Praying for the Persecuted Church

Each week we will tell the story of believers being persecuted for their faith.  Please include the people in this story, along with persecuted people around the world, in your prayers.

12 October 2017

Last month suspected Hindu radicals attacked an Assembly of God church in India's Karnataka state. After the attack, church attendance has plummeted as Christians in the area fear another attack.

It is not surprising that attacks are increasing in Karnataka as state elections are scheduled to occur early next year. Hindu hardline groups want to silence Christians and ensure that they are unable to practice their faith.

On the evening of 17 September, the attackers broke into the church through the roof and proceeded to burn church furniture and Christian literature. Pastor Naga Raja told International Christian Concern, "I have lost everything that was in the church. They burnt Bibles, Gospel literature, song books, and DVDs that were stocked in the church. They have even destroyed the church furniture and took away the PA system including speakers... ¦and carpets."

A First Incident Report (FIR) was registered at a local police station in Karnataka, but as of 9 October the culprits have still not been identified.

After the attack, church attendance dropped significantly. "On [a] normal Sunday, more than 100 Christians worshipped in my church," said Pastor Naga Raja, "but on the 24 [of] September 2017, not even 20 were at the church for worship. This is because they are terrified of the attack on the church."

Such attacks are not new in Karnataka. A similar attack occurred on 26 January. Pastor Basanna was brutally attacked by Hindu radicals who also burned his church's Bibles, furniture, and building.

In spite of India's constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, Christians continue to face threats and attacks. Christians often cannot exercise their freedom of religion, due to fear of being attacked.

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Pray that India's government will seek justice for persecuted religious minorities and begin protecting the rights of all, regardless of their religious affiliation.
  • Pray Pastor Naga Raja may bring encouragement to the congregation to help them to overcome the ordeal and return to church to worship the Lord and learn from His word.
  • Pray this incident may be used by the Lord to strengthen the faith of believers and make them ever reliant on Him.

 

INDIA: Violence Against Christians Increases

5 October 2017

VIETNAM: Pray for Christians Expelled from their Town

A group of Christians in central Vietnam have lost their homes and farmland because of their faith in Christ, but they remain faithful to the Lord.

Several families in the Central Highlands, including some former Communist Party members, have become Christians over the past few years through the witness of a VOM-supported evangelist. The new believers experienced ongoing harassment as a result; their coffee crops were destroyed; their livestock were killed and their food was stolen.

In 2015, local officials used a backhoe to push the believers' homes into a river, and the Christians were forced to relocate to another area and live in tents. The evangelist continues to visit them to provide encouragement. Though their new land was ill suited to farming, today it is thriving because of their hard work. "Even though they live in a difficult area, they go out to do evangelism," the evangelist said.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Thank the Lord for the evangelist who brought the Gospel to these families.
  • Praise God for their faithfulness and perseverance. Pray He will use them as a strong witness for the Gospel.
  • Thank the Lord for His provision and pray He will continue to meet their needs.

 

14 September 2017

KENYA: Residents Call for Enhanced Security

Residents of Lamu County held protests on 6 and 7 September demanding enhanced security measures after four men were beheaded and several houses raided by suspected members of the Somali Islamist terror group, al Shabaab.

Residents were reportedly angered by police inaction after reporting the presence of suspicious men near Silini-Mashambani village on 5 September. The police reportedly failed to investigate the initial sighting, and later that day a woodcutter working in the nearby forest was killed by a heavily armed group who are suspected to have been members of al Shabaab.

Bobo village was subsequently attacked by an armed group at 1.30am on 6 September. Residents claim they called the police, but the majority of calls went unanswered. The few who were able to reach the police were informed that there were not enough officers available to respond to the attack.

The armed men reportedly called out residents by name, surrounding the village and preventing inhabitants from fleeing.

One resident informed Kenyan media that the attackers were not afraid of being caught: "They were taking their time. When they spoke, they didn't do it in hushed tones as someone afraid of being heard would. They spoke in normal tones. They ransacked houses and took what they wanted before killing."

