May 2024 Persecution Magazine

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MAY <strong>2024</strong><br />



L A T I N A M E R I C A<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> At<br />


the doorstep<br />







Contents<br />

MAY <strong>2024</strong><br />


This month, we turn our focus to broader<br />

Latin America — including Mexico, Cuba, and<br />

Nicaragua —where Christian persecution is<br />

making headlines.<br />


10<br />

14<br />

20 22<br />



Exposing the Hidden<br />

Realities of Oppression and<br />

Resistance in Latin America<br />



An Inside Look at the Legal<br />

Battle Faced by Mountain<br />

Gateway<br />



Alberto Reyes Pías, an<br />

Outspoken Critic of Cuba’s<br />

Crackdown on Freedom<br />



<strong>Persecution</strong> of Evangelical<br />

Protestants in Southern<br />

Mexico<br />


04<br />

06<br />

08<br />

24<br />

26<br />

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2<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong><br />

© Copyright <strong>2024</strong> ICC, Washington, D.C., USA. All rights<br />

reserved. Permission to reproduce all or part of this publication<br />

is granted provided attribution is given to ICC as the source.<br />

2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #941 | Washington, DC 20006-5441<br />

STAFF<br />

Publisher Jeff King<br />

Managing Editor Alex Finch<br />

Editor and Designer Hannah Campbell

The Gospel Can’t Be Stopped in Latin America<br />

You can always tell when the gospel makes Satan angry! Jon Britton<br />

Hancock knows that better than anyone. Jon has been in<br />

ministry for 30-plus years, first with the poor, orphans, and drug<br />

addicts in Mexico before serving in Nicaragua.<br />

Since 2013, he and his team have faithfully shared the gospel and rescued<br />

people from natural disasters and poverty.<br />

The government first welcomed Jon with open arms, but recently<br />

turned against him when they saw a massive outpouring of hunger for<br />

the gospel associated with his ministry.<br />

At the Lord’s prompting, Jon began doing large-scale crusades throughout<br />

the country attended by tens of thousands of Nicaraguans. They<br />

culminated in the biggest gathering of more than 100,000 in the nation’s<br />

capital. As a result, the Marxist government felt threatened and<br />

later issued arrest warrants for Jon on trumped-up charges (see page<br />

14).<br />

Latin America is becoming a persecution hotspot as dictators like Nicaragua’s<br />

Daniel Ortega refuse to share power or the spotlight with<br />

Christ. He arrested many Catholic priests, bishops, and evangelical pastors<br />

