MISSING: Chinese human rights lawyer

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Chinese human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, has been missing from his home for over a week. His wife, family, and friends have been unable to contact him since August 13th. Zhisheng’s disappearance comes in the midst of him serving a house arrest that began in 2014. This is the latest sentence he has served in a pattern of targeting from the Chinese government.

In 2005, Zhisheng’s license to be a lawyer was taken away and he was charged in 2006 with “inciting subversion of state power.” He was sentenced to three years in prison but was released early. Then in 2007, he was again detained without reason for 50 days, and was tortured.

In 2009, Zhisheng’s wife and children fled China and came to the United States. Soon after, Zhisheng was taken by police and his whereabouts were unknown for over a year, from February 4, 2009- March 27, 2010. He was then released on parole, but re-arrested in 2011 for supposedly violating the terms of his parole. The Chinese authorities sentenced him to another three-year imprisonment. Since his latest release from prison in 2014, he has remained under house arrest.

Zhisheng’s wife is very concerned about her husband’s well being and the inability of anyone to contact him. After failed phone calls, his brother went to Zhisheng’s home and found it empty.

The wife said, “Now that I know he has disappeared, I am in a state of emotional collapse.”

Some suspect his disappearance could be linked to an interview he recently gave in which he spoke against the Chinese regime.

Zhisheng has been a powerful defender of Christians and other groups in China who face intense discrimination. Please pray for Zhisheng’s well being and freedom and that God would strengthen and comfort Zhisheng’s wife and children.

Eritrea: Christian mother dies in prison

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We’re saddened to report that mother of three, Fikadu Debesay, died in a desert prison in Eritrea. Her death comes only a few months after her arrest in May during a raid on Christians. Since May over 200 Christians have been detained due to these increasing raids by the Eritrean government.

Since 2002 Christians have been forced to go “underground” with their practices after the Eritrean government passed a law prohibiting any religious practice outside of Sunni Islam and Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Lutheran Christian denominations.

Prisoners of conscience in Eritrea are kept in extremely cruel conditions. They are sometimes held in metal shipping containers and they face torture, lack of food and medical attention, and hard labor. Desert prisons, like the one where Mrs. Debesay was held, subject prisoners to especially hot and suffocating conditions. They also face humiliation. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that detainees’ hair may be forcibly shaved off as a “sign of humiliation in a society where a woman’s hair is regarded as a sign of decency and sanity”.

Mrs. Debesay’s husband is also in prison from the May raids. This sadly means their three children have been left without parental care.

Please pray for the Christians of Eritrea.

Canadian pastor released from North Korea

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Amid increased tensions between the North Korea and the U.S., North Korean authorities have confirmed release of Canadian church leader Hyeon Soo Lim, though he has not arrived in Canada yet.

Lim was the longest detained Westerner in decades by the regime, having spent two and a half years imprisoned. North Korean authorities reported that the Canadian citizen was released for “humanitarian reasons.”

Lim was detained in February 2015 while he was on a mission trip in North Korea. He had been sent by the Light Korean Presbyterian Church, which he had led since 1986. He had made several trips to North Korea, numbering over 100. His work in North Korea included providing humanitarian assistance to an orphanage, nursery, and nursing home.

Three Korean-American remain detained in North Korea: Tony Kim, Kim Hak Song, and Kim Dong Chul.

We praise the Lord for the release of Hyeon Soo Lim, and continue praying for the release of those who remained detained by the regime.

Imprisoned 600 Days: Update on Vietnam Christian Prisoner

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Nguyen Van Dai of Vietnam was charged on July 30, 2017, with “carrying out activities with the purpose of overthrowing the Peoples’ administration.” If he is found guilty of this crime, he could face up to 20 years in prison or even the death penalty.

Dai is a religious freedom advocate and human rights lawyer who has been in detention since December 2015. He has been detained for 19 months without a trial.

August 7, marked his 600th day in prison. Activists in London chalked 600 lines and the hashtag #FreeNguyenVanDai on the sidewalk in front of the Vietnamese Embassy.

This is not the first time that Dai has been punished for his human rights work. One year after founding the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam in 2006, he was put under house arrest. He was forced to stay under house arrest until 2015.

Jubilee Campaign has been advocating to the US State Department to designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). CPCs are countries that severely violate religious freedom. With Vietnam’s continued practice of arresting religious freedom advocates such as Mr. Dai, we are asking that the US recognize and take action against the government’s abuse of human rights.

Please pray for Dai and others in Vietnam who are facing unfair imprisonment.

Two Prisoners Set Free

We are happy to report the release of two Christians who faced long prison sentences due to their Christian faith.

Iran

Maryam Naghash Zargaran was released from prison on August 1. Maryam was arrested in January 2013 due to her involvement with underground churches. She was charged with “violating national security” and sentenced to four years in prison. In her conviction letter, the court clearly stated that her punishment was linked to her attempts to spread Christianity in Iran.

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Maryam suffers from an array of health problems such as heart disease, lumbar disc disease, and osteoporosis. Many times in prison, she was denied medical care. She went on multiple hunger strikes to protest this ill treatment. The medical leave that she was allowed to take, resulted in a six-week extension of her sentence in order to make up for her time away. Even as her final release date of July 28 came, she was held four days more for unknown reasons. Maryam was finally released on August 1.

Vietnam

Nguyen Cong Chinh was released from prison on July 28. He is an evangelical pastor, founder of the Vietnamese People’s Evangelical Fellowship, and pro-democracy activist. Pastor Chinh was arrested in April 2011 and sentenced in June 2012 to 11 years in prison for ‘undermining national unity.’ While in prison he faced torture and solitary confinement. While Chinh was in prison, his wife was also monitored, harassed, and physically beaten by government officials.

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His wife traveled and worked tirelessly to advocate for Chinh’s release. On July 28, he was released from prison on the condition of the Vietnamese regime that he leave the country. Exiled, he left Vietnam and is now in the United States.

“The Vietnamese government finally has done the right thing by releasing Pastor Chinh from prison. We welcome his admission, along with his family, to the United States. The reality is that he should not have been imprisoned in the first place for simply practicing his faith,” said USCIRF Commissioner Jackie Wolcott, who has advocated on behalf of the pastor. “Pastor Chinh was falsely charged and imprisoned and treated cruelly, as are countless other religious believers and human rights activists who continue to be harassed, detained, and tortured in Vietnam.”

We praise God for the release of these two faithful Christians! Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who remain in chains.