Similar raids were perpetrated by al Shabaab on 18 August on Maleli Village. where at least three men were beheaded, and on 7 July on Jima and Pandanguo, where nine men were killed. These attacks occurred a matter of days after three police officers were killed in another nearby village.

As a result of the deteriorating security situation in the coastal region, a dusk to dawn curfew imposed in Lamu, Garissa, and Tana River counties following the attacks on 7 July will be in place at least until October.

Al Shabaab is reported to have set up permanent training bases in the Boni forest in mid-2012. The dense forest extends to the Somali border, and from it al Shabaab has launched attacks into the three counties. Although the area is now surrounded by three army bases, it appears the terrorists are still able to operate in defiance of the curfew.

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

  • Commit to the Lord the families of those who were slain, pray they may experience His presence during this time of suffering and grief. Pray they will receive support and love from their friends and community.
  • Ask the Lord to give the believers courage to stand firm in their faith and trust in Him above all things.
  • Pray for strength and wisdom for Kenyan authorities. May they do more to protect vulnerable communities and bring perpetrators to justice. Pray for the members of al Shabaab.

 

7 September 2017

PAKISTAN: Christian Teenager Killed at School

A highly academic Christian teenager has been killed in his classroom in Pakistan.

Sharoon Masih from the Vehari District in the Punjab is said to have suffered years of institutional peer bullying and discrimination because of his faith.

Coming from a poor background, his parents saved up to pay for his education at MC Model Boys Government High School Burewala and District Vehari.

The only Christian in his class, Sharoon was regularly called derogatory names and threatened. He died in the classroom after reportedly being attacked by a mob.

The school's head teacher has since been dismissed, and the prime suspect has been arrested.

Speaking to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), his mother Razia Bibi, said: "My son was a kind-hearted, hard-working and affable boy. He has always been loved by teachers and pupils alike and shared great sorrow that he was being targeted by students at his new school because of his faith.

"Sharoon and I cried every night as he described the daily torture he was subjected to. He only told me about the abuse and violence he was facing. He did not want to upset his father because he had such a caring heart for others." The BPCA is now offering financial assistance to Sharoon's family.

Sources: Premier, International Christian Concern

  • Thank the Lord for the extraordinary faithfulness of this young man who stood firm in his faith, though faced with lengthy opposition. Pray the Lord will use his testimony to strengthen the faith of other Christians in Pakistan.
  • Pray the family will be comforted by our Lord, may they take heart in the knowledge Sharoon is now with Him.
  • Pray for justice for this family. Pray the church throughout Pakistan may be strengthened by God.

 

24 August 2017

KENYA: Three Killed in al-Shabaab Attack

At least three men were beheaded and several houses torched on 18 August during an early morning raid on a village on the northern coast of Kenya by members of the Somali Islamist terror group, al-Shabaab.

The gunmen reportedly struck Maleli Village in Lamu County at around 12.30am on 18 August, targeting men but sparing women and children.  While villagers put the number killed in the raid at four, a local official has informed Kenyan media that three people died.

Similar overnight raids were perpetrated by al-Shabaab on 7 July on Jima and Pandanguo villages, located near Maleli, in which nine men were beheaded. According to survivors, the militants only targeted non-Muslim men. Some villagers also claimed they had informed police that al-Shabaab were in the area, but no action had been taken. These attacks occurred a matter of days after three police officers were killed in another nearby village.

A dusk to dawn curfew that was imposed in Lamu, Garissa and Tana River counties following the attacks on 7 July will now be in place for the next three months. Security forces are reported to be pursuing the assailants, who are believed to have hideouts and training grounds in the dense Boni Forest, which extends to the Somali border, and from where al-Shabaab has launched attacks into the three counties.