this past Christmas.<br />

In Cuba, the Marxist government likes to pretend to the outside world<br />

that they have religious freedom, but Christians must walk on eggshells<br />

to avoid arrest or worse. Fr. Alberto Reyes Pías shared his story at<br />

this year’s IRF Summit in Washington, D.C., as our Advocacy team led a<br />

track that included the session, “Concerning Trends in Latin America.”<br />

Wherever Satan and his human affiliates try to strangle the gospel, the<br />

church explodes. This was more than clear on my many trips to Cuba,<br />

Vietnam, China, and more.<br />

We know how the story ends and who is on the throne.<br />

In the meantime, please pray for our brothers and sisters in Latin<br />

America.<br />

JEFF<br />

Jeff King, President<br />

International Christian Concern<br />

Author: The Whisper (NEW!), The Last Words<br />

of the Martyrs, and Islam Uncensored<br />


ICC Newsroom<br />


At Least 130 Students Rescued<br />

from Kidnappers in Nigeria<br />

Government officials reported that at<br />

least 130 students returned to their<br />

parents following the kidnapping of<br />

287 students in Kaduna state in northern<br />

Nigeria. The school initially reported the<br />

militants kidnapped 237 students, but the<br />

government reported the number was<br />

only 137. The government claims that all<br />

students have returned. Journalists have<br />

not verified the numbers outside of the<br />

130 returned the week following their<br />

abduction.<br />

Last month, various groups kidnapped<br />

more than 650 people within one week in<br />

Nigeria. The globally recognized terrorist<br />

group Boko Haram kidnapped half of<br />

the individuals while suspected Fulani<br />

militants kidnapped the other half.<br />

The terrorists kidnapped the students just<br />

one month before the 10th anniversary<br />

of the kidnapping of the Chibok girls who<br />

sparked the international revolution “Bring<br />

Back Our Girls.” Unlike the students in<br />

this kidnapping, many of the Chibok girls<br />

remain missing.<br />

The government of Nigeria told reporters<br />

that they returned all students from the<br />

recent incident in Kaduna without the use<br />

of ransom payments; however, Nigerian<br />

officials often do not report the use of<br />

ransom to deter future exploitation from<br />

terrorist groups.<br />

Nicaraguan<br />

Regime<br />

Launches<br />

Easter<br />

Crackdown<br />

As Holy Week approached,<br />

Nicaragua’s draconian Ortega<br />

regime had already started<br />

cracking down on plans to<br />

celebrate the most important<br />

week on the Christian calendar.<br />

According to attorney Martha<br />

Patricia Molina, the government<br />

has nixed 4,800 processions<br />

planned for the Easter season.<br />

Processions are an important part<br />

of Catholic religious practice in<br />

Nicaragua and the surrounding<br />

area. In most cases, Molina wrote<br />

in a Facebook post, parishes<br />

plan to conduct the procession<br />

inside the church. In a few cases,<br />

processions have taken place<br />

around the block rather than<br />

through town.<br />

The Catholic church has been<br />

heavily targeted in recent years<br />

due to its outspoken criticism of<br />

the regime’s sordid human rights<br />

record and its decision to shelter<br />

student protesters in 2019.<br />

4<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong>


House Church<br />

Forced to<br />

Cease Worship<br />

Activities in<br />

Java, Indonesia<br />

Gunmen Kill Pastor, Five Others<br />

in Nasarawa State<br />

Gunmen reportedly killed six people,<br />

including a pastor, in separate attacks<br />

during one weekend in the Kadarko<br />

community of Keana Local Government<br />

Area in Nasarawa state, Nigeria.<br />

Three people in the Tse-Abir Azer<br />

community in Kadarko were shot around<br />

4 p.m. on Friday, March 22, as they fished<br />

by a local river. Two farmers died instantly,<br />

while Pastor Kingsley Orshase died on<br />

Saturday at the hospital. Three other<br />

farmers were gunned down on Sunday<br />

morning.<br />

Denis Utsa, chair of the United Farmers<br />

Association of Kadarko, confirmed the<br />

attack on Monday. In addition to the<br />

deaths, Utsa said, many other farmers<br />

suffered gunshot wounds.<br />

Utsa also shared that a Fulani pastoralist<br />

was killed in a retaliatory attack.<br />

Authorities have yet to confirm the deaths,<br />

and the gunmen have not been identified.<br />

New Hong Kong Law Raises Concerns<br />

of Chinese Influence<br />

Hong Kong passed a controversial<br />

security law, Article 23, on March 19,<br />

raising concerns among locals for its<br />

reach and severity. The bill imposes harsh<br />

punishments, including life in prison for<br />

treason, insurrection, or any threats to<br />

China’s sovereignty. It would also allow<br />

police to detain a suspect without charge<br />

for 14 days in addition to the 48 hours.<br />

Religious leaders in Hong Kong are<br />

concerned about the influence of this bill<br />

on Christian practices and ceremonies<br />

and asked for exemptions in the law for<br />

Christian leaders and church rituals.<br />

Concerns about the growing influence of<br />

China in Hong Kong continue to mount.<br />

A Hong Kong court recently sentenced<br />

12 people, some up to seven years<br />

imprisonment for rioting in the 2019 prodemocracy<br />

protests. Sources have told ICC<br />

staff that thousands of Hong Kong citizens<br />

are still detained and imprisoned from the<br />

2019 protests, with nearly half of those<br />

being Christians.<br />

A video of the disbandment of<br />

a Sunday worship service at a<br />

resident’s house in Balaraja,<br />

Tangerang Regency, on the island of<br />

Java, Indonesia, recently went viral<br />

on social media. Neighbors broke<br />

up the Christian worship service,<br />

which, according to Balaraja Police<br />

Chief AKP Badri Hasan, occurred on<br />

Sunday morning, March 17.<br />

After receiving reports of multiple<br />

residents gathering inside, police<br />

visited the home. However, they<br />

arrived after the worship time had<br />

ended.<br />

Badri said the house had been used<br />

as a place of worship during the<br />

last year. That Sunday, however,<br />

neighbors alleged that no permit<br />

had been issued to allow a worship<br />

gathering to take place at the house.<br />

Authorities asked the homeowner,<br />

who acknowledged she had hosted<br />

multiple worship gatherings, to<br />

publicly say she would no longer<br />

host worship services. “Declaring<br />

that starting today, I will no longer<br />

hold religious services in my house.<br />

Thus, I made this statement without<br />

any coercion from any party,” the<br />

woman said in a video.<br />

Police, who mediate between the<br />

homeowner and members of the<br />

community, are expected to follow<br />

up with each party.<br />


The United States Supreme Court refused to try the case<br />

of the dismissal of Christian jurors from a Missouri trial<br />

regarding homosexuality on Feb. 26, <strong>2024</strong>. The case of<br />

Missouri Department of Corrections V. Finney involves the<br />

harassment of Jean Finney that was because of her sexuality.<br />

A self-described lesbian who presents masculine, Finney<br />

experienced harassment in the workplace due to her relationship<br />

with a coworker’s ex-wife. While trying this case, however,<br />

three potential jury members were dismissed because of their<br />

“conservative Christian values.” Finney’s attorney questioned<br />

the jurors with what he called a tricky question, asking, if any<br />

juror “went to a conservative Christian church where it was<br />

taught that people [who] are homosexual shouldn’t have the<br />

same rights as everyone else because what they did was a sin.”<br />

In a statement released by Justice Samuel Alito of the Supreme<br />

Court, he agreed with the characterization of the so-called<br />

“tricky question” adding that “it conflated two separate issues:<br />

whether the prospective jurors believed that homosexual<br />

conduct is sinful and whether they believed that gays and<br />

lesbians should not enjoy the legal rights possessed by others.”<br />

In response to this question, multiple jurors attempted to<br />

articulate the distinction noted by Justice Alito. A pastor’s wife<br />

on the jury responded, “Homosexuality, according to the Bible,<br />

is a sin. So is gossiping, so is lying. None of us can be perfect. And<br />

so, I’m here because it’s an honor to sit in here and to perhaps<br />

be a part of, you know, a civic duty.” Another juror addressed the<br />

question by saying, “Homosexuality is a sin because it’s in the<br />

Bible. But every one of us here sins ... It’s just part of our nature.<br />

And it’s something we struggle with, hopefully throughout our<br />

life. And the fact that it is a sin has really nothing to do with — in<br />

a negative way with whatever this case is going to be about.”<br />

In her final decision, the trial judge granted the motion to<br />

dismiss, noting that both jurors said, “that they could follow the<br />

law” and that she should “err on the side of caution because<br />

there [are] enough jurors left.”<br />

West Watch<br />


Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case Regarding<br />

Removal of Christian Jurors<br />

The plaintiff’s counsel expressed concerns about “getting into<br />

the bounds of religious discrimination,” and Justice Alito’s<br />

statement agreed stating, “I see no basis for dismissing a juror<br />

for cause based on religious beliefs.” Justice Alito eventually<br />

voted against trying the case due to a technicality in the filing<br />

process which led the case to include the subject of preservation<br />

of an objection rather than the dismissal on a religious basis.<br />


If you’d like to stay informed about ICC’s advocacy work and<br />

policy recommendations, subscribe to our monthly newsletter,<br />

The Capitol Dispatch, at www.persecution.org/icc-advocacy<br />

6<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong>


Religious Freedom Legislation<br />

Introduced in the Senate<br />

Senators James Lankford, R-Ok., and Chris Coons, D-De.,<br />

introduced a resolution expressing the importance of international<br />

religious freedom amid increased global attacks on religious<br />

freedom. Senators Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., also<br />

