China’s great leap backwards

On October 16, when President Xi Jinping spoke at the opening of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), his central theme was “security”. According to Xi, China is facing “dangerous storms” and overcoming them will require sacrifice and obedience (i.e. a united front amid increased hardship).

When the Congress ended on October 22, China moved into a whole new era: one of suffocating yet sophisticated, escalating repression and persecution. Having already enacted a raft of new laws and set up the punitive Social Credit System, Xi confirmed that the measures introduced in 2022 to chase zero-COVID will not be relaxed. Indeed, they are already being used to chase zero-dissent; to control and imprison people in their homes, to keep Christians from meeting or even communicating..

Religious Liberty Commission

“Extraordinary” ivory

The recent discovery of a unique collection of ivory plaques from the First Temple Period is being described by archaeologists as “extraordinary”. Ivory decorations are one of the rarest finds in archaeology and have never before been found in the City of David.

The group of ivory plaques are among “the few found anywhere in the world, and the first of their kind to be found in Jerusalem,” said the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). “The discovery sheds new light on the power and importance of Jerusalem at the time of the Judahite Kingdom.”

The plaques were discovered during excavations in the ruins of a large palace that was in active use when Jerusalem was at the height of its power during the 8th and 7th centuries BC. Microscopic testing confirmed that the plaques were carved from African elephant tusks.

“To date, we only knew of decorated ivories from the capitals of the great kingdoms in the First Temple period, such as Nimrud, the capital of Assyria, or Samaria, the capital of the Israelite Kingdom,” said excavation director Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures. “Now, for the first time, Jerusalem joins these capitals.”

“We were already aware of Jerusalem’s importance and centrality in the region during the First Temple period. Still, the new finds illustrate how important it was and places it in the same league as the capitals of Assyria and Israel. The discovery of the ivories is a step forward in understanding the political and economic status of the city as part of global administration and economy.”

Intricately carved panels of ivory were used as lavish decorations embedded into wooden furniture made for people of means, influence and power, possibly high government officials or priests. The plaques were apparently inlaid in a couch-throne placed in a palatial structure.

For full report and pictures, see here

Patterns of Evidence

45 baptised in Bangladesh

An evangelical church in the south-western part of Bangladesh was having a baptism for 45 new believers when some local Hindu people came to stop the celebration.

“The Hindu people were unhappy seeing that people from their community [Hindu people] were converting to Christianity,” said the local pastor. “Now they are witnessing their people being baptised and they wanted to put a stop to it. They even tried to stop all church activities here.”

The argument that broke out quickly turned violent when the local Hindu people started to pick up anything they could find to be used as a weapon.

The pastor said, “Realising the situation is going out of control, I informed the local police, and they came for our protection. Then the situation became normal, and we managed to continue with our baptism program.”

Despite the happier outcome, seeing the rage of the local villagers was enough to put fear into the lives of the believers. They knew that though they are calm now, it is only because they are in the presence of the policemen. They know that the local Hindu people are still angry with the Christians.

Open Doors

Iranian convert released

An Iranian Christian convert from Islam has been released mid-way through his ten-year prison sentence. Naser Navard Goltapeh, 61, had served nearly five years in Evin Prison for “acting against national security with the intention to overthrow the regime”.

Naser was told on October 17 that he had been pardoned, and he has now returned home.

His conviction was a result of his alleged links to churches and Christian groups outside Iran, as well as his role in running a “house church”. Naser was arrested during a police raid on a church meeting in July 2017, and began his prison sentence in January the following year. His subsequent requests for a retrial were rejected four times by the Iranian authorities.

Farsi (Persian)-speaking Christians, like Naser, are converts from Islam and therefore punishable as apostates according to Islamic law. Unlike the historic Armenian- and Assyrian-speaking Christian communities they are not permitted to hold church services or worship freely.

Barnabas Aid