An average of 11 Christians are reportedly killed every hour. In fact, Christians are the most oppressed people group in the world. This week on The Roys Report, we’ll be talking about the persecution of Christians with author and Radio host Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs. November 3rd is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. And I hope you can join us as we prepare for the day of prayer with this important episode of The Roys Report, this Saturday morning at 11 on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life and on Sunday night at 7 on AM 560 The Answer!
Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.
ANNOUNCER: In the midst of all of today’s noise and confusion, we need a voice that cuts through the chaos to bring wisdom and clarity. Welcome to The Roys Report with Julie Roys—an hour-long show exploring critical issues related to faith and culture from a uniquely Christian perspective. Now, here’s your host, Julie Roys.
JULIE ROYS: An average of 11 Christians are reportedly killed every hour. In fact, Christians are the most persecuted people group in the world and it’s accelerating. Welcome to The Roys Report brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re going to be talking about the persecuted church. Next Sunday, November 3, is the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. And Christians all over the world will be remembering their brothers and sisters who are imprisoned, beaten and even killed simply for expressing their faith. Here in the United States, we enjoy just an immense amount of freedom but persecution of Christians in certain parts of the world is at near genocide levels. If you’ve been following the headlines, you know that the Christian population in northern Syria is at risk of being annihilated by Turkish troops. But in nearby Palestine, the situation is also dire. Christians there are once numbered 1 ½ million, now, there are less than 120,000. Similarly, in Iraq, there were once a million and a half Christians there. That was before the US invasion in 2003. Now there’s only about 250,000. In Asia, persecution is also on the rise. According to a report published earlier this year by open doors, one in three Christians in Asia is suffering high levels of persecution. In China, persecution there is the worst it’s been in more than a decade. Some are saying it may be as bad or worse as it was since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976. Just last weekend, Chinese authorities tore down a mega church. They actually began the demolition while Christians were worshipping inside the building. And what’s also alarming is that church that was demolished, it was actually on a government sanctioned list. So, this was a government sanctioned church. So now it seems that no church in China is safe. I’m not sure they ever were. But the persecution is getting more and more dire there. In North Korea, persecution is perhaps the worst that is anywhere in the world. And in Nigeria, at least 3,700 Christians were killed for their faith this year. That’s almost double from a year ago. But even with all this oppression in evil, the gospel still shines. About two months ago, I did a show on the church in Iran and even though there’s horrible persecution in Iran, the church is actually exploding there. In fact, some say the Iranian church is the fastest growing church in the world. So, we need to be praying. We need to be doing whatever we can to help the persecuted church. And joining me today to help us do that, and to tell us more about what’s going on in the church all over the world, is Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs. Todd has been with Voice of the Martyrs for more than 20 years. He’s traveled to more than 20 nations, interviewed hundreds of Christians who have endured persecution. So, Todd, welcome. It is such a privilege to have you join us.
TODD NETTLETON: Well, Julie, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me.
JULIE ROYS: Absolutely. And, Todd, you know, I know there’s so many places that we could talk about and we will talk about over this hour, but I wanted to start in China because something happened just a little over a week ago. This mega church being torn down. And I think and you can tell us more but this is kind of indicative, isn’t it, of what’s happening all throughout China?
TODD NETTLETON: It’s a new day for Christians in China. Beginning early last year, the government there put in new regulations on religion. That was a continuation of President Xi Jinping’s really crack down on churches all over the country. And as you mentioned, just last weekend, another church torn down. And I’m glad you brought out the fact that this was a registered church. The government said yes, you can have a church. The government said yes, you can build that building. But then they came in last week and said, oh wait, you can’t have the building. We’re going to tear the building down. Now, they did say we’ll build you another church in a different area. We’re redeveloping this district and so we need this property. But they didn’t provide any kind of legal documents or a judgment or an order from a judge that said they were allowed to tear down the building. They just came in with more than 100 officers and literally destroyed a building that had 3,000 seats in it. So, this is not like a little corner church. This is a very large building that was completely destroyed.
JULIE ROYS: And have you had any contact with Chinese Christians since this has happened? Or is this just we’re kind of knowing this is happening? There’s not a lot of word getting out. I mean, are you able to be in contact with them on a somewhat regular basis?
