Buddhist Extremists Continue to Persecute Christians
Buddhist extremists detained eight Chakma Christians, members of a Baptist church in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, for four days in August.
The extremists held the men — a pastor, church secretary, village leader, and five church members — captive in a Buddhist temple to attempt to force them to return to Buddhism, international Christians Grady and Josette Lindem* reported.
During their captivity, the Buddhist extremists forced the men to adopt a Buddhist lifestyle and worship. The Christian believers had to wear Buddhist robes, shave their heads, bow down before a statue of Buddha, and clean the temple, the Lindems said. The extremists threatened the believers with severe beatings and even death if they tried to escape.
The men's wives had orders to bring food twice a day, the Lindems said. The extremists threatened the women with severe punishment or death if they refused to comply with their requirements of showing honor to Buddha. The women had to first bow down to a statue of Buddha, present food to the statue, and give food to the Buddhist priests before they were allowed to give food to their husbands.
The Christians, detained August 23, originally were told they would be confined to the temple for seven to fifteen days, but after four days in captivity the men were released under orders that they remain Buddhist.
"They are not allowed to pray to Jesus nor read Bibles, but they say they are still Christian in their hearts," Josette Lindem said.
Both the extremists and the Christians are Chakmas. Although most Chakmas are Buddhists, about three thousand Chakmas are evangelical Christians, said Burt Galvin*, who for several years served among tribal peoples in Bangladesh.
Recently, ten new Chakma churches began and about three hundred Chakmas professed their faith in Jesus, the Lindems said.
The Chakma people group is concentrated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, an area that was specifically reserved for indigenous people groups in southeastern Bangladesh during British colonization.
The same extremist group that held the eight Chakma Christians captive in August took three Chakma Christians captive in April, said Finn Aurora*, an agricultural specialist who works with tribal groups in the hill tracts. The men, including a local pastor, were forced to don monk robes, worship Buddha, and shave their heads.
"I appeal [to] all brothers and sisters in Christ please do something …. Otherwise all Chakma believers have to return to Buddhist," Charbak Roy*, a pastor in the area, wrote to prayer supporters during the April imprisonment of the three believers. "I believe Almighty God [is] with them, but as brothers in Christ we should do according [to] our talent."
Pastor Balendra Sengupta*, who was severely beaten during his nearly month-long detention in April, went into hiding after his release. The Buddhist extremists have threatened him with severe punishment or death if he returns, Grady Lindem said.
During the April detentions, the extremists issued an ultimatum to Christians. They are first given one month to renounce Christianity and return to Buddhism, the Lindems explained. Then the extremists give a second warning with fifteen more days to recant. At the end of the fifteen days, Christians are given another month with a final warning.
"If they do not return to Buddhism, there will be serious consequences and possibly death," Grady Lindem said. "Christians who have the money and means flee their homes at this point."
Buddhist extremists have seized and destroyed Bibles of the Chakma Christians in the area and have forbidden Christians to read the Bible and pray, the Lindems said. Christians are not allowed to enter Buddhist villages or use bridges, ferries, or roads in the area, and the names of the Chakma Christians' children are on a blacklist that prevents them from attending school.
Christians in the area are not allowed to buy food or sell crops they've harvested, the Lindems said. Buddhist merchants are forbidden from selling to Christians, and the fine is about $140.
"Only when the Chakma Christians appear outwardly as Buddhists in their dress and do not openly pray, read the Bible, or evangelize can they peacefully live in their villages and the children attend school," Grady Lindem said.
"Police and army view the situation as a local internal problem within the Chakma people that does not impact the Muslim people," he said. "If the Chakma Christians seek help from the courts or the police, the extremists become very angry and the persecution becomes worse."
Chakma pastors and leaders of the Bangladesh Baptist Christian Fellowship have tried to meet with the Buddhist extremists to bring an end to the persecution but have not had any positive response to date.
Chakma Christians ask for the body of Christ to pray for the Chakma church.
Adapted from a Baptist Press article by Caroline Anderson.
Kevin Ezell Voted New NAMB President
Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, was elected president of the North American Mission Board in a special called meeting of NAMB trustees September 14 at an Atlanta-area hotel.
Ezell's nomination was announced August 31 after NAMB's seven-member presidential search committee voted unanimously to recommend him as president. The meeting in Atlanta began at 8 a.m. and ended at noon with the announcement Ezell had been elected.
"I am honored and humbled that the trustees put this confidence in me," Ezell said immediately following the meeting. "I will do everything I possibly can to honor the Lord in this and to lead the board to a place where it is as effective as it possibly can be."
Ezell said he sensed God's call to the role partly because of what can be accomplished through the North American Mission Board.
"I see the potential NAMB has if its energies and resources are focused in the right direction," Ezell said. "I am looking forward to being able to give a very clear vision for it. You rarely have the opportunity to have this big of a Kingdom impact."
Tim Dowdy, chairman of the entity's board of trustees, said the vote was the culmination of a ten-month process. "It has at times been discouraging and at times encouraging, but along the way God has been faithful to give us guidance," Dowdy said. "When He introduced us to Kevin, it was evident through the interview process that this was the man."
Dowdy, pastor of Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Georgia, said Ezell's leadership abilities, integrity, and passion for church planting and missions are what led trustees to him.
Ezell has served as pastor of Highview Baptist Church since 1996 and was president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference in Orlando this past June.
Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, attended Tuesday's meeting. Wright delivered a devotion to NAMB trustees before they entered executive session to consider the vote.
"Today is an historic day in the life of NAMB," Wright told trustees. "Today your big decision is to follow God's will with a man the search committee clearly feels is God's man for leading our churches as they go about the harvest."
Senate Blocks Open Homosexuality in the Military
The U.S. Senate failed in its September 21 effort to bring to the floor for consideration a military authorization bill that would overturn bans on open homosexuals serving in the armed forces and abortions in military facilities.
Supporters of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" believe its reversal will curtail the religious liberty of those in the military whose opposition to homosexual conduct is based on the Bible. They also say it will undermine military readiness, cohesion, privacy, recruitment, and retention.
"Along with millions of social conservatives, I am delighted that the Senate has turned back a substantial challenge to the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "The military is not a social experiment. The military is organized and designed to win wars. Making the military a lab for social innovation and experiment in a time of two wars is foolhardy and dangerous. I am grateful that enough senators understand this and have defeated this latest challenge to the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.
"I am also grateful that the provision in this bill that would allow privately funded abortions to take place in military facilities has been blocked," Land said. "This is a good day for the American military and a good day for unborn Americans."
The other controversial amendment added to the Defense authorization bill in committee would eliminate a restriction on elective, privately funded abortions in military health-care facilities that has been in place for the last fourteen years. The proposal would not affect the ban that exists on publicly funded abortions at armed services hospitals.
Adapted from a Baptist Press article by Tom Strode.
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