cosponsored the legislation. This legislation outlines instances of<br />

persecution across multiple religions, including Sikhs, Muslims,<br />

Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians.<br />

Alongside recognizing the ongoing atrocities, this resolution calls<br />

for expanded support for religious freedom around the world, the<br />

use of all diplomatic tools available to further the effort, including<br />

sanctions, and highlighting religious freedom as a cornerstone of<br />

the United States foreign policy.<br />

In his remarks following the release of the resolution, Senator<br />

Lankford said, “The fundamental right of every person to have a<br />

faith, live your faith, change your faith, or have no faith at all must<br />

be recognized throughout the world ... The United States must<br />

continue its international leadership to defend religious freedom,<br />

which is why we are reaffirming our commitment to fight for<br />

religious freedom around the world.”<br />

Two leading members of the United States Commission on<br />

International Religious Freedom publicly expressed support for<br />

the legislation.<br />

Proposed Bill in Canada<br />

Threatens Religious Freedom<br />

A proposed bill in Canada that would dismantle religious freedom<br />

will be up for vote before legislators. Proposed Bill C-637 would<br />

remove the “religious exemption” protection in Section 319 of<br />

the Canadian Criminal Code. While the bill is being promoted<br />

as a way to combat antisemitism, it essentially removes the<br />

existing free speech protections for devout Christians, Jews, and<br />

Muslims, by opening them up to charges of hate speech for their<br />

religious beliefs. Currently, devout believers of all faiths are free<br />

to voice their opinions on things they disagree with because of<br />

their religious convictions. However, Bill C-637 would take these<br />

protections away. If passed, this bill would be a devastating legal<br />

tool to attack people of faith in Canada and allow the politicians<br />

working through the courts and police to send people of faith to<br />

jail for quoting the Bible, Quran, or other religious texts.<br />

H.R.3056<br />

Turkey and Ecumenical<br />

Patriarchate Religious<br />

Freedom Act of 2021<br />

House Bill 3056 of the 117th Congress<br />

also known as the “Turkey and Ecumenical<br />

Patriarchate Religious Freedom Act of 2021,”<br />

was introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn<br />

Maloney of New York and is a bipartisan piece<br />

of legislation that opposes violations of religious<br />

freedom in Türkiye by the government of the<br />

country.<br />

This legislation outlines the religious persecution<br />

of Christians in Türkiye, particularly that of the<br />

Ecumenical Patriarchate.<br />

This bill differs from many other pieces of<br />

legislation that pertain to religious freedom in<br />

that it furthers the requirements outlined by<br />

the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).<br />

In IRFA, the president and the State Department<br />

are not required to make any statement<br />

providing reasoning for their designation or lack<br />

thereof. Where H.R.3056 differs is that if the<br />

administration makes a designation for Türkiye<br />

contrary to the recommendation of USCIRF, they<br />

must provide public reasoning.<br />

While not currently up for consideration in the<br />

House, this legislation may prove helpful in<br />

future international religious freedom practices<br />

if expanded beyond application requirements<br />

for Türkiye. If reasoning were to be made<br />

a requirement, the State Department and<br />

presidential administration would be forced to<br />

uncover all related agendas that are potentially<br />

preventing the legislation.<br />

With other goals and agendas revealed, it may<br />

be possible for diplomacy to proceed uninhibited<br />

as politicians and NGOs may be satisfied with a<br />

lack of designation if they find the reasoning<br />

against the designation satisfactory.<br />


Your Hands and Feet<br />



I’m so honored to travel each year to meet with<br />

our ICC partners and beneficiaries. Recently,<br />

I was meeting with several pastors and their<br />

wives who are navigating through the storms of<br />

persecution. I was reminded and humbled by the<br />

power of God’s grace to sustain His servants in the<br />

darkest times of suffering.<br />

In my quiet times with the Lord, I remember their<br />

stories as an image of hope. Each story lighted the<br />

path where I encountered them on their journey<br />

and calling with the Lord. It was in hearing their<br />

struggles that I found hope. I witnessed men and<br />

women who persevered through deep and dark<br />

suffering yet lived in confidence that they would<br />

find triumph in Jesus. As I listened to their stories<br />

I found immense inspiration. It was overwhelming<br />

how their unwavering faith reflected God’s<br />

unending love and faithfulness.<br />

Hearing the stories of ministry wives weeping and<br />

persevering under deep grief at the loss of their<br />

husbands and children brought an immense mix<br />

of emotions. Yet, I was able to cry with them,<br />

pray with them, and find deep gratitude for their<br />

sacrificial love and service to the Lord. I continue<br />

to struggle with the question, “Is this something I<br />

would do for the Lord?” Their stories of enduring<br />

persecution and standing firm in the face of<br />

adversity still resonate deeply with me, leaving<br />

me with a tremendous sense of humility and<br />

reverence in my heart.<br />

I find their stories remind us of the cost of<br />

discipleship and the true meaning of what it means<br />

to live a life of selfless devotion to serving Jesus.<br />

Thank you for your prayers and generous support.<br />

In Him, our hearts rejoice,<br />

Dr. Peggy Banks<br />

ICC’s VP of Global Assistance<br />

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial<br />

because, having stood the test, that person<br />

will receive the crown of life that the Lord has<br />

promised to those who love him.” — James 1:12<br />

Church of the King / Unsplash<br />

Radha’s Journey of Dignity<br />

and Determination<br />

SOUTH ASIA Radha is from a small village in India where her and<br />

her family’s Christian faith and marginalized status shaped her outlook on<br />

life. Limited by her family’s financial constraints, Radha could only pursue<br />

studies up to the intermediate level. Despite facing financial and social<br />

hardships, she worships the Lord every week at her local church.<br />

Last summer, ICC paid for Radha to take beautician training. She attended<br />

the courses regularly and graduated from the program with dreams of<br />

establishing a beauty parlor of her own in the village to support her family.<br />

“I am not able to start by own shop, but I’m seeking God for His help to<br />

come soon,” she said.<br />

Her prayers were answered when ICC helped her open her own beauty<br />

parlor in the village. Her business not only gives her a sustainable income<br />

but also the dignity of being the proud owner of the business establishment<br />

that she runs with the skills she’s learned.<br />

“You stood by my side and provided me with the opportunity to receive<br />

training as a beautician. Your unwavering support and encouragement was<br />

truly a blessing to me,” Radha said. “With your assistance, I am able to get<br />

employment in the beautician shop which not only created employment<br />

opportunities for me, but also allowed me to become financially<br />

independent. The investment made in this venture has been a tremendous<br />

blessing for my family, as it has provided us with a stable source of income<br />

