May 2005

 

May 2005

Dear Friend,

An invaluable lesson I learned while serving six years in the U.S. Army Reserves was “know your mission.” It was our duty to know our mission and to carry it out.

Advocates’ mission is: “Bearing witness of Jesus Christ through the legal profession by encouraging and enabling advocates to meet locally, organize nationally, cooperate regionally and link globally.” The mission echoes Jesus’ final words to his disciples in Acts 1:8 telling them that they would be empowered to be his witnesses. Likewise, Jesus’ Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” is the same mission. Our 12-person global staff on five continents serves as catalysts to encourage and enable advocates to carry out this mission.

In preparing for our 2004 audit, we discovered that we had nearly 11,000 hours of donated professional services by lawyers and judges helping plan, organize and conduct national, regional and global conferences for over 2,000 Christian lawyers. These conferences, in turn, encouraged lawyers to give their time, talent and treasure by taking cases, drafting laws, helping ministries in general, as well as the poor and less able. We believe that there were at least 50,000 hours of volunteer time given by lawyers within the global network in 2004.

Thus, our network had over 60,000 hours of donated professional services last year. A typical law firm in the U.S. charges $150 per hour with 50% going to pay staff, library, research services and overhead. Applying that billing rate, we estimate that the value globally of donated professional services in 2004 was at least $9 million – a 50-fold return on Advocates’ salaries on five continents. This may be a practical application of Jesus’ lesson in Matthew 13:23:

But the man who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man
who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding
a hundred, sixty or thirty times what he has sown.

We appreciate your prayers and support in helping carry out our mission, as we continue…

Living in His-Story,

Samuel E. Ericsson
Founder & President

P.S. As you will see in the following emails from Russia, the challenges to religious freedom in former communist nations are growing. There is still a great need for networking Christian advocates in Russia, as well as in other former and current communist nations.

P.P.S. Christian Legal Association of India (CLAI) is fruit from our conferences. The enclosed CLAI Prayer Calendar for May 2005 shares their challenges, praises and vision.

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Email forwarded to Sam Ericsson from Brent McBurney,
Assistant Director of Christian Legal Aid of Christian Legal Society

Dear Brent,

Thank you for the information and for the Russian words! It was pleasant for me to discover that you remember me and care about religious liberty in our country. I will pass your information to the most reliable news groups.

Indeed we face growing police harassment toward Evangelicals. Mass media draw a horrible picture of so-called “Charismatic” cults. Common people are therefore afraid of Evangelicals, especially speaking in tongues, and police treat such groups as enemies of the nation hardly tolerated in Russia. Working with the Institute I help people to develop their skills for evangelism, and I confess that even my parents are worried about my primary interest now.

The Russian Orthodox Church does not support people bringing others to Christ. The church of the majority believes that if it is in God's plan to bring you to salvation, then He himself will bring you to the church. So all evangelical projects are considered disturbing activities of pro-Western groups weakening our nation and country. Our Law Enforcement bodies are under the influence of the church of the majority and consider it reasonable to cause problems for Evangelical churches by trying to limit their activities and preventing growth. Also, the Russian Constitution has a provision stating that Civil Rights can be limited because of the interests of the "security of the State" (not security of people!). Individual rights were never respected in Soviet Russia, and they are not respected now. Law enforcement bodies still consider human rights as rights of the majority, so they try to please the majority!

It is not easy for foreign missionaries and church leaders to get Russian visas because the Federal Security Bureau considers them a national security threat. Look at the Salvation Army leaders - they were denied visas at the end of March because of national security. This is why Russian lawyers, other professionals and lay leaders have to realize that they are responsible for evangelism in the country and should be taught how to do it quietly, wisely and culturally sensitively. If we will share Christ with law enforcement bodies and country leaders, then it will improve the situation for all of the country. This is why I work with the Institute now.

The Institute is working in Third World countries exclusively, but I am sorry to confess that since last year Russia has been considered a proper field for the implementation of their experience. I hope to come to the CLS conference this year, and I believe we will have time to discuss the issue of persecutions and counteractions in Russia.

May God bless you.

Yours in Him,

Katya Smyslova
President
Esther Legal Information Centre
Moscow

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Email forwarded to Sam Ericsson from Brent McBurney,
Assistant Director of Christian Legal Aid of Christian Legal Society

Dear Family and Friends,

We arrived back safely at about 1 am Thursday morning after a two-day delay in the city of Perm. The plane only comes twice a week. The first one arrived on time but they could not get the engine started for takeoff, so after a long wait we got off the plane and waited until the next plane arrived on Wednesday.

The trip was a success, and we accomplished most of our objectives; but it was an intense time and one that kept us very busy. We will send out a letter shortly with more details about the trip, but there was one incident that requires some immediate communication. We attempted to get an email out to everyone last week, but that effort failed.