TODD NETTLETON: We have contacts here at Voice of the Martyrs in China and yes, we are in regular contact with them. One of our key partners, as it relates to ministry in China, is Bob Fu, of the China Aid Association and he literally is in contact hour by hour with the church in China and hearing about these situations. The other thing that happened last weekend. Two of the pastors of this church were arrested. They were charged with gathering a crowd to disturb social order and put under criminal detention. Now, in China, they have what they call administrative detention, which is fairly minor, or criminal detention which can be up to three years without even a trial. These pastors are facing criminal detention for allegedly protesting or leading others to protest the destruction of their own church.
JULIE ROYS: And I understand in China, there’s a Pastor, Wang Yi, he’s with Early Rain Covenant Church. He was arrested last December. Any updates on how he’s doing?
TODD NETTLETON: Well, Wang Yi is still in prison, arrested last December. We are expecting and our sources in China are saying there will be a trial soon. Now soon could mean a lot of different things in China as it relates to the justice system there. One of the things about Wang Yi, before he was a pastor, he was a lawyer. And he was actually a legal instructor, a law school instructor. So, before he was arrested, he had already chosen the lawyers that he wanted to represent him. The government has said nope, we reject those lawyers. We’re not going to have the lawyers that you want. We, the government, will decide who’s going to represent you in court. So, they are saying we’ll choose your lawyers. Obviously, we’d like lawyers who will be more cooperative with us. And so even as we talk about the fact that he’s going to have a trial, the outcome has probably already been determined. And you see that from the fact that the government won’t even let his lawyers represent him.
JULIE ROYS: So basically, the prosecution is choosing the lawyer for this pastor’s defense. I mean, he has—
TODD NETTLETON: Exactly!
JULIE ROYS: Wow, we really need to be praying for him. What do you, can you say what your expectation is will come out of that?
TODD NETTLETON: It’s hard to know, but I would expect him to go to prison. The question is for how long. Well, there are pastors in prison for 15 years in China. There is another pastor in prison right now serving 7 ½ years. So, it’s hard to know. One of the great things about Wang Yi though, is he had written a letter before he was arrested and gave it to his church members and said, hey, when I am arrested, because he knew this day was coming. When I am arrested, release this letter. And the letter gives a picture of a person of faith, a person who knows I’m going to have to sacrifice for following Jesus Christ. I’ve already counted the cost. This is not going to be a surprise to me. I know I’ll have to pay a price and I am willing. I am ready to go to prison if that’s the path that God lays out for me. So even as he is in prison, we know he has prepared himself and we pray that God is sustaining and encouraging him. But this is a great example of someone who had counted the cost before the police showed up at his door.
JULIE ROYS: I read an article just last week and it honestly it made it hard to sleep afterwards. And it’s about these re-education camps in China. I’m guessing that’s similar to the kind of prison that Wang Yi will go to. Unbelievable torture, they were describing, happens in there. I mean, I won’t describe it on air because it’s almost too graphic. But it’s, it was just so troubling to me. And I just couldn’t even imagine being there. And so I think as we’re praying for them, I mean, we need to keep this in mind, don’t we? That these men and women that get sent to prison, they’re not in one of our kind of American prisons. This is torture chambers, isn’t it?
TODD NETTLETON: It is very difficult circumstances. And we do know that Christians have been literally tortured. You know, what anybody in the world would say is torture, they have endured that. And, you know, particularly in Wang Yi’s case, because he was recognized as an attorney, because he was a law school professor, the Chinese government would love to convince him—put away this Jesus stuff. Come back to, you know, society. Come back to being a good example of a good communist. And so I think he will undergo intense pressure while he’s in prison to renounce Christ. And to announce, yes, the Communist Party is the top authority. We all need to bow to them instead of we all need to bow our knees to Jesus Christ.
JULIE ROYS: So, everybody, on your prayer list right now, write down Wang Yi. Let’s be praying for this man, and what he’s facing, what he’s enduring. That he would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to be able to withstand this kind of torture. When we come back, I want to hear. I understand, Todd, you interviewed two Chinese house pastors recently. Would love to hear about that. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. We’re talking about the persecuted church—what we can do, how we can be involved and how we can pray. We’ll be right back after a short break.