and a brighter future. Thank you so much!”<br />

8<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong>

Rania’s Escape from Danger<br />

MIDDLE EAST Rania was married to her husband Hassan,<br />

and they had two daughters. They were a Muslim family living a<br />

peaceful life until Rania decided to follow Jesus a few years ago.<br />

Since then, everything has changed.<br />

Her husband divorced her and threatened to take away her<br />

children. She was forced to testify in court and denied her<br />

conversion to Christianity for fear that the verdict would be issued<br />

in favor of her husband. She won the case and retained custody<br />

of her children.<br />

After court, Hassan became furious and chased her, threatening<br />

to kill her. She moved eight times to try to escape him. The<br />

children missed an entire year of school since they were on the<br />

run. With the help of her Christian brothers and sisters, she was<br />

able to enroll them in school.<br />

When ICC heard of her story, we helped Rania by covering the<br />

rental fees for more than a year in a safe location.<br />

“Finally, I feel like we have a family that cares about us,” she said.<br />

“Because of you, I will not have to worry about paying the rent for<br />

the coming months. Thank you very much. Please remember us<br />

in your prayers.”<br />

Christie Luke / Unsplash<br />

A Safe Haven for Sarah<br />

AFRICA<br />

Sarah endured rejection from her family due to<br />

her disability and faced further hardship when she was taken<br />

advantage of and became pregnant. After her father died when<br />

she was very young, her mother rejected her due to her disability.<br />

When she became pregnant, she had nowhere to turn and married<br />

the father of her child, who was a Muslim and had other wives.<br />

Despite her struggles, she embraced Christianity in 2022.<br />

However, her newfound faith led to her husband’s anger, resulting<br />

in her expulsion from their home.<br />

Left with nowhere to go, Sarah sought refuge with her<br />

grandmother in a Muslim community, where she continued to<br />

face threats unless she reverted to Islam. Unable to do physical<br />

labor, she dreamed of owning a shop to sustain herself. We<br />

relocated her to a safer community and set her up with a small<br />

business to generate income.<br />

Grateful for the support, Sarah exclaimed, “I thank God for this<br />

shop! I can’t believe it! My situation has changed so much that<br />

ICC saved me from crying day and night.” With the shop, she’s<br />

able to support her family and pay for her son’s education.<br />


<strong>Persecution</strong> at<br />

the Doorstep<br />

Exposing the Hidden Realities of Oppression<br />

and Resistance in Latin America<br />

By Alex Finch<br />

10<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong>

It can be easy to overlook Christian persecution at the doorstep<br />

of the United States, as withering attacks in Nigeria and<br />

ongoing bullying by China and North Korea hijack our focus.<br />

Yet we turn to broader Latin America this month – including<br />

Mexico, Central America, and South America – where Christian<br />

persecution makes headlines. And countries like Nicaragua have<br />

all but declared war against Catholics.<br />

Like many in the West, we were caught off-guard when priests<br />

were rounded up and arrested in Nicaragua at Christmas – Pope<br />

Francis condemned the attack in his Jan. 1 address, and the<br />

Vatican negotiated their release a month later. More than 100<br />

priests have fled or been kicked out of the country, and hundreds<br />

of religious organizations have had their registrations canceled,<br />

according to the Washington Post. And as recently as late<br />

March, 11 Christian pastors were arrested on sham charges in<br />

connection with U.S.-based Mountain Gateway ministry. In Cuba,<br />

government officials regularly harass and target church leaders.<br />

“As a church, we<br />

are living through<br />

the worst moments<br />

in our history in<br />

Nicaragua since its<br />

arrival more than<br />

500 years ago to the<br />

present moment.”<br />

— Persecuted Nicaraguan Priest<br />


Two sources of Christian persecution are<br />

evil and Communist/Marxist regimes.<br />

The latter put the “State” ahead of Christ,<br />

while the former can fester in disillusioned<br />

hearts as greed, envy, and power.<br />

Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega, 78,<br />

embodies both as he punishes Christian<br />

leaders for threatening his regime’s<br />

control of the people.<br />

“[Ortega] has been hostile toward<br />

Christianity since day one but it has<br />

grown much worse recently with a brutal<br />

crackdown on Catholics and now the<br />

evangelicals,” said International Christian<br />

Concern (ICC) President Jeff King. He<br />

added that Ortega’s presidency since 2007<br />

has been marked by “tyranny, torture, and<br />

persecution.”<br />

More than 500 churches and religious<br />

organizations have been attacked since<br />

2018 under President Ortega and his wife,<br />

Vice President Rosario Murillo, according<br />

to The Hill. These include an altar boy’s<br />

murder and the arrests of dozens of<br />

priests and evangelicals Monsignor<br />

Rolando Álvarez served more than one<br />

year of a 26-year sentence on false<br />

charges for criticizing Ortega’s regime —<br />

he was released in January along with<br />

other priests.<br />

According to the United States Commission<br />

on International Religious Freedom<br />

(USCIRF), “Government forces and citizens<br />

sympathetic to the regime have routinely<br />

harassed Catholic clergy and worshipers.<br />

Catholic clergy have recently come under<br />

direct persecution.”<br />

In January, a Nicaraguan priest told of<br />

his beating and imprisonment to more<br />

than 1,000 attendees at the International<br />

Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in<br />

Washington, D.C. Hiding his identity<br />

behind a screen and using a voice<br />

scrambler, the priest spoke of the need<br />

to stand for human rights in the face of<br />

severe persecution.<br />

“I have agreed to come for two reasons<br />

— because I believe that there is a God<br />

who cares for us and because if we, as<br />

Christians, who believe in democracy, in<br />

freedom, in social justice, do nothing,<br />

no one else will,” the priest said. “Every<br />

Sunday, patrol cars full of police are parked<br />

in front of the country’s Catholic churches.<br />

The faithful who attend the Eucharist<br />

on Sundays are photographed [and] the<br />

homilies delivered by the remaining<br />

priests are being recorded. As a church,<br />

we are living through the worst moments<br />

in our history in Nicaragua since its arrival<br />

more than 500 years ago to the present<br />

moment.”<br />

The U.S. Department of State has included<br />

Nicaragua in its Countries of Particular<br />

Concern list, which cites nations that<br />

severely violate religious freedom.<br />

“It is important for Christians around<br />

the world to stand with the persecuted<br />

church,” King said. “They need to know<br />

that fellow believers are praying for them<br />

and working on their behalf.”<br />

12<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong>

“[Ortega] has been hostile<br />

toward Christianity since<br />

day one but it has grown<br />

much worse recently with<br />

a brutal crackdown on<br />

Catholics and now the<br />

evangelicals.”<br />

— Jeff King, ICC President<br />


Christian<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong><br />

Deepens in<br />

Nicaragua<br />

14<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong>

An Inside Look at the Legal Battle<br />

Faced by Mountain Gateway and<br />

other Christian leaders in Nicaragua<br />

By Lynn Arias<br />

After more than two decades of missionary<br />

work in Mexico and Central America, U.S.<br />

citizen Jon Britton Hancock stands accused<br />

of unsubstantiated crimes of money laundering and<br />

organized crime by the Nicaraguan government. The<br />

accusation, made in late 2023, is an often-used falsehood<br />

hurled at anyone deemed a threat by the authoritarian<br />

regime governing that nation.<br />

Hancock is not alone in his charges. His son, daughter-inlaw,<br />

and 11 pastors associated with Hancock’s ministry,<br />

Mountain Gateway, have also been charged with, and<br />

in some cases imprisoned for, the alleged crimes while<br />

being denied basic due process. According to the ministry,<br />

they have not been allowed to read their official charging<br />

documents.<br />

Today, the 11 pastors remain imprisoned, and Hancock<br />

and his family will be tried in absentia.<br />

“Our people say that the church is encouraged and unified<br />

and sort of not duped,” Hancock said. “They understand<br />

all the charges are bogus, and they’re trying to get us to<br />

plead guilty and all the things that they do, which we’re<br />

not going to do.”<br />