Al-Shabaab is reported to have set up permanent training bases in the Boni forest in mid-2012. Although their area is now surrounded by three army bases, according to a member of the local community, the group continues to cause "untold suffering" and is "having a field day" inside the forest without any fear of the soldiers and the police.

Since May, the terrorist group has ramped up attacks on Kenya. Over 50 people have been killed in ambushes or by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Garissa, Mandera, and Lamu, with many more injured. Several have also been abducted.

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

  • Commit to the Lord the grieving families of those who were slain. Ask God to help them during their time of suffering. May they feel the Lord's ministering presence and be comforted.
  • Pray for the police, military and all those in authority who are trying to protect civilians, liberate captives and stop the violence.
  • Pray for the members of al-Shabbab, may the Lord have mercy on them. Ask the Holy Spirit to be at work, replacing hearts of stone with hearts of flesh; bringing true conviction, repentance and salvation.

 

17 August 2017

ERITREA: Christian Mother Dies in Prison

Fikadu Debesay, who was detained with her husband in May during raids targeting Evangelical Christians in Adi Quala town, Eritrea, has died in incarceration.

The mother of three reportedly died last week in Metkel Abiet, a desert camp situated between the towns of Gahtelai and Shieb in the Northern Red Sea Region, and was buried on 10 August in Mendefera. While the cause of her death is as yet unknown, the camp where she was detained is situated in an area known for its oppressive heat and aridity.

A campaign of house to house raids targeting members of non-sanctioned churches was initiated in several towns in May this year. This marks a significant intensification of a crackdown that has been ongoing since May 2002, when the Eritrean government effectively outlawed religious practices not affiliated with the Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox Christian denominations or Sunni Islam.

Arrests are occurring monthly. During the first week of August, 23 Christians were rounded up in the capital city, Asmara. In July, 16 female national service conscripts in their late teens were taken from their place of assignment in Adi Halo, a village 30km from Asmara, and detained in Metkel Abiet camp. Other Christians and family members who attempted to visit them were also imprisoned. The detainees' hair was forcibly shaved off in what local sources describe as an additional "sign of humiliation" in a society where a woman's hair is regarded as a sign of decency and sanity.

In an indication of the harshness of prison conditions, a woman who had been detained after being arrested at her home in Nefasit in early June is reported to have become mentally ill.

The number of Christians known to have been detained in desert camps and military facilities since May has now risen to 210. Most were detained following raids on their homes, while a few were arrested at prayer meetings. Like Fikadu Debesay, several are parents, and according to local sources, over 50 children are currently without one or both parents as a result of these raids.

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

  • Commit to the Lord Fikadu Debesay's husband and children. May they experience the Lord's ministering presence and may they be comforted in the knowledge that their loved one is now with Him.
  • Pray the Lord will strengthen and sustain Eritrean prisoners. Pray they will trust in God during this difficult time. Pray for their release.
  • Ask God to bring change to the hearts of those in authority. Pray for conviction, true repentance and an understanding of the Gospel.

 

10 August 2017

TAJIKISTAN: Pastor Imprisoned for Three-Year Term

In early July, Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov was sentenced to three years' imprisonment by the Khujand City Court in Tajikistan's Sogd Region for allegedly "singing extremist songs in church and inciting religious hatred". Officials have threatened the pastor's family, friends and church members with reprisals if they reveal any details of his case, trial or imprisonment.

The 42-year-old pastor of Sunmin Sunbogym (Full Gospel) Protestant Church was first held in custody by the National Security Committee (NSC) secret police after he was arrested in April. While on trial, Pastor Bakhrom had been detained at a police detention center. However, he was more recently moved to an unknown prison.

The NSC secret police, together with the State Committee for Religious Affairs and other law-enforcement agencies, initially raided the church's affiliated congregations in Sogd Region in early February. Officials then closed down a church in the town of Konibodom in March after interrogating its members. In addition, the NSC officers pressured employers into firing these Christians from their jobs.

After Pastor Bakhrom's arrest in April, the Khujand church was also raided, and congregation members were harassed and beaten. Yet, there have been no arrests or trials of the officials who carried out the beatings, contrary to Tajikistan's binding international human rights law obligations under the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment/Punishment.

In defiance of its international human rights obligations, Tajikistan severely restricts its citizens' rights to freedom of religion or belief. Additionally, authorities impose this ban without state permission. Due to the raids, interrogation and harassment, a large group of believers have also stopped attending church, as they are concerned about the possibility of arrest.

Source: Forum 18 News Service

  • Pray that Pastor Bakhrom and his family will continue to draw strength from our Almighty God, who alone is able to truly save and deliver (Psalm 34:17).
  • Uphold all the members of our Christian family in Tajikistan, asking the Lord to intervene on behalf of His persecuted people. Pray there will be opportunities to meet.
  • Pray for the officials involved; ask that their hearts will be turned toward Christ through the living witness of these believers.

 

3 August 2017

CHINA: Imprisoned Chinese Pastor is "Barely Alive"

Pastor Zhang Shaojie of the Nanle Country Christian Church, in the Henan Province, is "barely alive" after suffering various forms of torture in prison, according to reports from his daughter. He is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence which officially began in 2014.

His daughter Esther expresses concern that Pastor Zhang is suffering both mentally and physically as a result of meagre food rations and sleep deprivation. When his sister, Zhang Cuixia, visited on 7 July, she testified that her brother appeared fragile and was not allowed to discuss events outside of the prison.

According to his sister, he looks "like a bag of bones", with dark discoloration encircling his eyes.

During the sister's visit, government agents monitored her conversation with Pastor Zhang, limiting it to only talk about family members and praise of new policies under Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping. The siblings decided to subvert these restrictions, speaking of life inside and outside the prison, using their facial expressions to communicate the opposite.

In December 2013, church members, lawyers and Christians visiting the family of detained Pastor Zhang were beaten, harassed and detained themselves by "hired thugs" who work for police and government agencies.

Sources: China Aid, Christian Solidarity Worldwide

  • Pray that Pastor Zhang be greatly strengthened and renewed ─ spiritually, emotionally and physically, as he awaits release (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).
  • Pray for his family, that they would receive ongoing strength and encouragement from the Lord.
  • Ask the Lord to help the many other Christians in China who are suffering for their faith; may they stand firm and testify of His greatness so many more will come to know Him.

27 July 2017

KENYA: Al-Shabaab Militants Kill Seven Christian Men

Al-Shabaab militants have led a series of attacks in Kenya's Lamu County. Between 5 and 8 July, militants raided three villages, Pandanguo, Jima, and Poromoko, killing three police officers as well as seven Christian men: Said Mbigo, Matei Mlatia, Peter Mburu, Teresio Munyi, Mwangangi Muneni, Katana Karisa Chai, and Musyoka Maithya.

On 5 July, over 200 militants raided Pandanguo village in Lamu County, killing three police officers posted at the Pandanguo police station, looting homes and the local dispensary. On 8 July, 15 of the militants returned and attacked the nearby villages of Jima and Poromoko.

According to locals, the militants went door to door in Jima and Poromoko, killing seven Christian men.

Schools in the three villages were closed and Christian families have evacuated to a church in Witu town.

The attackers have been targeting Christians living in Lamu County especially farmers in the interior areas where small-scale agriculture thrives, Pastor Henry Divayo, head pastor of the church in Witu town, told International Christian Concern.

[The militants in Jima] were asking the villagers to produce their identification cards and if you were found to be a Christian you would be shot or slaughtered.

Victims have been evacuated to camps where food and security is provided by [the] government and the Kenya Red Cross, Divayo said. We are hosting more than 200 people in our church and we expect the number to increase as more families are evacuated from Boni Forest.

The government has been in the forefront in giving security to churches but a lot more needs to be done, Divayo continued. We need more well-equipped police officers in churches, schools and hospitals.