ANNOUNCER: We now return to The Roys Report. Here’s your host, Julie Roys.
JULIE ROYS: From North Korea and China to Iran, Nigeria and Central African Republic, Christians are targeted every day for persecution. Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re talking about the persecuted church with Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs. A week from Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. And this is a critical day, not just for building awareness for how our brothers and sisters around the world are suffering for their faith. But it’s also an important day for partnering with the persecuted church and with persecuted Christians, and coming against those spiritual forces that would seek to destroy them. So, I hope you’ll not just be listening today, but you’ll be inspired to pray with us on Sunday, November 3rd, again, the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. And by the way, if you’d like to join our conversation today, the best way to do that is just go on social media. To get to us on Facebook, just go to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. And on Twitter, our handle is @ReachJulieRoys.
So Todd, we were talking about China and what’s happening in China with the church. And you had a conversation recently with two Chinese house pastors, who I believe were raided by police. I’d like to hear about that and how these house pastors are doing.
TODD NETTLETON: Well, whenever we interview Chinese pastors, I typically don’t use a real name. Or I sometimes don’t use any name at all. When we do our VOM radio broadcast, one of the pastor’s asked me to call him brother Enfu. Enfu in Chinese means blessing. So, he chose that as his fake name—Brother Blessing. And one of the things we talked about is the surveillance state that exists in China. Our contacts in China have said they want to have 600 million surveillance cameras active by the end of 2020. Which if you know, if you think about 1.2 billion Chinese, that’s basically one camera for every two people. Their goal is to be able to identify and locate any person on Chinese soil in three seconds. So I talked to this pastor, you know, because you’re doing underground church work, you’re doing so called secret work. How do you do that in a place where you know the government is watching everything you do? And one of the things that he said is—and I found it really challenging—he said, “Well, if they’re watching, we have an opportunity to minister to them.”
JULIE ROYS: Oh, wow.
TODD NETTLETON: And he said, “We believe even in our homes, the government can track us. The government can listen in.” And so, I’ve encouraged the men in my church, “Make sure there is no gap between what you say in church on Sunday and what you live in your house 24/7 because we want the government to see consistency. We want the government to see that our message is true, that our hearts really are changed.” And so, I thought what an amazing outlook to say, “Hey, yes, the government is surveilling me 24/7. So, I’m going to use that as an opportunity to demonstrate what it looks like to live out the Christian life.”
JULIE ROYS: Man, so much I think we need to learn from these persecuted Christians about standing up. I mean, so often here in the United States, we’re not even willing to take the social ostracizing that comes from standing up and saying I’m a Christian. And here these men and women are facing death, imprisonment and yet there’s their challenge. It’s not let’s be as secretive as we can possibly be. It’s let’s live as lights, you know, as a city on the hill so that those watching might come to know Christ. That is that is so, wow, so inspirational. I want to move to China’s neighbor now, North Korea, and we do know this is, you know, as bad as China is. It might be even worse in North Korea. And there’s a story that you have, actually on your promotional video for the International Day of Prayer, about this Pastor Han who was martyred there. Tell us about Pastor Han.
TODD NETTLETON: Pastor Han is a hero of the faith. And he is an ethnic Korean, but a Chinese citizen, and the pastor actually of a registered church right along that China-North Korea border. So, he was on the China side pastoring a church and he saw North Koreans coming across the river. And they were desperate and they were hungry and he began to help them. And not only with some food, not only with, you know, really practical assistance, but also with the Gospel. And, literally, was able to reach and disciple more than 1,000 North Koreans with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, obviously, some of those then went back to North Korea and began ministering and began sharing. And that has to be done one at a time. It has to be done with people you really trust because North Koreans are expected to report anything suspicious. They’re expected to watch their neighbors’ houses and report anything that’s out of the ordinary. So these disciples had to disciple very carefully. Pastor Han was assassinated by North Korean agents, who came across that border into China and murdered him because of his ministry. A couple months before that, he had been actually at our sister office in Korea, met with the team there. And he knew they’re watching me. He knew there were threats against him. And they actually said, you know, do you want to stay here? And he said, the shepherd looks after the sheep. And so, he saw, hey, I’m a pastor. I’m a shepherd. I’m going to go back to my sheep. Yes, there’s danger. But that’s where God has placed me and so he literally sacrificed his life for the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of reaching North Koreans. And the North Korean government made him pay. In fact, they held a televised ceremony on North Korean television to honor the assassins who had gone across that border and killed Pastor Han. They called them, you know, heroes of the Fatherland. But really, they’re murderers of a Christian pastor in China.
