Uncertain Times for post-Kim Jong Il North Korea; Final Verdict on Yousef Nadarkhani Case Delayed

The Death of a Dictator

2011 has been a hard year for oppressive governments. Protestors forced the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt to step down. Armed militias in Libya, with some NATO backing eventually killed Gaddafi and put his body on display. The rumbles of revolution shook autocratic governments from Morocco to China, drawing promises of reform from some and brutal crackdown from others.Now in the last month of 2011 the North Korean government has announced that Kim Jong Il, the violent and erratic dictator of North Korea died of a heart attack last week. Kim Jong Il, who assumed power in 1994, is responsible for recklessly pursuing nuclear weapons while the North Korean people starved and killing dissidents, reformers and members of any religion except the cult of personality which worships his father Kim Il Sung.

Kim Jong Un, the third son of Kim Jong Il, has been groomed to take his father’s place and continue the program of death and destruction which has killed over 3 million North Koreans and reduced the nation to a poverty stricken wreck held together only by the military. This time of transition will be a delicate one, with internal conflicts between high-ranking North Korean generals or a renewal of hostilities with South Korea and the U.S. very possible.

While we pray that Kim Jong Un will rule well and begin to heal the wounds of his country, we are very aware that a time of insecurity and thus increased persecution is imminent. We must pray for the people of North Korea at this critical time.

Reprieve Without Freedom

Despite the massive expressions of outrage regarding the case of Yousef Nadarkhani, this Iranian pastor remains in prison. As you know Yousef was arrested for protesting the mandatory Muslim indoctrination of his children, charged with apostasy and imprisoned in 2009. Over the past two years Nadarkhani has suffered torture, seen his wife imprisoned, weathered threats that his children would be sent to a Muslim orphanage.Unable to shake this pastor’s faith, the Iranian government sentenced him to death for apostasy. His case was appealed all the way up to the Iranian Supreme Court, but in the end the courts verbally sentenced him to death on September 25,  2011. Fortunately the response from the free world has put Iran under enormous pressure for blatantly violating one of the most basic rights of the human soul.

Fearing the international response if they  execute him and the internal response if they release him, the government of Iran engaged in a series of delaying tactics, trying to stall until the furor dies down. The most recent announcement from the head of the Iranian Judicial system indicates that there will be no final decision until March or April.

Jubilee Campaign rejoices that the outcry on Yousef’s behalf has been so effectual. We believe that the Lord has granted us this time to raise even more support before we deliver our petition in February. We pray that our efforts along with all those fighting for Yousef’s freedom will grow to the point where Iran cannot ignore them.

In the meantime we urge you all to pray that the Lord will preserve Yousef’s life. While Yousef is the first Christian to be publicly condemned for apostasy in two decades Iranian prisons are run by Muslim extremists and extrajudicial executions are common. Despite the danger, we recognize that God has his hand over Pastor Nadarkhani and we pray that he and the many other pastors and evangelists imprisoned in Iran will be released soon.

Jubilee Campaign Netherlands Launches SaveNadarkhani.com

Jubilee Campaign’s Netherlands Branch has launched SaveNadarkhani.com to raise awareness of about Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor who was condemned to death for converting from Islam to Christianity. Over the past several years Pastor Yousef has endured torture, threats to his life, and finally a death sentence for simply following the faith he sincerely holds. Infuriated and threatened by his refusal to deny Christ the Iranian authorities imprisoned his wife and threatened his children. Then they publicly condemned him to death for apostasy, the first such condemnation in twenty years. As the clock ticks down toward Yousef’s execution, Jubilee Campaign is collecting signatures calling for Yousef’s release which we will deliver to the Iranian embassy in the Netherlands, one of the last Iranian embassies left in the free world.

A History of Neglect
For years the West has failed to effectively respond to Iran’s ongoing human rights abuses, particularly the ones relating to religious freedom. Instead, the U.S. in particular chose to focus on the nuclear issue to the detriment of the human rights agenda. While the talks and pressure have utterly failed to deter Iran from its nuclear ambitions this tactic has communicated to Iran’s leaders that the West does not particularly care about religious freedom in Iran.

However, the news of Pastor Yousef’s death sentence drew an overwhelming response from people throughout the free world. The Government of Iran fell back on classic Big Lie tactics common to oppressive governments. False charges of rape and espionage were created out of whole cloth, and Iranian embassies around the world posted press releases “explaining” the Nadarkhani case. Faced with an impending international incident, the local court which condemned Pastor Yousef to death appealed for judgement from the highest authority in Iran, the Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Khamenei.