Since 2011, Kenya has been aiding the fight against al-Shabaab in Somalia. In retaliation, al-Shabaab and its supporters have targeted Christians across the border in Kenya. On 5 July 2014, al-Shabaab attacked a Hindi village in Lamu which left nine dead. Militants also attacked Garrisa University on 2 April 2015, where 148 Christian students were killed. On 12 June 2016, the Islamic terrorists attacked Mpeketoni, Lamu County, killing 48 who couldn't recite Koranic verses.

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Commit to the Lord the families of the police officers and the Christian men who lost their lives. Pray the Lord's ministering Spirit will bring strength, comfort and provision.
  • Pray those who have had to flee their homes will be able to return soon in safety.
  • Pray this recent tragedy will be used by the Lord to spread His message of salvation throughout Kenya and beyond.

 

20 July 2017

UGANDA: Pray for Rebecca, Kicked Out of Her Home

A 23-year-old Ugandan woman was thrown out of her home by her family recently because of her new Christian faith.

Rebecca came to faith in Christ after being healed of an illness. Her family had invited imams to pray, taken her to local shamans and even taken her to a hospital, but nothing had worked. Finally, a visiting Christian evangelist prayed for Rebecca and she recovered from her illness.

Her family and clan rejected and threatened her because of her conversion to Christianity, and her brother eventually threw her out of the house. Rebecca is now living with a local pastor and his wife, who are teaching her about the Christian faith. She is concerned about what may happen when her father, a soldier, returns from military deployment.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Praise the Lord for Rebecca's faithfulness. Thank Him too for the provision of a place to stay and the opportunity to grow in knowledge and understanding of the Gospel.
  • Pray the Lord's protection will be upon Rebecca and those who are caring for her. Ask the Lord to have mercy on Rebecca's family members so they too may come to know Jesus as saviour.
  • Praise God for the way He is making himself known amongst the Muslim people of Uganda.

 

7 June 2017

EGYPT: Christians Standing Strong

After last Friday's bus attack on Coptic Christians in Minya, Egypt, which claimed 29 lives, Dr. Michael Youssef says the church there is standing stronger than ever before.

Following the fourth major ISIS attack against the Coptic Christian community in just six months, Leading The Way's Founder and President says Christians there continue to grow in their passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the face of rising persecution.

"There were two million more Christians in churches on Easter and Good Friday than the previous year," Dr. Youssef said during an interview at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians, "and this is the message they wanted to communicate to the terrorists:'Kill us all, and that's fine by us. We are not afraid of you.'"

Dr. Youssef added: "This is the one thing I think so many Christians in the West don't understand "that persecution strengthens and makes believers more passionate about their faith than easy Christianity."

Source: Assist News Service

  • Praise God for strengthening His children in Egypt and thank Him for growing the church.
  • Pray the witness of His children will continue to be used by the Lord to bring even more people to the Lord Jesus.
  • Ask the Lord to comfort those who have experienced loss and are in mourning; may they learn to rely all the more on Him for His strength and ministering presence.

 

3 May 2017

INDIA: ‘Alarming Rise’ in Attacks on Christians

Attacks against Christians in India have been rising at an alarming rate, according to a new report.

The All India Christian Council (AICC) recorded an increase of almost 20 per cent in attacks against Christians in 2016 alone. It says physical violence against Christians is up 40 per cent and murders have doubled.

In the report titled ‘Atrocities on Christians in India’ it stated there is an attack every 40 hours and is no longer confined to a few states as the violence has now spread to 23 states.

Incidents of church workers being beaten, threatened and killed as well as churches and Christian schools being bombed, torched, vandalised and demolished are all included in the report. It also says there have been attempts to force Christians to renounce their faith and convert to Hinduism.

Right-wing Hindu nationalism has been gaining ground, particularly since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power in 2014.

