African pastor describes persecution

May 1, 2017 by and

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For four years, five Mennonite ministers have been imprisoned in an African country where evangelical churches have been under persecution for 15 years.

Speaking by telephone April 24, one of their ministerial colleagues, who asked that his name, home country and current location not be used, described the situation and his migration status.

Mennonite World Conference has requested prayer for the five.

The Mennonite church in the country, a member of MWC, numbered about 400 members a couple of years ago. However, the current membership number is unknown and may be lower as people flee the country.

“A lot of youngsters are migrating . . . to avoid mandatory military service and just seeking to worship God freely,” the minister said. “They wanted to arrest me. I stayed in hiding for two months. . . . When it was impossible for me to hide myself, I left the country.”

Sponsored by a group, he is waiting for the government to process his residence permit and social insurance and praying for his imprisoned counterparts.

“Since the church is underground, there are a lot of home cell groups and, if by chance, someone who is a spy for the government traces where you are, they can call the police and they will raid their house, check everything inside and take you to the prison and you don’t know when you will come out,” he said.

That’s the case for the five men.

“You can’t guess,” he said. “As long as they are not taken to the court and they don’t give a verdict, then it is difficult, and you are at the mercy of the security.

“. . . If you are old enough and if they consider you a leader or minister, they interrogate you concerning your source of income, ties with the outside world, etc. They can’t hope you deny your faith. Nevertheless, they keep you behind the bars to weaken the church.

“But when it comes to the youngsters, they beat them so they renounce their faith.”

In the meantime, he is able to speak by telephone with his family, but only in the vaguest of details. Caution supersedes using the word “daddy.”

His sponsoring family was formerly a part of the church he served in his home country. He made contact with Eastern Mennonite Missions when he began his migration journey. Each are links in a global Anabaptist family praying for the release of prisoners and an easing of religious tension.

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