JULIE ROYS: Wow. And the misinformation that is just pumped into these countries. On that video, you tell the perspective of someone who escaped, one of these people who left North Korea. And what does that say that you actually flee to go to China? I mean, that’s not really the Promised Land.
TODD NETTLETON: And then you talk about and I’ve seen North Korean refugees who talked about how free they are in China. Oh, it’s so great to be in China. We’re so free here and you think, wow, what does that say about North Korea?
JULIE ROYS: Unbelievable, unbelievable. But the thing that struck me is he mentioned this North Korean that when he was in North Korea, the government authorities said watch out for these Christian missionaries because they want to capture you. And if they do, they’re going to cut out an organ. What is it? The liver?
TODD NETTLETON: The liver. (Laughter)
JULIE ROYS: Yeah. And that’s what he thought. And so when he met Pastor Han, he thought, and when he found out he was a Pastor, he’s a Christian, thought, oh no, is he going to try to kill me and take my liver? Right? I mean, unbelievable.
TODD NETTLETON: It is but the information systems are so controlled. And I’ve, you know, I’ve had the chance to interview North Korean defectors. And one of the things, you know, even during the famine there, the North Korean media said yes, we’re hungry here in North Korea, but it’s so much worse every place else. We’re the, you know, this is paradise on earth, even though we’re hungry everyone else is suffering worse than we are. You think about the level of control in the modern world, that you have to have, to prevent people from even know what’s happening in the next-door country or knowing what’s happening anywhere else in the world. That’s North Korea. It is, I often say, North Korea is a prison camp disguised as a country. And the people who are singled out for the very worst treatment are followers of Jesus Christ because the message of the gospel undermines the Kim dynasty. It undermines the idea that the Kim family are divine beings. That’s why they have to stamp out the Gospel because it undermines the veracity of the government.
JULIE ROYS: And do people really believe that? I’ve always wondered, does anybody really believe that the Kim family are divine?
TODD NETTLETON: You know, I, that’s a hard question to answer. I think there are genuinely people that believe it. And then, you know, you think about when you take a child from the time he’s in the crib and tell him something again and again and again and again and again, you plant that seed pretty deeply. And so there is and they have done a great job. They have hymns. They teach the children, when they sit down to a meal, to say thank you Father Kim Il-sung for our food. So, they are indoctrinating everyone from the moment of birth. And so, yeah, they want that belief to persist.
JULIE ROYS: That is just unbelievable. And yet, we feel so powerless here in the United States so far away. And yet you say when you talk to these people in these persecuted areas, their number one request is, “Pray for us,” right?
TODD NETTLETON: And not pray that the persecution would stop, which I think, if I was the one in jail, that’s what I’d want you to pray. Pray that they’ll let me go. Pray that this will stop. But that’s not their prayer request. Their prayer request is, “Lord, help me to be faithful in spite of the persecution, in spite of the suffering.” And that’s what they’re asking us to pray. Pray that they will be faithful in spite of the challenges and the persecution that they face.
JULIE ROYS: Unbelievable. So inspirational, though. These men and women—Christians, followers of Jesus Christ—willing to die for their faith but they’re asking us to pray for them. We can do that. The International Day of Prayer on November 3rd. I hope you’ll join with us. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. We will be right back, after a short break, talking with Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs.
ANNOUNCER: Now, more of the Roys report. Once again, here’s Julie Roys.