The Dictator’s Dilemma
Understand that if ever there was a judicial decision that is purely political, this is it. The Ayatollah Khamenei does not wish to cause an international incident, especially at a time when relations between the west and Iran are already so strained. However he cannot afford to appear to pander to a Christian, particularly when Iran’s internal political scene is so vigorous. Khamenei did not get to be the undisputed ruler of one of the world’s most oppressive governments by being foolish.

Confronted with an unexpected international response while simultaneously dealing with strident internal extremists, Khamenei is trying to wait out the storm. According to the last reports we have received, Nadarkhani’s fate will be announced during late December, at the height of the holiday season. The fickle nature of the western public has helped dictators in the past and it could help Khamenei now.

Iranian executions are carried out very quickly, often on the same day that the verbal announcement is made. If Khamenei makes the announcement around Christmas Yousef would likely be dead before the Western public comes up for air. This is the best case scenario for Khamenei. He communicates a brutal message to the Iranian Christians, soothes the extremists in his own government, and assumes that any Western response will be minimal.

A Call To Action
This course of action depends on the idea that we the people of the western democracies are fickle and unconcerned with the life of an poor pastor halfway round the world. We must show the government of Iran that we have not forgotten, that Pastor Yousef is not alone. Jubilee Campaign is collecting signatures for a petition which we will deliver to the Iranian Embassy in the Netherlands just before Christmas, when we expect the announcement will be made. We want to emphasize, the government of Iran wants Pastor Yousef dead. We encourage you all to go to the website and sign the petition protesting the imprisonment of Yousef Nadarkhani and calling for his release.

Click Here to Sign the Petition
Click Here to see tweets about #Nadarkhani and add your own.
Click Here to go to the Save Yousef Nadarkhani Facebook Page
Click Here to download a poster which you can put up at your churches or other public bulletin boards.
Click Here to download a background pamphlet explaining the history of the case.

Most of all, please continue praying for Pastor Yousef and for the all of the Christians suffering in Iran.

Join the Dark Glasses Portrait Campaign

Support Chen By Sending in a Picture With Dark Glasses

As we celebrate the confirmation that Chen is alive many of you are no doubt wondering, “What can I do to help support Chen?”

In addition to spreading the word about Chen’s case and praying for his release, there is a simple and yet profound way to show your support for Chen. Take a picture of yourself with sunglasses on and and email it to us by clicking here.

Chen was born blind and given no formal education. Despite this he stood up to defend the weak and helpless, speaking fearlessly against corruption in the Communist bureaucracy. All over China the face of Chen Guangcheng with the signature dark glasses of the blind, is a symbol of the fight for liberty and freedom in China.

It is illegal in China to support human rights activists such as Chen Guangcheng, but a simple picture of a person wearing sunglasses evades the  censorship of China’s Communist regime.

A Chinese political cartoonist and satirist known only as Crazy Crab combined hundreds of these pictures into this portrait of Chen. Chen has been an inspiration to us all and now it is our turn to show support. We hope that he will hear of our efforts on his behalf and be encouraged.

We encourage you to read the press release from our friends at Women’s Rights Without Frontiers below. We are excited that a human rights activist such as Congressman Chris Smith has chosen to support this campaign. We pray that Chen will be free soon.

In HIS Grace
Ann Buwalda
Executive Director
Jubilee Campaign

U.S. Lawmaker Stands Up for Blind Forced Abortion Opponent Chen Guangcheng by Wearing Sunglasses

Washington, D.C.  Congressman Chris Smith has demonstrated his ongoing commitment to free Chen Guangcheng in yet another way:  by wearing sunglasses.  After the Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing Tuesday, Congressman Smith joined Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, to be photographed next to a large image of Chen, in connection with WRWF’s Sunglasses Campaign.

Littlejohn stated, “For the past three decades, Congressman Smith has been the most powerful and persistent voice on Capitol Hill for human rights in China. He has held dozens of hearings, exposing the truth about forced abortion, the persecution of Christians, and other human rights abuses. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of Chen Guangcheng, sponsoring a bill on his behalf, trying to visit him, and now supporting the international Sunglasses Campaign.”

WRWF launched an international Sunglasses Campaign to support a similar campaign within China.  People from around the world have donned sunglasses and emailed their portraits to the WRWF website, to support Chen.  A Chinese political cartoonist, whose pen name is “Crazy Crab,” created the image of Chen using hundreds of these sunglasses portraits.

In her Congressional testimony Tuesday, Littlejohn quoted a key Chinese activist who said, “I think it’s very helpful for people all over the world to show they care about Chen through the Sunglasses Campaigns.  I think it’s very important to show support inside and outside the country – we can work together.” These campaigns are spearheaded by Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and Dark Glasses Portrait.

In answer to Congressman Smith’s question at the hearing about whether a double-standard is applied in Western policy towards China, Littlejohn criticized Vice President Biden for his remark, made in China, that he “fully understands” China’s One Child Policy, and yet is “not second-guessing” it.   She stated, “If it’s not ok in the United States, it’s not ok in China either.  That statement really undermined the moral credibility of the United States on the world international scene.”

Littlejohn called upon the Chinese government to grant a visa to Congressman Smith so that he can visit Chen.  She also urged U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke to seek access to Chen.  Beyond this, she urged supporters of Chen to intensify their efforts to advocate for his freedom.

The CECC hearing was held to commemorate the December 10 anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony for still-imprisoned dissident, Liu Xiaobo.

Join the Chen Sunglasses Freedom Campaign or in Chinese at Dark Glasses Portrait

Sign the Free Chen petition

Chen Guangcheng Confirmed Alive

Public Attention Forced Authorities to Improve Prison Conditions

We are very pleased to tell you that Chen Guangcheng is alive! As you may remember we received reports that in early October that Chen had died under the brutal regimen euphemistically called “soft detention” a form of house arrest which includes periodic torture sessions and denies the prisoner sufficient food or medical attention.

Chen’s health has never recovered from the torture and denial of medical treatment he received in prison. Beating a man nearly to death is a tricky business, particularly when the man is already in poor health. When we received the report our last confirmation that Chen was alive on July 28. As this was just before he and his wife received another visit from the local Communist officials and their bullyboys we feared the worst.

Fortunately, we have now received confirmation that Chen is alive and that his conditions have improved somewhat, mainly due to the public attention both in the West and in China, itself. Some of his relatives are being permitted to bring him food and medicine and we pray that his health will improve.

We encourage you to read the press release from friends at Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and pray particularly for the Congressional Hearings and press events on Chen which will take place later this week. Remember that despite all our efforts it will take a genuine work of God to free Chen Guangcheng. We pray that work comes soon.

Blind Forced Abortion Opponent Chen Guangcheng Reported Alive

LINYI, CHINA.  A reliable source inside China told Women’s Rights Without Frontiers that forced abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng is alive.  An unconfirmed report went out in early October that Chen had died under house arrest.
According to this source, who requested anonymity, “Now his mother is allowed to go outside to buy food although escorted by three guards, and his health also is getting better.”

The source attributed the improved treatment of Chen to the fact that “Chen’s situation was exposed and got huge public attention.”  One campaign that brought considerable visibility to Chen’s plight was the flow of concerned citizens attempting to visit him for his fortieth birthday on November 12.  Many of these citizens were beaten and detained.

In addition, the “Chen Sunglasses Freedom” campaigns inside and outside of China have raised the visibility of his case.   These campaigns post photos of people wearing sunglasses in support of Chen.  The source stated, “I think it’s great.  I think it’s very helpful for people all over the world to show they care about Chen through the Sunglasses campaigns.  I think it’s very important to show support inside and outside the country – we can work together.”  These campaigns are spearheaded by Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and Dark Glasses Portrait.

The source also commended the video, “Free Chen Guangcheng,” saying that watching this video has inspired many to take action.   “People inside China weep when they watch it,” she said.

The source continued, “Chen’s situation has indeed improved.  I have just sent him some medicine and covered the expenses for his family in the market . . . Some relatives can visit his mother and deliver some items under surveillance.”

The source cautioned, however, that the slightly improved condition of Chen’s house arrest is not a reason to relax the campaign to free him.  Most relatives of Chen and his wife are not allowed to visit, including their son and his wife’s parents.  Moreover, the fact that Chen is now allowed food and medicine “is still far away from our basic request, that is, Chen should be freed right away, according to China’s own law.”

According to the source, the persecution of Chen supporters continues. An activist who announced that she would wear sunglasses in Linyi’s central square this weekend was detained on Thursday.   Also Thursday, another activist from Yantai and a writer from Beijing, were arrested in Shandong attempting to distribute plastic bags and balloons bearing Chen’s image, in honor of International Day of Person’s with Disabilities, celebrated December 3.

Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, stated, “We are thrilled and relieved that Chen is alive and his health is improving.   This improved treatment demonstrates the power of the collaborative effort inside and outside China to raise the visibility of his case.  We greatly admire the brave citizens inside China, who are risking their safety to stand up for Chen.”

Littlejohn added, “We commend the courageous and persistent efforts of Rep. Chris Smith to visit Chen and urge the Chinese government to grant him a visa.  We also urge U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, to visit Chen. We demand the immediate, unqualified release of Chen Guangcheng and his family. Chen’s ongoing house arrest is illegal and his medical condition remains weak.”

Littlejohn will testify regarding Chen’s case before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China at a hearing to be held on Tuesday, December 6 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., location TBA.  On Wednesday, December 7, she will appear on Voice of America China Branch’s program, “Issues and Opinions,” broadcast throughout China at 9:00 a.m. EST.

Chen’s investigation exposed the fact that there were 130,000 forced abortions and sterilizations under China’s One Child Policy, in Linyi County in 2005.  He was jailed for four years and three months, during which time he was tortured and denied medical treatment.  He and his family remain under house arrest.

Join the Chen Sunglasses Freedom Campaign.

Watch the video, “Free Chen Guangcheng

Sign the Free Chen petition here.

The Casefiles of Chen Guangcheng

See the Documents Which First Resulted in Chen’s Imprisonment

As you know Chen Guangcheng has suffered imprisonment, deprivation, torture, and lack of medical treatment. After four years of unjust imprisonment he and his family were placed under brutal house arrest. Chen has been forced to watch communist officials beat his wife bloody before torturing him into unconsciousness.

We have known in general terms, that the local Communist officials were punishing Chen for revealing over 130,000 forced abortions and sterilizations in a single county in a single year. On November 12th, in honor of the Chen’s fortieth birthday, our friends at Women’s rights without Frontiers released the Chen Casefiles. These files directly document a series of incidents which Chen hoped to use in a class action suit against the brutal Family Planning Unit of Linyi County. The full press release from Women’s Rights Without Frontiers is below.

We encourage you to use this report to inform your prayers, not just for Chen Guangcheng but for China itself. Pray for the women of China, pray for the unborn children who are subject to this heinous crime and finally, do not forget to pray for Chen Guangcheng and his family.

Chen Guangcheng’s Report Released: Forced Abortion and Sterilization

LINYI, CHINA.  Women’s Rights Without Frontiers has obtained a report from Chen Guangcheng’s 2005 investigation into coercive family planning in Linyi County, Shandong Province. This report was drafted by human rights attorney, Teng Biao.  Read the report here.

Since Chen’s investigation exposed the fact that there were 130,000 forced abortions and sterilizations in Linyi in 2005, he was jailed for four years and three months.  He remains under house arrest, where he has been tortured and denied medical treatment.  His health is in jeopardy. Thousands will celebrate Chen’s 40th birthday today, November 12.

Women’s Rights Without Frontiers President, Reggie Littlejohn, stated, “It is an honor to release this report on the 40th birthday of Chen Guangcheng.  For the first time, the world can read actual witness statements from cases that landed Chen in jail.  The Chinese Communist Party has attempted to silence Chen, but they cannot silence the voices of millions in China crying for freedom.”

In this report are accounts of a woman forcibly aborted and sterilized at seven months; villagers sleeping in fields to evade Family Planning Officials; Officials who broke three brooms over the head of an elderly man and forced a grandmother and her brother to beat each other. There is a detailed discussion of the practice of “implication” – the detention, fining and torture of the extended family of One Child Policy “violators.”

“Chen is suffering for doing what we are doing:  exposing the truth behind forced abortion and sterilization in China,” Littlejohn said.  “A report went out that Chen may have paid for this with his life, so we are even more determined to carry on this work in his name.  We demand the immediate release and medical attention for Chen and his family.”

Things may not have improved in Linyi since 2005.  Earlier this year, Family Planning Officials stabbed a man to death. In addition, a woman who was six months pregnant recently died during a forced abortion in Lijing County, also in Shandong Province.

“The spirit of the Cultural Revolution lives on in China’s Family Planning death machine.  We have chosen to release the names of the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity, so that they can be held accountable before the world,” said Littlejohn.

Littlejohn urges those who support Chen to join the Chen Sunglasses Freedom Campaign.

“People everywhere are taking a picture of themselves wearing sunglasses in honor of Chen, and sending it to be posted on the WRWF website and Free Chen websites inside China, showing that they care about Chen and want him to be free.”

Sign a petition to free Chen here.