The recent release of U.S. State Department's 2005 International Freedom Report indicates Burma, China, Eritea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Vietnam once again as the top 8 "Countries of Particular Concern." Christian ministries are calling for prayers in these nations where believers continue to be persecuted for their faith.
Voice of Martyrs' Tod Nettleton expressed concern for the believers in the nations that continue to top the list of religious persecution.
"We, as Christians, should think of them as countries for particular prayer. These are places where Christians are suffering. These are the places where our brothers and sisters are locked up, are beaten, are sometimes even killed for their faith in Christ, Nettleton said.
Nettleton indicates that by law, the U.S. government has the responsibility to improve the situation through sanctions, however he expressed disappointment in the results.
"The law allows the government to sanction some of these countries as a way of kind of influencing them toward more freedom of religion. Only Eritrea has been sanctioned in the last year. (It's) interesting because Eritrea has probably the least economic value to the United States."
However, Nettleton pointed out that believers are continuously growing in these nations despite restriction from government. He said, "These are countries where the church is growing. Is it the persecution that helps the church grow? Or, is it the fact that the church is growing that leads to more persecution?"
The release of the freedom report coincides with President Bush's coming visit to China, one of the nations that topped the list of "particular concern."
House of Representative Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi have indicated that he and several congressmen will pressure President Bush to address human rights in his visit starting from November 19th. Christian organizations express hopes that Bush would mention the recent sentencing of Beijing house church pastor in the meeting.
Pastor Cai Zhuohua was arrested by the Chinese government on September of last year for illegally printing thousands of Bibles and Christian literatures. Recently the Beijing People's Court of Haidian District sentenced the pastor to three years in prison along with two other family members, who received lighter sentences. The sentences also include heavy fines amount to nearly $50,000, according to reports from China Aid Association.