JULIE ROYS: Christians are the most persecuted people group in the world. And it’s getting worse. Welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And the statistics are truly shocking. According to Open Doors, 11 Christians are killed every day for their decision to follow Christ. In North Korea, Christians are considered hostile elements to be eradicated. In Afghanistan, it’s actually illegal to be anything other than Muslim. And in Somalia, Libya, Syria, China, all these places, Christians live in constant danger and threat of attack. So, what can we do? Well, we can advocate for our brothers and sisters. But we can also pray. And that’s precisely what we’ll be doing on Sunday, November 3, which is the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. And joining me today is Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs, who’s traveled all over the world, interviewed hundreds of Christians who have endured persecution. And I’m thrilled to have him with me today, to tell what’s going on among Christians in this area. And I want to let you know, if you’re just joining us and you want to hear what you missed in the first half of this show, really important stuff about what God is doing in China with the persecuted Christians, how they’re standing up in North Korea. Fascinating and I think really important and inspirational stuff that we need to hear in the West. So, if you want to go back and listen to that, or just listen to this, again, you can get the full audio it will be posted to my website later today. Just go to JulieRoys.com and then click on the podcast tab. So, Todd, one of the things that you have recently produced is a podcast, or an interview with Pastor Andrew Brunson who we know spent, how long did he spend in prison? Was it . . .
TODD NETTLETON: A total of two years
JULIE ROYS: Two years in prison. Unbelievable. And just an unbelievable story. A very human story. And then I believe he has a book coming out. But this is an important thing for us to hear. I think because Andrew doesn’t whitewash it right? I mean, it’s not triumphalist. It’s not like, “Wow, I went to prison and I triumphed over everything.” It’s really a very honest, a very human story, about the struggle to hold on to faith, which he did. And I do think that’s, that it’s heroic what he did. But it was tough. Again, just a very human story. Tell us about that and about your interview with Andrew.
TODD NETTLETON: Well, Andrew is very honest. He’s honest in his book, God’s Hostage. And he was honest in our conversation on VOM radio. There were days in prison where he was worried he was losing his sanity. There were days in prison he was worried he was losing his faith. There were many days that he didn’t hear God’s voice. He didn’t feel God’s presence. And it’s interesting. One of the People that inspired him was Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. And somebody took some of Richard’s books to Andrew in prison. Andrew began to read. And I asked Andrew, “So you know, as you read these books, did you feel like you had found a kindred spirit?” And he said, “No, I wish that were the case.” He said, “I saw a hero. And I said, ‘God, why can’t I be like Richard Wurmbrand? Why are you silent when I’m in prison and you talk to him? But why was he joyful in prison, and I’m being destroyed by this? How could this go on?’” And so, he is just very, very honest about the choice. And he talks about it a lot in the book, “an act of the will—I choose to believe in God. I don’t feel his presence right now. He’s not doing what I want right now because I want him to get me out of prison, but I choose to believe, I choose to hang on to that.” I think there’s such a lot of truth there for American believers and believers everywhere. There are times in our faith walk where it is simply an act of the will. It’s not about our feelings. And he said, you know, he would talk to God about that. And he said, “Don’t pay attention to my feelings, God, look at my decision. Look at my actions. That’s what I want to be held accountable for. Because my feelings are not good. But I am choosing to be faithful. I am choosing to keep believing.”
JULIE ROYS: I think that actually is incredibly encouraging too. Because I know I can relate to that. I’m sure a lot of people listening right now can relate to that. Just recently, like a month and a half ago, I had published the story. And I thought it was a really important story—things that people needed to hear. And [I] just got a lot of backlash for it. You know? It’s one of those things where I’m used to that. But I was just like, “Really, Lord?”
I thought, “If You were in this, this would be more successful,” at times. And that’s, I think, how we often feel. And we forget that it’s tough sometimes. That it’s a struggle. That it’s a challenge. That it will just be difficult. And we think we’ll be on that mountaintop the whole time. And so, when you hear somebody just very, I mean, of course, what we endure, you know, I can’t even, it’s not even comprable to what Andrew Brunson went through. But yet I think those stories are so important for us to hear. And to hear that it’s okay to struggle. And it’s okay to wonder, “God, where are you in the midst of this? Why aren’t you rescuing me?” And so, I so appreciate that story. I’m wondering, how does Andrew feel now that he’s come back to the states? I mean, I can’t imagine going from one world where you’re suffering for your faith and you’re just trying to hang on. You come to the United States where there’s so much freedom but yet, he’s seeing in the church. I’m curious what his assessment is of the American church.