U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., in February<br />

condemned the arrests and spurious charges in a press<br />

release.<br />

“In December 2023, eleven Nicaraguan pastors and<br />

other individuals associated with Mountain Gateway,<br />

a Christian organization based in Texas with missionary<br />

presence in North and Central America, were arrested<br />

and imprisoned by the Nicaraguan government without<br />

access to legal counsel, understanding of the allegations<br />

against them, or documentation of their alleged criminal<br />

charges,” the statement declared.<br />


A bipartisan letter was sent in February to the Ambassador<br />

of Nicaragua, signed by 58 members of the U.S. Congress,<br />

expressing alarm over Nicaragua’s violations of religious<br />

freedom. Additionally, House Resolution 1019, also introduced<br />

in February, expresses concern “that United States citizens<br />

affiliated with the Mountain Gateway ministry are being targeted<br />

for arrest and extradition by the Nicaraguan government.”<br />

In a statement released by the ministry, the missionary group<br />

denied all wrongdoing.<br />

It stated that “Mountain Gateway has documentation<br />

demonstrating that the Nicaraguan government viewed and<br />

approved all funds that entered the country, and the organization<br />

operated under the government’s oversight to ensure that all<br />

funds were used and managed appropriately.”<br />


Hancock, who runs Mountain Gateway, has been involved in<br />

missionary service since 1996 and expanded his work into<br />

Nicaragua in 2013.<br />

According to its website, Mountain Gateway “served the citizens<br />

of Nicaragua through discipleship, church planting, feeding and<br />

clothing those in need, providing food, water, equipment, and<br />

recovery assistance during natural disasters, and sharing the<br />

gospel of Jesus Christ in mass evangelistic campaigns.”<br />

Initially, the Nicaraguan government allowed Hancock’s ministry<br />

to remain in the country, likely because of the aid it provided to<br />

victims of natural disasters and the calming effect it had on the<br />

people.<br />

However, the attitudes of those in power shifted drastically after<br />

the Christian missionaries hosted events that brought together<br />

large numbers of Christians and Christ-seekers from many<br />

different backgrounds.<br />


In 2023, Hancock worked with dozens of pastors and evangelical<br />

Christians who organized a massive evangelism campaign in<br />

Managua, the capital city and heart of Nicaragua. An estimated<br />

1 million people attended eight events during that year, where<br />

they heard the message of Jesus Christ.<br />

Churches from every major and independent Christian<br />

denomination joined together and represented 6,000 churches<br />

at the events, bringing about a coalescence of many like-minded<br />

individuals.<br />

In an interview with ICC, Hancock expressed that those in power<br />

in Nicaragua “don’t like … such a massive, unified movement.”<br />


After the evangelism campaigns of 2023, Nicaraguan authorities<br />

revoked the license of Mountain Gateway, which operated as<br />

Puerta de la Montaña within the nation, to work in the country.<br />

Additionally, according to Hancock, authorities “seized all of<br />

[their] assets, 47 vehicles, four pieces of real estate … [and] put<br />

11 of [their] personnel in prison.”<br />

Nearly 1 million people attend a mass evangelism campaign in Nicaragua<br />

through the partnership of Shake the Nations Ministry and Mountain<br />

Gateway. Photos courtesy of @shakethenations on Instagram.<br />

Hancock also explained that the Nicaraguan government put out<br />

an international notice on him and his family requesting their<br />

detainment. According to Hancock, “six countries have said,<br />

okay, if they come here, we’ll arrest them and extradite them<br />

to Nicaragua for you.” Those countries, he stated, are “Cuba,<br />

Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Honduras, and Mexico.”<br />

ICC President Jeff King offered words of encouragement to<br />

Hancock as he continues to endure persecution at the hands of<br />

the Nicaraguan government.<br />

“We’re in a battle, so you can’t not get shot … but this is the battle<br />

and not the war,” King said.<br />

King’s reference speaks to Ephesians 6:12: “For we do not wrestle<br />

against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the<br />

16<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong>


POPULATION: 6,359,689 (EST. 2023)<br />



33.2% EVANGELICAL<br />

2.9% OTHER<br />

0.7% NONE<br />

13.2% UNSPECIFIED<br />



authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness,<br />

against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”<br />


The recent escalation of Christian persecution in the Central<br />

American country comes as no surprise to many who have, for<br />

years, endured the authoritarian rule of Nicaraguan President<br />

Daniel Ortega, whose roots are in the Marxist-inspired Sandinista<br />

political party.<br />

As is often the case in authoritarian or Marxist rule, leaders do<br />

not relinquish their power voluntarily and are easily threatened<br />

by the unification of any group, including religious ones, as they<br />

are considered a potential threat. To retain power, authoritarian<br />

regimes forcibly deny intrinsic human rights to individuals,<br />

thereby quelling any dissent that may arise, through violence or<br />

any other means necessary.<br />

Saddled by what is quickly becoming a police state, a litany of<br />

public anti-government protests has taken place since Ortega<br />

came to power for the second time in 2007. Citizens have<br />

become progressively dissatisfied with the increasingly repressive<br />

governmental policies of the Ortega regime.<br />


Throughout the years, Ortega absorbed a sense of dictatorial<br />

paranoia, prompting him and his inner circle to jail, exile, or<br />

intimidate anyone viewed as a potential threat to his power,<br />

including journalists, opposition leaders, members of the Catholic<br />

clergy, or anyone who holds dissenting opinions to his rule.<br />

One such case is that of Catholic Bishop Rolando Alvarez, who<br />

was detained by Nicaraguan authorities in 2022 for preaching<br />

that human beings have God-given rights and expressing<br />

opposition to the Ortega regime. After learning of his sermons,<br />

Nicaraguan authorities detained Alvarez from August 19, 2022,<br />

to January 14, <strong>2024</strong>. The bishop was convicted of “undermining<br />

national integrity, propagation of false news through information<br />

and communication technologies, aggravated obstruction of<br />

functions, and disobedience of contempt for authority.”<br />

In <strong>2024</strong>, Alvarez was released from detention and exiled to the<br />

Vatican after Vatican officials and Nicaraguan authorities reached<br />

an agreement. In similar fashion, the bishop’s fellow clergy were<br />

also exiled to the Vatican.<br />

According to Open Doors’ World Watch List of <strong>2024</strong>, “President<br />

Ortega continues to see Christians as enemies of the government,<br />

and recent changes to the law have been used to label church<br />

leaders as terrorists. They have been harassed and arrested, and<br />

churches are fiercely monitored.”<br />

Additionally, in 2018, protests erupted after Ortega proposed a<br />

change to the country’s social security program that would have<br />

made workers pay more while receiving fewer benefits, which<br />

was the final straw for many Nicaraguan citizens. After 11 years of<br />

coping with the injustices of the Ortega regime, many individuals<br />

reached a boiling point.<br />

"There is a<br />

move of God<br />

that really<br />

started in 2023,<br />

and they can't<br />

stop that.<br />

I know God<br />

literally shook<br />

the entire<br />

nation, and I'm<br />

satisfied that<br />

it's continuing."<br />

— Jon Britton Hancock,<br />


According to the U.S. State Department, “the ensuing conflict left<br />

at least 325 persons dead, more than 2,000 injured, hundreds<br />

illegally detained and tortured, and more than 52,000 exiled in<br />

neighboring countries. Beginning in August [2018] the Ortega<br />

government instituted a policy of ‘exile, jail, or death’ for anyone<br />

perceived as opposition, amended terrorism laws to include prodemocracy<br />

activities, and used the justice system to characterize<br />

civil society actors as terrorists, assassins, and coup-mongers.”<br />

Amnesty International stated that “the government of President<br />

Daniel Ortega has committed crimes against humanity in the<br />

context of the crisis … with the intention to kill and persecute<br />

those who opposed their policies.”<br />


As our brothers and sisters in Christ in Nicaragua, including<br />

Hancock and others associated with Mountain Gateway, continue<br />

to endure persecution for their faithful Christian witness, may we<br />

stand with them in prayer and make their struggles known. <strong>May</strong><br />