On Thursday, April 14, 2005, at about 8 pm, fifteen masked regional police armed with submachine guns stormed the church property where the bible school students reside. It is also the same complex where the church feeds the homeless and street children. The pretext for the raid was spurious at best. According to the police they were looking for the murderer of a homeless man in the neighborhood. But the raid had nothing to do with the pretext. They broke into the building and arrested forty-six of the students and staff, including one of the senior pastors from the Works of Faith Church. The police forced them to stand outside in the cold without their coats for about an hour before they bussed them to jail. Most of those arrested remained in jail overnight, without being charged with a crime. (Russian law limits the time to three hours’ confinement unless there is a criminal charge.)

The police forced the students to stand against the wall outside in a spread-eagle manner with their hands against the wall. They proceeded to molest the female students. They took them in for questioning and threatened the females with rape if they did not answer the questions. The male students were threatened with serious bodily harm if they did not cooperate. The police questions had nothing to do with the pretext of the raid – particularly since the suspect for the murder had already been arrested and was in jail at the time of the raid. The students and staff were questioned solely about the church. The police wanted to know about internal church operations: how much the pastors were paid, how much money did the church have, and how much were they receiving from countries outside Russia. None of the students know anything about churches finances or internal operations.

Bishop Yuri Degtyar spent most of the night trying to get the students and staff released, but the police would not cooperate and initially denied that the raid even took place. Yuri was persistent and got help from some other city government people to get the students released, and all were freed by the morning. For the next four days Yuri could not get the police or the president of the Republic of Udmertia to give any explanation for the raid. The following Tuesday evening, the story was broadcast on local television. By Wednesday morning it was on all the local stations and in the local papers. The news also reached the papers in Moscow. The president of Udmertia controls the papers in Izhevsk, and throughout the entire region and the story reported that the church instigated the incident. The headline read "Protestants against the Police." Yuri met with the chief judge in Udmertia and the chief of police. Initially, they attempted to minimize the incident and did not want the raid to be characterized as religious persecution. Yuri would not back down and asked that a judge from Moscow investigate the incident. Since Yuri would not allow the matter to be covered up, he was threatened by the police – he has received a number of death threats in the past.

We met with the senior pastor who was arrested and some of the students so that we could get the facts straight from witnesses. We changed our schedule so that we could spend most of our second week with the students in the bible school. We also spent some time with Yuri to get as much information as possible. We spoke with Bishop Edward Grabavenko in Perm to get a larger perspective of the situation. Persecution of Protestant churches began in several regions throughout Russia after the Orange revolution in the Ukraine. Last month, seven Baptist churches were burned to the ground. All of the incidents took place in remote regions and far from the western media stationed in Moscow and other large cities. Both Yuri and Edward are under very close observation by the Russian secret police. All of their communications are being monitored including telephone, cell phone, e-mails, and postal letters. Church services, home group meetings, and other events are being watched by the police in civilian clothes.

Bob Emery, from Global Opportunities for Christ, was with us and he is currently drafting a summary of all the information we collected including the incidents outside the region of Udmertia. The pattern of persecution is clear and it seems to have escalated with the April 14th incident in Izhevsk. As soon as he releases the combined statement, we will forward it with our letter.

Both Yuri and Edward gave us permission to make the facts known and seek outside help to see that law and justice are restored in both the regions of Izhevsk and Perm. The incident is still unresolved. It is one that has provoked a positive response of support from pastors of other denominations in all regions of Russia.

We ask that you continue to pray for our friends in Russia.

Love and blessings,

Jim & Cathy

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Christian Legal Association of India
Prayer Calendar

May 2005

“I lift my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 121:1-2

1 (Sunday)
“I lift my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

2 (Monday)
Pray for wisdom for the Supreme Court of India as it decides on the issue of granting reservations to Christians of Dalit origin. Pray also for the church to rise up to root out the discrimination that exists in places against Christians of Dalit origin.

3 (Tuesday)
We give thanks for the successful completion of the Biblical Peacemaking seminar organized in Dimapur, Nagaland, in the northeast India. Remember especially the people of Nagaland who have witnessed violence and strife in their land for numerous years.

4 (Wednesday)
We praise God that the emergency was lifted in Nepal. Remember King Gyanendra in your prayers, asking for God’s wisdom and discernment for him as he works to restore democracy.

5 (Thursday)
There are at least 100,000 street children in New Delhi; pray for NGO’s and government agencies to come forward to ensure that these children are not subjected to abuse.

6 (Friday)
More than 90% of the 690 million extremely poor people in Asia’s developing countries live in India, says a new report by the Asian Development Bank. Pray that as India marches ahead to take its place in the global economies, her poor and destitute would not get left behind.

7 (Saturday)
Pray for a one-day workshop for pastors and evangelists on legal awareness being organised by the CLAI in Dhamtari, Chhattisgarh. Pray that God would equip those who attend to follow the law of the land as they share the gospel of Christ, as the state has an anti-conversion law.