TODD NETTLETON: You know, he did not offer one. And I and I’m not sure he would. One of the things that he talked about is just the fact that that they’re wondering what’s next for them. Him and Norene had lived in Turkey for 23 years before he went to prison. They were actually in the process of applying for a permanent resident status. And they thought they were going to grow old and Turkey. And now obviously, that’s impossible. And so, he said, one of the things that they’re doing right now, one of the things they’re praying about is “Lord, we thought we were going to be Christian workers in Turkey until we died. We can’t do that. So what is it you want us to do? And one of the things he talked about in particularly is reaching young people with that passion and that understanding that sometimes it’s hard when you follow Jesus Christ. Sometimes it’s going to cost you something. But He is worth it. And so I you know, they’re praying about the future they’re thinking about, “Okay, Lord, what do You have for us?” But it wouldn’t shock me if at some point there is a real effort to get in front of young people, college students, high school students, and really challenge them to have that sold out whatever-may-come faith in Christ.
JULIE ROYS: And who can do that more than somebody who has that credibility? That’s there. He’s been there and how much are young people need to hear those stories need to be inspired? And really challenged to go all over the world? If people want to listen to that interview? Where do they go, Todd?
TODD NETTLETON: VOM radio.net VOM radio.net. And you can also just search for VOM radio in whatever podcast service you use.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. VOMradio.net. Friends, we have to go to break. But when we come back, there’s just so many more stories to talk about. A pastor kidnapped on the streets of Malaysia, what’s happening there? There’s also in Iran. The church is actually growing. It’s exploding in Iran, despite the fact that’s one of the most dangerous places to be a Christian. We’re going to talk about that when we come from break. I think you’re going to be incredibly encouraged. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. Joining me today Todd Nettleton, of Voice of the Martyrs. We will be right back after a short break.
ANNOUNCER: This is The Roys Report with Julie Roys.
JULIE ROYS: Christians are being persecuted all over the world. But next Sunday, November 3 Christians worldwide are invited to come together in solidarity to pray for the persecuted church. Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs is joining me with stories of what’s happening to Christians in countries like China, North Korea, Iran, places where professing Jesus Christ can actually get you killed. But before we dive back into that discussion, I want to talk just a second about some who have been persecuted or abused by the church. And this is a very hard topic to talk about it. But it is a reality that some have been abused by the church, have suffered spiritual abuse. And it’s happened recently, and in a week on November 2, I will be hosting a conference called Restore Chicago for those wounded by scandal or abuse or those simply who are passionate for the peace. purity of the church. Joining me will be Nancy Beach, a former teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church and one of several women who bravely confronted abuse by former pastor Bill Hybels. Also joining me will be Wade Mullen, an expert on spiritual abuse. RT Maldaner, a former pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel. And leading worship will be Josh Caterer and Anne Green two amazingly anointed worship leaders who themselves were hurt by a toxic church system. under former pastor James MacDonald It’s going to be an amazing one of a kind experience but you’ve got to hack now to register because time is running out to do that just go to RestoreChicagoConference.com.
Well returning to our topic about the persecuted church around the world again, Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs joining me and Todd, in this last segment, there’s a number of places I’d like to touch on. One of them being Malaysia where I understand a pastor was kidnapped off the streets more than two years ago. We still don’t know and we don’t know how he’s doing is that right?
