Set Free’s pastor partner in Liberia was arrested, and a trial is scheduled for November 18, 2013. While the the trial is reviewing for the arrest and hostage situation that occurred, Pastor Dennis is fighting a larger spiritual battle. Christian persecution is widespread in Lofa County, Liberia. Specifically, there is no freedom of religion in Malawu. While Pastor Dennis and John were chained and imprisoned for two days, the Christians are still not allowed to return to their homes and village.
The “devil’s law” in Malawu essentially states that you cannot say the name of Christ. You cannot have a Bible. You cannot worship God. You cannot be a Christian.
Reaching the Unreached
God has called Set Free to reach the unreached, even when it’s difficult. Even when we face Christian persecution. For the thousands living in Lofa County, Liberia who have never heard the name of Jesus or are forbidden from worshiping God – our job is not done. We will not rest until all have heard. Please join us in praying for the safety of our pastor teams, but also that clean water will open the doors to change hardened hearts to feel God’s love for themselves. Pray that Christ will cast down Satan’s remainng strongholds in this spiritually dark area of the world.
Below is the article, directly as printed, from Liberia’s Daily Observer on October 22, 2013:
October 22, 2013
Two pastors ministering in Zorzor District, Lofa County, have finally been released after being held hostage by zoes for three days.
Pastors Dennis Aggrey and John Kucuyoiyoigee of the Christian Revival Church (CRC) were arrested by zoes around 2:30 p.m. Thursday, October 17. They had their feet chained with rusty bike-chains and tied to a stick, while under a shack. They were released at 4. p.m. Saturday, October 19.
The pastors were reportedly arrested for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Malawu Town, Zorzor District, described by some as a stronghold for practitioners of ‘African science.’
According to Pastor Aggrey, Malawu Town is at least an hour and 45-min walk on a bush path from where the motor road ends.
On Friday night, October 18, Centennial Radio (a station owned and operated by the Assemblies of God in Liberia) announced that two pastors were being held hostage by witch ‘doctors’ in Zorzor, Lofa County, on grounds that they were trespassing in ‘country devil’ territory.
When the Daily Observer contacted Minister of Internal Affairs (MIA) Morris Dukuly early Saturday morning, he said the pastors had established a church in the area, widely known to be a traditional bush stronghold. The MIA head told the Observer that the situation escalated after the two pastors began preaching to “youths” in the area that they could not serve two masters, meaning that they could not serve Christ and the ‘country devil’. Dukuly said the zoes angrily warned the pastors that if they persisted with this doctrine, they would be arrested and detained for four days.
The Minister added that recently, while preaching, some attendees attempted to shake hands with the pastors. When the pastors insisted that they touch the Holy Bible instead, they became angry. It was at that point that the zoes moved in, seized the cross from the church and arrested the men, tying them to a stick for three days.
Dukuly furthered that when the local authorities were made aware of the situation, they asked the zoes to release the men. The zoes reportedly refused. The MIA head said he then sent his Deputy Minister for Culture to resolve the situation, since the Minister himself was preparing to receive two presidents for an elders’ forum in Zwedru. The zoes reportedly also refused to negotiate with the Deputy for Culture.
The pastors, however, have given the Observer their version of the story.
According to Pastor Aggrey, his organization (CRC), a church planting ministry founded in Liberia in 1992, has been planting churches and community development projects in the area for five and a half years.
He explained that contrary to what the public is being led to believe, he approached the elders of the town in August of 2008 to express interest in building a church, and was warmly received by a most senior elder, who is now deceased, and was encouraged to build a church and carried out their development initiatives.
“People think we don’t want development but we do,” Aggrey recalls the elders saying. He said his organization went into the town, provided zinc for all of the houses there, gave the town animals to raise, built a church and a guest house.
According to Pastor Aggrey, following the death of the “friendly elder,” and by August of 2013 (two months ago) the church in that particular town had grown to roughly 80 adult members. That, he says, was when the trouble started. The elders came and informed them that no more meetings were to be held. Undeterred, the church continued to meet.
On August 28 while worshiping, Pastor Aggrey told the Daily Observer, they were informed that the ‘country devil’ was m0ving. As customary under those circumstances, the church and other homes close their doors and the church members and all others would be kept inside but the service would continue. It was on this particular day that seven men began to attack the church, carrying knives. They threw rocks, fired single-barrel guns and broke down the church door. Not long thereafter, local government officials seized the key to the church, seized the cross and locked the doors. Many were wounded in the process. The key to the church was then given to the zoes.
Pastor Aggrey said he then notified authorities and arranged for a meeting in Zorzor, which local officials did not attend. He added that he went so far as to write letters to seven national government officials including the Minister of Internal Affairs and lawmakers from the area. Receiving no response, the Christians in Zorzor decided to fast and pray. Word got around that they were planning to war against the elders.
Aware of the rumours, Pastor Aggrey said he and Pastor Kucuyoiyoigee alone made the journey to see the zoes to show that no war was being planned an to initiate dialogue. It was then, he said, that the elders told him that the Christians were becoming too numerous. Many had become church members and were no longer participating in traditional activities.
“People are laughing at us, saying that we sold our town for development,” Aggrey recalls the chief elder saying. Another complained that Christians get up at 5:30 a.m. to pray, which is also the time he normally has intercourse with his wife.
Unperturbed, Aggrey told the elders that his church was in the area to stay.
It was after that declaration last Thursday, October 17, that those able-bodied men seized and chained them by their feet to sticks, using a rusty motorbike chain and four-inch nails. Aggrey said he submitted the names of the perpetrators to authorities but that no arrests have been or are being made.
Comparing the power of zoes in Liberia to Sharia law, the pastors told the Daily Observer they feel authorities (local and national), all being society members themselves, are only paying lip service to the situation, but that no action is being taken. It seems, they asserted, that the Government of Liberia has no jurisdiction over society bushes or their activities.
“We expect them to enforce the laws they swore to uphold,” Pastor Aggrey told this paper after it ran the interview with ELWA Monday morning. “Because they seek power from these people, these people take authority over them. If no arrests are made, they will keep disrupting not just the things of God, but development in the country,” he asserted.
Asked whether this is a defining moment for the church since so many churchgoers are society members, Aggrey reiterated his stance. “We cannot serve two masters. We even have pastors who are [actively] Poro; but they are short-circuiting the power of God in the church.”
Meanwhile, four more evangelists have been arrested and given the same treatment, which church members have been chased out of Malawu and are homeless in other towns and villages. This time, the elders have named a ransom of L$36,000 (US$450) for the hostages’ release.