8 (Sunday)
“He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:3-4).

9 (Monday)
Pray for an Indian couple - Babu Verghese, an Indian citizen, and his wife Savitri - who were arrested in Nepal on the suspicion that they were forcibly converting minors to Christianity in the school for orphans in Birgunj city in southern Nepal.

10 (Tuesday)
Continue to pray for Kashmir, India, as various peace initiatives are being taken by India and Pakistan.

11 (Wednesday)
According to the latest government statistics, there are over 1 lakh (100,000) confirmed AIDS cases in India, and children seem to be among the worst-affected with as many as 55,000 new infections reported. Pray that the church in India would be able to minister to those who suffer.

12 (Thursday)
Continue to pray for Iraq, that God would bring healing and that democracy would be a reality in the troubled land.

13 (Friday)
Six largely preventable ailments account for 73% of child deaths across the world each year, says the World Health Organisation, with under-nutrition being identified as an underlying cause of 53% of all deaths among the youth. Pray for the basic medical facilities that can be provided to all citizens of India.

14 (Saturday)
Pray for the establishment of regional CLA’s. Pray for the ongoing preparations being made to organise lawyers in Gujarat.

15 (Sunday)
The Lord watches over you- the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night” (Psalm 121:5-6).

16 (Monday)
Hindu militant organizations in India's northern state of Punjab have united to combat the spread of Christianity and fight against “conversion activities”. Pray that the Christians in the area would respond with the grace of God.

17 (Tuesday)
Pray for North Korea, where the highest number of incidents of human right violations and persecution of religious freedom are reported.

18 (Wednesday)
Saudi Arabia recently detained 40 Pakistani Christians for holding prayers at a house in the Muslim kingdom, where practicing any religion other than Islam is not tolerated. The Christians were later released. Pray for the safety of Christian workers in the country.

19 (Thursday)
Pray for the ongoing preparation for the upcoming Conference of Advocates Europe, planned to take place from June 22 to 26 in Fuzine, Croatia. May God bring the people of His choice and equip them to serve Him in the continent of Europe.

20 (Friday)
Continue to remember in prayer the efforts being made by various groups to secure the rights of the Christian community to adopt children. Pray for wisdom and insight for CLAI members as we draft writ petition to be filed before the Supreme Court of India praying for rights to adopt to be granted.

21 (Saturday)
Continue to pray for the 9 Christians falsely implicated in a murder case over a year ago in Alirajpur in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. Pray for God’s wisdom and insight for CLA- Orissa President Pratap Chhinchani and member B.D. Das and other lawyers associated, as they help the accused Christians.

22 (Sunday)
“The LORD will keep you from all harm- he will watch over your life; The LORD will watch over both your coming and your going both now and forevermore” (psalm 121:7-8).

23 (Monday)
Hindu and Muslim villagers burned down a prayer hall and physically attacked three church members following a baptism ceremony in Kerala, India, on April 1. Two days later, villagers assaulted Pastor Paul Ciniraj Mohammed and his 54-year-old assistant. Pray for the speedy recovery of those hurt and for peace and communal harmony to prevail in the village.

24 (Tuesday)
Pray for a 3-day workshop for pastors and evangelists organised by the CLAI in association with the EFI in Dehradun, Uttanchal. Pray that the CLAI resource persons would provide the pastors with guidelines to prevent persecution.

25 (Wednesday)
Pray for an Iranian convert to Christianity, Hamid Pourmand, who has been on trial for his life before an Islamic sharia court in Tehran for deserting Islam and proselytizing Muslims. Pray for wisdom as he addresses the court, and also for his safety.

26 (Thursday)
Many Christian agencies will be directly affected if the Government were to carry out its proposal to make the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act more stringent. Pray the governments would be sensitive to the needs of NGOs and Christian NGOs would not be targeted under the amended Act.

27 (Friday)
Continue to pray for the regional chapters of the CLAI in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi. Pray also for greater interaction between the chapters.

28 (Saturday)
Christian mission organization, known as the UP (Uttar Pradesh) Mission has recently been accused of alluring Hindus to Christianity. The accusation was levied by four of their workers from a Hindu background who were removed by the Mission. Pray for a peaceful reconciliation between the groups.

29 (Sunday)
We give thanks for the hope Psalm 121 brings. We pray, Lord, that our eyes would always look to you, O Lord.

30 (Monday)
A convert could lose his citizenship as a result of his conversion in the Maldives. For it is prohibited to practice any religion other than Islam, which is considered to be an important tool in stimulating national unity and maintenance of the government’s power. Pray for the religious freedom for the Christians in the Maldives.

31 (Tuesday)
We give thanks for the month gone by, and pray for wisdom and grace for the month ahead.