TODD NETTLETON: We don’t know anything. He disappeared on February 13, 2017, has not been seen or heard from since. His car has never been found. The family of pastor Raymond Koh actually did, his children literally went door to door along his route. They uncovered security camera video that shows his abduction and a total of five vehicles, 13 men, the entire thing took less than 40 seconds. And this pastor disappeared and has never been seen since. We launched a website just about a week and a half ago ReleaseRaymond.com. And we’re asking our listeners, “Come and sign the petition there to ask the Malaysian government to explain what happened to pastor Raymond Koh.” He had been threatened to previously. He had continued his work. And he was abducted and disappeared. I had the chance to go and interview his wife Susanna in Asia earlier this year. And she is a woman of great faith. She talked about the pain of not knowing. I asked her, “What’s the worst thing?” And she said, “The worst thing is we don’t know. We don’t know if he’s alive or dead. We don’t know if he’s sick or well. We don’t know if he’s in prison or where he is. We don’t know. That’s the worst thing.” But then she went on to say, “But God has been faithful to us. God is encouraging us.” And one of the things she talked about, I don’t think I’ll ever forget, is the glory of Christian music. She said, “Sometimes I’m just so low. I just turn on worship music, and I just worship the Lord.” She also talked about the fact that God had really convicted her to forgive the men who took her husband. And the Human Rights Commission there in Malaysia has blamed this abduction on the intelligence police, what they call the Special Branch. Susanna has been to different hearings where those men have been present. And she said one day she went out to her car and she literally had to repent in tears. Because God said, “Hey, I don’t want you to hate those people. I don’t want you to be angry with those people. I want you to forgive them.” And so her testimony is just amazing of God’s faithfulness. But I want to encourage people ReleaseRaymond.com. The Malaysian government really needs to explain what happened to this pastor. What went on? Where is he? Is he alive or dead? The family deserves to know some answers.
JULIE ROYS: And how is the church doing now that their pastor has been abducted?
TODD NETTLETON: Well, one of the things, one of the blessings and sometimes we talk about the blessings that come out of persecution, one of the blessings that Susanna pointed to is a sense of unity in the Malaysian church that wasn’t there before. Churches have come together from across the spectrum. They have stood together to say, “Hey, you need to explain what happened to pastor Raymond Koh.” And so even in the midst of this, you can see if you kind of look behind the scenes, God is doing some good things. God is planting some seeds that are going to produce good fruit later. But boy, I would sure love to know and I know, I would love for Susanna to know what happened to her husband.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah, we’ll be praying for them. Raymond Koh and his wife, you say Susanna?
TODD NETTLETON: Susanna, yup.
JULIE ROYS: Let’s be praying for them and praying for their church. I can’t even imagine what that’s like. Let’s move from Malaysia over to India. I know, radical Hindu extremists. I mean, you don’t think of Hinduism as a religion and followers that normally persecute Christians. Yet that has become a reality in India, hasn’t it?
TODD NETTLETON: It has. And Prime Minister Modi ran as, “Hey, I’m the business guy, I can get things done.” One of the things that happened under his watch when he was a prevention leader is 10s of thousands of homes got electricity. And so, he was the guy who got things done. He got electricity to all those people. What he didn’t talk about, often, at least real publicly, was the Hindu nationalist philosophy that that he grew up under, and that drives his administration. They believe India is a Hindu nation. 100% of Indians should be Hindus. So, if you’re a Muslim, if you’re a Christian, you’re not really Indian. And you should either leave or you should change your religion. Modi got reelected earlier this year and since then, he has really set about to enact some of these Hindu nationalist philosophies. First in Kashmir, which had been autonomous Muslim area. They said “Nope, no more autonomy. You’re going to be Hindu. You’re going to be like the rest of India.” Then he did another thing against Bangladeshi immigrants. He said, “Listen, if you can’t prove that your family has been here for 50 years, you need to go back to Bangladesh.” Well, Bangladesh said, “We don’t want all those people.” There is a chance that they literally will be put into camps in West-eastern India. And so that’s against Muslims. But that same philosophy is driving his actions towards the church. And radical Hindus in India know, under Modi’s leadership, if they attack a pastor, if they attack a church, they will not be held accountable. There will not be a price to pay, even though India’s constitution says we have religious freedom.
JULIE ROYS: I just find that so bizarre. I mean, I see how the Hinduism and nationalism is married together. But I you know, we had good friends who weren’t neighbors of ours who were Hindu. And they had two daughters that used to play with my daughter all the time. And we invited them to church on Easter, and they came, and they actually wanted to go up for communion. Now, they couldn’t take communion at our church. The church we were attending at the time, this is many years ago, but you would just cross your hands in front of you if you just wanted prayer. And they all the whole family came up and got prayer. And it was interesting. We had a number of spiritual discussions with them. And, you know, they didn’t have a problem with Jesus, right? They just incorporated him into their thousands of other gods.
