a mob led by some outraged monks decided they'd had enough of their Christian neighbors in the resort city of Hikkaduwa. They attacked and vandalized two Christian prayer centers saying they were operating illegally after administrative authorities had ordered them closed.
The prayers centers were operated by the Calvary Free Church and the Assemblies of God. They insisted the center were registered--eviction would be illegal
So, the peaceful and tolerant monks decided to take matters into their own hands and along with their followers, they pushed past police and smashed Christians signs and windows, destroyed Bibles, books and paperwork, and ransacked the prayer buildings.
A church near Colombo was also reportedly attacked.
This is nothing new for Buddhist Sri Lanka. Monks have often incited their followers to attack Christians and churches.
The nation is ranked #29 on the Opend Doors annual World Watch List.
Sri Lanka Police say they intend to arrest the attackers. The country guarantees religious freedom in its constitution, but the monks obviously haven't gotten the message.
They're goal is to reach nirvana, but apparently they first plan to eradicate Christianity from their island nation before they get there.
Thursday, January 09, 2014
Poor Dennis Rodman. The former NBA star got drunk and then suggested to CNN's Chris Cuomo that American Christian Kenneth Bae's imprisonment (15 years, including hard labor) was because he did something against the North Korean government, yet Rodman wouldn't say exactly what he thought Bae had done.
Bae was a tour guide operator who was imprisoned for allegedly attempting to overthrow the North Korean government.
Bae's family members were outraged and couldn't understand why Rodman--who is now apparently a buddy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un--didn't urge Un to release Bae. Instead, he sang Happy Birthday to the young general.
Rodman later apologized to Bae's family.
Could Rodman have made a difference?
Rev. Eric Foley of the Colorado-based ministry Seoul USA tells me that North Korean Christians don't want Rodman or any other Westerners coming to their country on official visits. That's because the North Korean government uses them for propaganda purposes, to brainwash their people into believing they have legitimacy on the world stage.
The visitors become as Karl Marx said, "Useful Idiots."
Rodman means well--he believes sports figures can help open doors of communication and cooperation just like ping-pong led to detente and an end to Chinese isolationism.
But there's a lot about North Korea that Rodman doesn't know, or chooses to ignore. Did he know that on the same day that he threw that basketball birthday bash for the supreme leader, Open Doors USA held their annual press conference in Washington, D.C., and announced that North Korea once again is the world's top persecutor of Christians?
Knowledgeable or not, he decided to go. When he arrived in Pyongyang he insisted he's not trying to save the world, and saving Bae isn't his job.
So, what is Rodman's job? Athletes spend hours viewing video tapes and learning the strategies of their opponents. Shouldn't he have taken the time to learn all he could about North Korea before staging an exhibition there?
Maybe he did, but didn't care. He could have made a difference for Bae, but instead of going for the 3-pointer, he passed the ball. Let someone else take the risk.
I guess sinking baskets comes easier for Dennis Rodman than being an advocate for a fellow American.
Ignorance is bliss.
For more on North Korean Christians, Dennis Rodman, and Kenneth Bae, watch my full interview with Seoul USA's Eric Foley.
Monday, January 06, 2014
All it takes is a false rumor to ignite a firestorm and perhaps a nation. Just ask Father Ibrahim Surouj.
Surouj is a Greek Orthodox priest and a library curator who says he forgives the Muslim militants who burned Lebanon's second largest library in Tripoli last Friday: 78,000 books--many rare and irreplaceable, were damaged or destroyed.
So what prompted this senseless attack on Saeh Library, one of Lebanon's most beloved treasures? Sources quoted by Al-Akhbar newspaper say some young Salafis spread rumors in the neighborhood saying that Father Surouj was about to reprint a book that had insulted the prophet Mohammed. Armed Islamists reportedly shot one of the library workers in the foot and then set the library ablaze. No one intervened to prevent the attack.
CBN News has learned that the owner wanted to demolish the building because the property is worth more than $1.5 million. Father Surouj resisted efforts to give up his lease because the building was an historic place, perhaps centuries old.
Here's a Murr TV report (in Arabic) that features video of the Saeh library and comments from Father Surouj several days before the library attack:
Some say this was just a library, people sould be more concerned about escalating violence and how the country is being dragged progressively into Syria's civil war.
Regardless of the motives behind this attack, it's clear that some young Lebanese Muslims--in this case Sunnis--are easily manipulated into acting on a false rumor of blasphemy. Imagine how easily they can be swayed into joining the jihad against Bashir al-Assad!
Government officials and members of the media atempted to downplay the attack in order to prevent an eruption of sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians. They labeled the burning an act of "terrorism" rather than a religiously motivated attack against a Christian institution by militant Muslims.
The irony of all this of course is that Islamic books and even Qurans were likely destroyed in a library burned by Muslims. Last time I checked, many Muslims consider that act blasphemous.
So, the real victims here are not only Christians; they are Muslims insulted not by an innocent priest, but by fellow Muslims acting on the commands of others.
All of Lebanon suffers.
Friday, December 20, 2013
Each January, Open Doors releases it's Worldwatch List of nations that are the worst persecutors of Christians. They'll announce the 2014 list Jan. 8.
I'm guessing that North Korea and Saudi Arabia will once again take the top two spots, but I also expect Egypt and Pakistan will move up in the rankings. OD ranked Egypt No. 25 for 2013 and Pakistan was listed at No. 14. My guess is for 2014, Pakistan may break the top 10 and Egypt the top 15. If not, they should.
Egyptian Christians suffered some of the worst persecution in their modern history when Muslim Brotherhood members and other Islamists attacked churches, Christian homes, and business after security police and the military foced them from their protest encampments in Cairo.
Islamists directed their anger against the Coptic Orthodox Church and several Christians were also killed because they refused to meet the demands of of Islamists to pay the jizya tax. The Quran says non-Muslims must either convert, pay a jizya, or die.
Watch my breaking news report from last August as Islamists conducted several days of rage against Christians:
Only about 2 percent of the population in Pakistan is Christian. They sufffered the worst attack against them since the founding of the Pakistani nation in 1947. It occured last Sept. 21 as churchgoers attended a service at All Saints Church in Peshawar. More than 80 people died.
Watch my interview from last September with Jesus TV's Javed Rauf, who brought us up to date on the attack and its aftermath:
Let's pray that Christians in restricted countries and areas hostile to the Gospel around the globe will grow closer to God and stronger in their faith in 2014. Let's also pray that God will shield them from attacks like those that occured in Egypt and Pakistan. Pray that persecuted Christians will remain faithful to Christ.
2013 has been a tough year for Christians. Keep praying. Life may worsen for many of us in the coming year.