India’s caste system today goes beyond Hinduism as it exists in many of the country’s religions. Dalit Hindus who convert to Christianity are called Dalit Christians in Indian society are classed as untouchables, are often oppressed and fall outside the Indian caste system.

Sources: International Christian Concern, Premier

  • Pray the Lord will equip His children in India with courage, to continue to serve Him even though they experience great opposition.
  • Pray the church will exemplify the love of God through consistent love and prayer for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:43-48).
  • Pray for those who currently oppose the Gospel in India, may the witness of the church be used by the Lord to open hearts and minds to the truth and the power of the Gospel.

 

3 May 2017

NIGER: Pray for Christina as She Witnesses to Muslims

After attending a VOM-led training session with her husband, ‘Christina Saleh’ has begun to meet with women in four villages, teaching Christians and witnessing to Muslims.

Before attending the training session, Christina had been afraid to openly share the Gospel. Muslim women had frightened her by showing her the graves of missionaries, and some vendors in the local market had stopped accepting her money when they learned she was a believer. But Christina gained encouragement from sessions on evangelism and church planting, and she praises God for the new method of sharing the Gospel that she learned during the training.

The training session, which included more than 100 pastors and evangelists along with their wives, offered courses in Bible storytelling, church planting and worship with traditional instruments, among other topics.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Thank the Lord for the opportunity Christina had to attend the training session. Pray for all others who attended, may they experience a similar boldness.
  • Pray the Lord’s favor will be upon Christina and other evangelists and teachers in Niger, may they receive many opportunities to boldly share the Gospel and may they rejoice as they see the Holy Spirit at work.
  • Pray the local church will grow in love for one another and faithfulness to the Lord.

 

 

26 April 2017

KAZAKHSTAN: Fined for Easter Worship

Police raided at least two Baptist meetings for worship on Easter Sunday, in the central city of Temirtau and the southern city of Taraz.

Officers issued four summary fines totaling about nine months’ average wages with no court hearings. Such fines for meeting for worship are increasing, Baptists complained to Forum 18.

In a separate case, a court in the southern city of Almaty has banned a Protestant church from meeting for three months.

The court also fined the church for holding a meeting for worship in a place other than its registered address. An Indian citizen associated with the church is appealing against a fine and deportation order.

An official of Almaty’s Religious Affairs Department, Karshyga Malik, said on 24 April that the administrative cases against the church and the Indian citizen were among 33 it had launched since the beginning of 2017. The cases were to punish those who meet without state permission, meet in places without state permission, distribute religious literature without state permission or talk to others of their faith without state permission.

Police raids on congregations of the Council of Churches Baptists are frequent. They choose to meet for worship without seeking state registration.

Source: Forum 18 News Service

  • Pray these Christians will be emboldened to continue to follow the Lord and encourage one another in the faith. Pray for opportunities to meet.
  • Commit to the Lord those who have been fined and the Indian citizen facing deportation.
  • Ask the Lord to give wisdom to church leaders when dealing with authorities.

 

19 April 17

NIGERIA: Three Years of Agony for Chibok Parents

For the families of the 195 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped from their dormitories three years ago, grief and despair have been compounded by fear, as the perpetrators of their agony continue to terrorize their town and carry out further abductions with impunity.

Since Boko Haram jihadists abducted 276 girls from their secondary school in the town of Chibok, in the north-eastern state of Borno, 23 parents have now died of heart disease while many continue to battle stress-related conditions.

While 81 of the girls have escaped or been rescued, it is believed that their captors, who initially boasted that they would sell them as slaves, have decided to hold on to their victims after realising how valuable their high profile has made them. As a result, more than two thirds of the girls are still missing.

UNICEF has just reported a sharp rise in the number of children forced to carry out suicide attacks, up from 30 last year to 27 in the first three months of 2017.