we also pray that the gospel continues to spread in Nicaragua,<br />

despite Ortega’s leadership.<br />

“There is a move of God that really started in 2023, and they can’t<br />

stop that,” Hancock said. “I know God literally shook the entire<br />

nation, and I’m satisfied that it’s continuing.”<br />

18<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong>

Photo courtesy of Mountain Gateway<br />


Watch ICC President Jeff King’s two-part interview<br />

with missionary Jon Britton Hancock.<br />

Scan the QR Code with your mobile<br />

device or visit our YouTube channel<br />

for Jeff’s interview with Jon!<br />


The ‘Light of<br />

Faith’ Despite<br />

Harassment<br />

in Cuba<br />

20<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong>

International Christian Concern (ICC) led planning for the Violations Track at the <strong>2024</strong><br />

International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C. One of the five track<br />

sessions, spearheaded by the International Republican Institute and other sponsors, was,<br />

“Concerning Trends in Latin America.” The session featured several key panelists including<br />

Alberto Reyes Pías, a Roman Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Camagüey, Cuba. He has<br />

been an outspoken critic of his government’s crackdown on religious freedom. Below are his<br />

panel remarks that give insight into Christian persecution in Cuba.<br />

In Cuba, one of the most subtle<br />

mechanisms of evil is what we call<br />

‘normalization’ which is nothing more<br />

than evil becoming a habitual part of<br />

our life. We not only take its presence<br />

for granted, but also focus our energies<br />

not on eliminating it and freeing<br />

ourselves from it, but on figuring out<br />

how to continue walking, despite it<br />

hindering our steps, tying our hands,<br />

and oppressing our throat.<br />

In appearance, religious freedom<br />

is respected in Cuba. In general,<br />

churches are open, worship is allowed,<br />

catechesis exists, young people gather,<br />

one can openly talk about God, possess<br />

a Bible, and wear religious symbols.<br />

Yet, in Cuba, there is a thirst for God.<br />

Pastoral agents focus on serving those<br />

seeking an experience with God that<br />

touches their lives, even at the cost of<br />

accepting as ‘normal’ what is not.<br />

The truth is that there is a universe of<br />

realities that repress the full enjoyment<br />

of religious freedom in Cuba. Many of<br />

us have had no choice other than to<br />

accept it as ‘normal.’<br />

However, it is not normal, despite<br />

attempts to make it so, to have an<br />

Office of Religious Affairs led by the<br />

Communist Party, overseeing, and<br />

attempting to control every single<br />

movement of the Church. It is not<br />

normal for this office to pressure<br />

Cuban bishops to restrain the social<br />

actions or political actions of priests<br />

and committed laity.<br />

It is not normal to depend on permits<br />

for any public expression of faith.<br />

It is not normal to lack access to media<br />

communications and for the Church to<br />

be prohibited from having its own. It is<br />

not normal for different denominations<br />

to be denied access to the national<br />

education and health systems and be<br />

unable to have their own schools and<br />

healthcare facilities.<br />

It is not normal for the Church to be<br />

harassed for defending the innocence<br />

of political prisoners and for assisting<br />

their families. It is not normal for<br />

priests, nuns, and laity who, moved by<br />

their faith, speak up for the people who<br />

face harassment and defamation.<br />

Fighting directly and openly to solve<br />

these issues would only lead to our<br />

destruction or discouragement. This is<br />

a luxury we cannot afford.<br />

Therefore, with the spirit of survivors,<br />

we seek every opening that allows<br />

the light of faith to pass through. We<br />

systematically ignore threats and<br />

attacks from the Office of Religious<br />

Affairs and other state actors. We insist<br />

repeatedly on the permits needed<br />

to rebuild our church buildings and<br />

permits to express our faith publicly.<br />

We buy houses and register them under<br />

[the names of] trusted individuals to<br />

turn them into churches for the people.<br />

We distribute evangelistic materials by<br />

hand and use our personal social media<br />

networks. We find our own ways to<br />

obtain and distribute medicine, food,<br />

clothing — anything that can alleviate<br />

the precarious situation of the people.<br />

However, we cannot deny that this<br />

life of struggle and survival drains us.<br />

Humans can face any war, but they<br />

are not made to live perpetually in [a<br />

state of] war, and our war has lasted<br />

for 65 years — 65 long years where we<br />

have had to start over and over again,<br />

dealing with a system allergic to the<br />

central values of the Christian faith. A<br />

system that is on high alert whenever<br />

it hears about truth, justice, freedom,<br />

and goodness in which they are not the<br />

protagonists and administrators.<br />

We will continue to fight, despite<br />

the high price, but we need to know<br />

that we are not alone, that there are<br />

others who will speak up when we are<br />

silenced, who will defend the truth<br />

when others lie about a Cuban paradise<br />

that does not exist.<br />

We need to know that there are others<br />

who will not play along with official<br />

propaganda, who will denounce<br />

anything that binds our spirit and<br />

suppresses our actions.<br />

We need to know that there are others<br />

who, day by day, pray for us to the God<br />

who unites us, asking for the desired<br />

freedom, the conversion of our people,<br />

and forgiveness for those who oppress<br />

us and need to open their souls to a<br />

God who is also their Father.<br />




<strong>Persecution</strong> of<br />

Evangelical<br />

Protestants in<br />

Southern Mexico<br />


22<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong><br />

In November 2023, I had the privilege of attending and<br />

speaking at an evangelical pastor’s conference in Oaxaca,<br />

a city in southern Mexico. Every pastor attending the<br />

conference has experienced various levels of persecution,<br />

and I interviewed several of those attending. The conference<br />

was hosted by Pastor S.M. of Iglesia Evangelica Nacional,<br />

whom I first interviewed by phone in 2021. He has been at<br />

the forefront of evangelistic efforts to indigenous minority<br />

groups in unreached remote mountainous regions and<br />

church planting amid persecution. Many people in these<br />

communities, which maintain a separate identity and<br />

language, practice “Christo-paganism,” a syncretistic blend<br />

of ancient pagan practices and Roman Catholicism. In<br />

addition, there is a strong atheistic communist movement,<br />

most notably in the state of Chiapas. [1]<br />

During the November conference, I interviewed Pastor<br />

S.M. again. He stated that Evangelical Christianity is<br />

viewed negatively as an American “Yankee” religion.<br />

Christians are blamed for the poverty in the region. Pastor<br />

S.M. has personally experienced being arrested and<br />

imprisoned and having his church burned and property<br />

confiscated. He literally was run out of town at gunpoint.<br />

The persecution has not deterred him from his ministry. In<br />