TODD NETTLETON: Right.
JULIE ROYS: And of course, the more challenging thing was it was saying, “Well, you know, Jesus is kind of exclusive. He said, ‘I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through me.’” And so, you know, that was kind of the rub with them. But they were more than more than willing to have spiritual discussions and, you know, even come to church with us and, and so I think it’s just odd to me, the way that’s taken a turn in India. But again, Satan can get in anything can t and just and just twist it. There’s an evangelist that was recently executed in India. Briefly, tell us about that story so we can be praying for the wife and the children left behind.
TODD NETTLETON: This was an evangelist that was working in a heavily communist area in India. And actually, in his case, was killed by communists, by Maoists in India, not by the Hindu nationalists, which is interesting. And I’m like you, you know, it seems like if you have a million gods, why does it bother you if I worship a different God. But they are bothered by it. But in this case, it was actually communists that killed this evangelist.
JULIE ROYS: Wow. Pressed on every side. I want to talk now about what’s happening in Iran. I interviewed Joel Richardson who He was part of this project to put together a video called Sheep Among Wolves, a documentary on what’s happening there. If you haven’t seen that friends, just go to JulieRoys.com. Under podcast, you can listen to that entire interview. Fascinating, fascinating story about how the church is just exploding in one of the most unlikely places of the world. And so much of the evangelism that’s happening is being spearheaded by women. So, Todd, tell me what you know about what’s going on in Iran?
TODD NETTLETON: Well, you know, I have had Iranian Christians tell me that Ayatollah Khomeini was the greatest Christian missionary in the history of Iran. And you kind of hear that and you say, “Well, wait a minute, how is that the case?” I told her Khomeini came in and said, “We’re going to set up our government according to Islamic principles. We are going to run things, exactly how Muhammad would have run them if he were in charge today.” Well, here we are now 40 years down the road, and the government is broken. There is corruption. The economy is in shambles. And the people look at that and say, “Well, wait a minute. If we’ve been doing it the Islamic way for 40 years, and this is where we ended up, Islam doesn’t work. It can’t solve our problems.” And so, I’ve heard numbers as high as 70% of Iranians, in their minds and in their hearts, have rejected Islam, they would say, “Islam does not work.” And so, there’s an amazing openness to the gospel, because they already don’t believe Islam, but they do have that one-god mindset and worldview. So, when Jesus reveals himself or when someone comes to them and says, “Let me tell you how Jesus changed my life,” they are ready to hear that message because they already don’t think Islam is true. You don’t have to debate with them. You don’t have to talk them out of believing in Islam. They don’t believe it. They do want something that is worth believing in, though. And so, Jesus provides an answer. That’s why the church is growing so rapidly.
JULIE ROYS: And I hear that the mosques are empty. They’re the only people that really embrace Islam are the elites who are often defrauding the people. So, it does. Wow, what an opportunity. And in the church, they’re so courageously taking it on. I mean, these people are risking their lives every time they share their faith, aren’t they Todd?
TODD NETTLETON: Every single time they are putting their lives at risk. And for women who are sharing their faith, they are risking sexual assault inside a police station, inside a prison. But they have counted the cost. And one of the Iranian Christians that I have interviewed several times, his house group, they actually role-play and practice being arrested and interrogated. Because they know that day is going to come. And so they literally practice to prepare themselves for it.
JULIE ROYS: Well, this reminds me of acts four when it talks about Peter and John going before the Sanhedrin and being threatened not to speak in the name of Jesus. And when they’re released, what do they do? This is what they pray. “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak Your word with great boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of Your Holy servant, Jesus.” And that’s exactly what you were saying, Todd. These Christians in the persecuted areas of the world are asking for our prayers. Not necessarily to be protected, but to be bold and to proclaim the word of Jesus Christ. So inspirational. Thank you so much, Todd Nettleton for joining me. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless.