Sudan: Czech missionary gets life sentence for spying

A Czech aid worker has been sentenced by Sudan to life in prison for spying and waging war on the Muslim nation. Petr Jasek was arrested in December 2015, along with three Sudanese pastors, after attempting to help a Sudanese man get treatment for burns suffered during a student demonstration. Jasek was accused of “tarnishing Sudan’s image” by documenting persecution. Two of the accused pastors were sentenced to 12 years in prison for espionage and stoking sectarian strife; the third pastor was found innocent and released. Sudan ranks No. 5 on Open Doors’ list of countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian.

[Update (Feb. 27): Sudan frees Czech missionary imprisoned for life]

Brazil: Prosperity pastor’s prosperity investigated

Police in Brazil are investigating a prominent pastor accused of using church accounts to help launder stolen mining royalties. The biblically named Operation Timoteo included 16 searches and raids, 12 arrests, and the seizure of $21 million in assets. One raid was at the home of Silas Malafaia, a former Assemblies of God vice president who broke away to build a televangelism empire. Malafaia, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $150 million, said it was impossible to keep track of all his donations. “Does it mean that if someone is a bad guy and gives me an offering without my knowing the origin, I’m the bad guy?” he asked his 1.3 million Twitter followers. He told reporters that if the Brazilian government can prove the money was illegal, he will return it.

Russia: Protestants challenge anti-evangelism law

Six months after Russia restricted evangelism as part of anti-terrorism efforts, more than a dozen Protestant missionaries and churches have been charged. The Yarovaya laws make house churches illegal and limit religious activity to registered church buildings. Violations have included a pastor who allowed children on a playground within earshot of his sermons, and a church that didn’t use its full name on its phone bill. One case—a Baptist missionary from Illinois arrested for hosting a Bible study in his home—will be argued before Russia’s Supreme Court this spring. If taken up by the Constitutional Court, the entire law could be reassessed.

Japan: Christian persecution sites seek global fame

For the second year in a row, amid renewed attention, the Japanese government is asking the United Nations to designate a dozen Christian churches and villages as World Heritage Sites. The 12 locations include Japan’s oldest church and a village where “hidden Christians” lived to escape persecution. Up to 6,000 Christians were martyred in the early 1600s, and Christianity was believed to be extinct in Japan before its borders opened again in the mid-1800s. That time period was explored in Martin Scorsese’s recent film, Silence.

United Kingdom: London churches warn of Korean cult

Almost 500 London parishes received an official alert from the Church of England about a South Korean group called Parachristo that has set up shop in the United Kingdom’s capital. The group, which runs Bible studies, is linked to the New Heaven and New Earth (NHNE) movement run by Man-Hee Lee, a self-styled “promised pastor” who “holds the key to avoid impending judgment,” The Telegraph reported. Holy Trinity Brompton, birthplace of the Alpha Course, warned that the group was trying to recruit its members. Parachristo told the London newspaper that it does not lie to members and said two participants who hid their involvement from their families had made “personal choices.”

Norway: Cooking the church registry books

The Catholic church in Norway’s capital has been fined 1 million kroner ($142,000) for padding its parishioner lists with names gleaned from the phone book. In Norway, the government subsidizes religion: the more members a church has, the more financial aid it receives. A review of 65,500 new registrations for the Diocese of Oslo from 2010 to 2014 showed 56,500 names were added through questionable methods—one of which was finding Polish-sounding names in the phone book, Agence France-Presse reported. A spokesperson for the diocese admitted to some improper methods, but said it has been flooded with a mass of unregistered Polish immigrants and has not “received too much money.”

Burundi: The ‘most outstanding’ medical missionary

Jason Fader, 1 of only 13 surgeons serving the 10 million people of Burundi, was awarded $500,000 in the first-ever Gerson L’Chaim prize for outstanding Christian medical service. He will use the money to create the East African nation’s first postgraduate medical training, add 48 beds to his 172-bed Kibuye Hope Hospital, and improve lower-limb fracture care—a critical need in a country that travels mostly by foot. Fader is part of a recent resurgence of medical missionaries, but the field is still small. The great need for more assistance made the prize hard to award among the 26 applicants from 12 nations, according to award co-founder Jon Fielder.

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