fact, he is making inroads into mountainous villages that<br />

have not been reached by the gospel and have had no<br />

Christian presence. [2]<br />

As I wrote in a previous article, “Religion, Tradition,<br />

and <strong>Persecution</strong>: The Plight of Christians in Mexico,”<br />

published by International Christian Concern in February<br />

2021: “<strong>Persecution</strong> has a variety of sources and forms.<br />

Drug cartels may target Christians because they do not<br />

approve of drug use nor participate in illegal activities<br />

and are averse to bribes. <strong>Persecution</strong> is most prevalent in

the mountainous regions of the southern<br />

states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Yucatan.<br />

The indigenous people who populate these<br />

rural areas practice a syncretic religion<br />

that mixes Catholicism with pre-Hispanic<br />

<strong>May</strong>an beliefs. Communal life is centered<br />

around various religious holidays and<br />

traditions which promote drunkenness.<br />

All community members are expected<br />

to contribute to these events both with<br />

money and service. Evangelical Protestants<br />

who cannot afford to contribute or who<br />

do not wish to participate in community<br />

religious holidays are intensely pressured<br />

to do so, first with fines or jail time. If they<br />

still refuse, they are denied basic services<br />

such as water and electricity that are<br />

guaranteed in Article 4 of the Constitution.<br />

Their churches and homes are burned, and<br />

belongings are confiscated. They are then<br />

forced to leave the community.” [3]<br />

Although the Constitution of Mexico<br />

guarantees all persons the right to practice<br />

their religious beliefs and ceremonies,<br />

local political leaders, supported by<br />

the Catholic majority, have significant<br />

autonomy in indigenous communities,<br />

using Mexico’s “Law of Uses and Customs”<br />

to force Evangelicals to comply. The state<br />

government seldom intervenes. Rather,<br />

they relocate the persecuted outside of<br />

their community. [4] In April 2019, Mexican<br />

publication Somoselmedio, reported that<br />

“over 700 people from 115 indigenous<br />

families had been expelled from nine<br />

different communities for failing to<br />

participate in local Catholic festivals.” [5]<br />

With approximately 83% of Mexicans<br />

identifying as Catholic, “The Catholic<br />

Church in Mexico has historically been<br />

one of the most powerful and politically<br />

conservative institutions in Latin America.<br />

Deeply embedded in Mexican society and<br />

culture, the Church fiercely defended its<br />

effective monopoly over religious practice<br />

— particularly as a bulwark against Yankee<br />

Protestantism.” [6]<br />

When I first spoke with Pastor S.M. by<br />

telephone in 2021, I asked him at the<br />

conclusion of the interview if there was any<br />

hope for change. He responded that if the<br />

churches come together with one voice,<br />

they could leverage political power for<br />

change. Since then, Pastor S.M. has been<br />

instrumental in forming an association of<br />

evangelical pastors, which now includes 20<br />

churches and 40 missions. This association,<br />

Nacional Nueva Generacion, provides<br />

mutual support to members and leverages<br />

united political clout in responding to<br />

persecution. They also engage the media<br />

to draw attention to acts of persecution,<br />

while the government prefers to downplay<br />

such occurrences. While Evangelicals have<br />

united collectively to mitigate persecution,<br />

it still very much occurs. [7] According to the<br />

Open Doors World Watch List 2023, Mexico<br />

is ranked 38th of the top 50 countries<br />

where persecution is prevalent. [8]<br />

In interviewing several pastors who<br />

attended the conference in Oaxaca,<br />

I listened to firsthand accounts of<br />

persecution as summarized here: Pastor<br />

E.Z. stated that in Chiapas, the Catholic<br />

church created a paramilitary unit carrying<br />

AR-15 guns, expelling 1,500 Evangelicals<br />

from their community. [9] Pastor A.P.S has<br />

been going to unreached communities in<br />

remote mountainous regions where 60%<br />

practice witchcraft. He shared that there<br />

is strong opposition to the gospel, pastors<br />

have been shot, and local religious leaders<br />

have discouraged community members<br />

from accepting the gospel. Evangelists<br />

have been detained and questioned by<br />

local authorities. The city council held a<br />

town meeting where people expressed<br />

a desire to kill Pastor A.P.S. but he was<br />

jailed instead. In jail, he prayed, and some<br />

people started to support him. He was<br />

released from jail on the stipulation that<br />

he not preach or evangelize. However,<br />

he continued to teach those who wanted<br />

to hear the Good News, and miracles<br />

followed. Five or six witches received the<br />

gospel, and 200 people became believers<br />

attending church. However, some witches<br />

have continued to harass him and have<br />

made attempts to kill him. [10]<br />

Another pastor shared that the Catholic<br />

church demanded that he contribute to<br />

their celebrations. He refused and was<br />

subsequentially denied basic services and<br />

needed supplies, such as concrete and<br />

fertilizer. Pastor E.M.R. described how he<br />

courageously addressed a potentially fatal<br />

situation. The village mayor was murdered,<br />

and then the federal workers left in fear.<br />

With the federal government’s presence<br />

gone, the locals attacked him. They shot at<br />

his house, denied him water and medical<br />

services, and expelled his children from<br />

school. His family feared they would be<br />

killed. Pastor E.M.R. saw a need for medical<br />

services and transformed the church into a<br />

clinic, although they had no medicine they<br />

relied on prayer. The community realized<br />

the church was there to help and become<br />

more tolerant. Some church members were<br />

teachers and started providing secondary<br />

education five hours a day. Pastor E.M.R.<br />

experienced a change in community<br />

attitudes as his church provided needed<br />

services. He stated he had no option but to<br />

pray and rely on Jesus. The Lord protected<br />

him and used him to bless those who had<br />

persecuted him. [11] These are just some of<br />

the powerful testimonies of those risking<br />

everything to reach people for Christ. Let’s<br />

continue to pray for their protection and<br />

favor.<br />


[1] https://www.persecution.com/globalprayerguide/southern-mexico/?_source_code=WHPB20C<br />

[2] Face-to-face interview with Pastor S.M., November 7, 2023, in Oaxaca, Mexico<br />

[3] https://www.persecution.org/2021/02/03/religion-tradition-persecution-plight-christians-mexico/<br />

[4] https://state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/mexico/<br />

[5] https://missionsbox.org/news/religious-persecution-in-mexico/<br />

[6] https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/publications/mexico-persecution-of-religious-minorities<br />

[7] Face-to-face interview with Pastor S.M., November 7, 2023, in Oaxaca, Mexico<br />

[8] https://www.opendoors.org/en-US/persecution/countries/mexico/<br />

[9] Face-to-face interview with Pastor E.Z., November 7, 2023, in Oaxaca, Mexico<br />

[10] Face-to-face interview with Pastor A.S.P., November 7, 2023, in Oaxaca, Mexico<br />

[11] Face-to-face interview with Pastor E.M.R., November 7, 2023 in Oaxaca, Mexico<br />


Linda Burkle, Ph.D.<br />

Linda retired from The Salvation Army in early 2019<br />

where she oversaw an array of social services in a<br />

multi-state region. Along with the State Attorney<br />

General, Burkle Co-Chaired the Nebraska Human<br />

Trafficking Task Force. Burkle holds a doctoral<br />

degree in international relations. Her dissertation<br />

focused on religious persecution; specifically,<br />

regarding Iran, Iraq, Sudan, China, and Burma<br />

(Myanmar). She has worked with and ministered to<br />

persecuted Christians in several countries.<br />


“I Am the Worst”<br />



“I Am the Worst”<br />

“I am the worst” is how the Apostle Paul<br />

described himself to his young protégé, Timothy.<br />

Paul said he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and<br />

a violent man who had Christians put into prison<br />

and killed. Yet the greatest apostle met Jesus on<br />

a road to Damascus.<br />

“I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance<br />

and unbelief,” wrote Paul. “The grace of our<br />

Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along<br />

with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (1<br />

Timothy 1:14).”<br />

If the Lord can change Paul’s heart, he can work<br />

in the lives of any oppressor. While we see daily<br />

the evil atrocities committed by persecutors,<br />

we know that they, like Paul, are deceived and<br />

act in unbelief. The Lord knows their hearts and<br />

draws them to himself in many ways. He wants<br />

everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). He also<br />

tells us to love our enemies and pray for our<br />

persecutors (Matthew 5:44).<br />

“Here is a trustworthy saying that<br />

deserves full acceptance: Christ<br />

Jesus came into the world to save<br />

sinners—of whom I am the<br />

worst. But for that very reason<br />

I was shown mercy so that in<br />

me, the worst of sinners, Christ<br />

Jesus might display his immense<br />

patience as an example for those<br />

who would believe in him and<br />

receive eternal life. Now to the<br />

King eternal, immortal, invisible,<br />

the only God, be honor and glory<br />

for ever and ever. Amen.”<br />

— 1 TIMOTHY 1:15-17<br />



Leaders of Nicaragua and Cuba<br />

Communism/Marxism is one of the leading drivers of Christian persecution. Authoritarian regimes leave<br />

little room for authentic worship in Christ. In this issue we highlighted ongoing challenges and atrocities<br />

for believers in Latin America. We pray for the Lord’s miraculous intervention in the lives and hearts of<br />

government leaders including Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. We<br />

pray that they discover the truth in Jesus and are drawn, like Paul, to him as only Christ can do.<br />

24<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong><br />



Unity of the Church<br />

“It is important for Christians around the world to stand<br />

with the persecuted church. They need to know that fellow<br />

believers are praying for them and working on their behalf.”<br />

— JEFF KING, PAGE 12<br />

The Spread of the Gospel<br />

As our brothers and sisters in Christ in Nicaragua, including<br />

Hancock and others associated with Mountain Gateway,<br />

continue to endure persecution for their faithful Christian<br />

witness, may we stand with them in prayer and make their<br />

struggles known. <strong>May</strong> we also pray that the gospel continues<br />

to spread in Nicaragua, despite Ortega’s leadership.<br />

“There is a move of God that really started in 2023, and they<br />

can’t stop that,” Hancock said. “I know God literally shook the<br />

entire nation, and I’m satisfied that it’s continuing.”<br />


Freedom and Forgiveness<br />

“We need to know that there are others who, day by day,<br />

pray for us to the God who unites us, asking for the desired<br />

freedom, the conversion of our people, and forgiveness for<br />

those who oppress us and need to open their souls to a God<br />

who is also their Father.”<br />


Protection and Favor<br />

The Lord protected [Pastor E.M.R.] and used him to bless<br />

those who had persecuted him. These are just some of the<br />

powerful testimonies of those risking everything to reach<br />

people for Christ. Let’s continue to pray for protection and<br />

favor for [Christians in Southern Mexico].<br />


Crowns of Courage<br />



FATHER<br />

FRANS’<br />


IN WAR-<br />


26<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong> | MAY <strong>2024</strong>

Father Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Christian,<br />

embodied Christ’s commandment to “Love<br />

one another as I have loved you.” He fully<br />

lived out this mandate, following Jesus’<br />

example on the Way of the Cross.<br />

Settling in the Jesuit Monastery in Homs’ Bustan<br />

al-Diwan neighborhood in 1993, Father Frans<br />

dedicated himself to his faith and community.<br />

Despite humble accommodations — a mattress<br />

on the floor surrounded by countless books — he<br />

made the monastery a place where many young<br />

people would go to hear the word of God and<br />

learn how to live it.<br />

When armed groups entered the city of Homs<br />

in March of 2011, forcing the evacuation of the<br />

city’s Christians, Father Frans remained steadfast,<br />

refusing to abandon the 66 Christians who could<br />

not leave.<br />

Enduring the horrors of siege — hunger, cold, and<br />

illness — he stood by his people, rejecting the<br />

option to return to the safety of his homeland. He<br />

told one of the young men about his unwillingness<br />

to leave the area, saying, “I am the head of this<br />

monastery. How do I leave it? How do I leave<br />

Christians? This is impossible.” He also said,<br />

“There is also a reason that is very important<br />

to me. I love the Syrian people<br />

and (have) lived with them in<br />

the most beautiful of times,<br />

and if the Syrian people are<br />

currently suffering, I would<br />

like to share their pain and<br />

problems with them.”<br />

His love for the Syrian people knew no bounds.<br />

Father Frans chose solidarity over comfort, sharing<br />

in the suffering of his fellow Syrians. He witnessed<br />

their struggles firsthand, from the scarcity of food<br />

to the desperation of parents unable to feed their<br />

children.<br />

Father Frans’ unwavering commitment to his<br />

adopted home distinguished him as a true father<br />

figure, beloved by all. He was the only foreign<br />

Christian who preferred to remain in old Homs<br />

with the besieged residents of the neighborhood,<br />

and he repeatedly refused to leave despite the<br />

evacuations carried out by the United Nations,<br />

which helped hundreds leave the besieged areas<br />

of Homs.<br />

Tragically, his selflessness cost him his life. On<br />

April 7, 2014, armed groups came to his house,<br />

took him out, and shot him twice in the head — a<br />

final testament to his devotion to his faith and the<br />

people he served.<br />

For more than 35 years, Father Frans lived and<br />

died in Syria, leaving behind a legacy of love and<br />

sacrifice. His story is a poignant reminder of the<br />

profound influence one individual can have when<br />

guided by unwavering compassion and dedication<br />

to others.<br />

Background Photo: A Syrian refugee walks<br />

among severely damaged buildings in<br />

downtown Homs, Syria, on June 3, 2014.<br />

Photo by Chaoyue PAN / Flickr<br />

Photo source unknown

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