The agency added that Boko Haram’s abduction of children, of which the Chibok girls are the best-known example, is “systematic” and is “fuelling” its insurgency in the Lake Chad region. The kidnapped girls are typically forced into early marriage and sexual slavery. One Chibok girl who escaped last May said six of the remaining captives had died. UNICEF also voiced concern at the prolonged detention of 1,499 children after their rescue last year, when they were held while the authorities investigated them for jihadist sympathies.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, pledged to bring the girls home but have met with little success, partly due to a weak and mistrusted army.

A spokeswoman for the charity Open Doors, who visited Chibok last week, said some parents now hoped their children were dead, rather than having to endure captivity at the hands of Boko Haram.

“For three long years, the parents have waited, hoped and prayed for answers about their daughters,” she said. “There has been maddening speculation about their daughters’ fate. Death is not the worst thing they fear. Some days they hope their daughters have entered the presence of Jesus, rather than face one more day at the hands of brutal men who consider abuse of women their just reward and privilege for fighting what they believe to be Allah’s battle.”

Yakubu Nkeki Maina, a representative of the Chibok parents and whose 18-year-old daughter, Maimuna was kidnapped said, “We feel deceived by the government. Promises are made publicly but nothing is done to make this promise a reality. We are subjected to sleepless nights and pain (in our) hearts, which increases by the day. We feel cheated. It seems that we cannot count on the government. We look up to God, who is able to come to our rescue.”

The release of 21 girls last October briefly gave hope to the Chibok families and to Christians across north-east Nigeria, who have been terrorised by Boko Haram for almost eight years. However, the girls have been detained since their release and allowed to see their parents only a handful of times.

Residents of Chibok are still fearful because Boko Haram has recently attacked nearby towns, and scores of families have been displaced to Mbalala, three miles from Chibok. There is a heavy military presence in Chibok, and three of the town’s 13 schools have partially reopened. Parents are terrified of sending their children back to school in case Boko Haram strikes again, and church activities are carried out under heavy security

Source: World Watch Monitor, Assist News Service

  • Ask the Lord to have mercy on these families and the many others whose loved ones are missing at the hands of militants. Pray for news, ask for families to be reunited.
  • Pray for action from the government. May they be unified, strong and with God’s leading, liberate the captives, secure communities and bring perpetrators to justice. Pray they may be wise in dealing with victims who have been released.
  • May so much suffering not be in vain, ask the Lord to bring good from evil.

 

13 April 17

EGYPT: Palm Sunday Turns into a Bloody Massacre

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in Egypt targeting Coptic churches. The first bombing in the town of Tanta and the second in Alexandra has claimed the lives of 44 people and has injured 126 to date.

Our contact in Cairo spoke with Christians who were present at one of the bombings.  They told him that “Celebration of Palm Sunday had turned into bloody Palm Sunday.” Local believers were stunned by the event of these bombings and have asked for their fellow Christians throughout the world to pray fervently.

Source: VOM Contacts

  • Pray the Lord will bring comfort and hope to the grieving; healing to the injured and strength to those who are traumatised.
  • Pray the Lord will grant wisdom to the Egyptian government as they attempt to bring all who are responsible to justice and ensure protection of the Christian community. Pray for upcoming Easter services.
  • Pray this incident may be used by the Lord to strengthen the church in Egypt. Pray they will seek to respond during this difficult time in a Christ-like manner.
 

6 April 2017

EGYPT: Churches Provide Homes for Coptic Christians

Some 48 families have received apartments in Mostaqbal City, Ismailia governorate, according to Father Youssef Shoukry, the pastor of Saint Bishoy Coptic Orthodox Church in Ismailia, who is in charge of the welfare of Coptic Christian families that fled systematic attacks by terrorists in al-Arish, North Sinai.

The Social Solidarity Ministry and the relevant ministries in Ismailia provided this fully-furnished accommodation. Any families residing in camps were a priority, Shoukry added.

In a statement on Saturday, Shoukry said 120 more apartments will be given to displaced families over the next few days. Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Wali said 72 other apartments will be delivered within a week, after they have been completely furnished. The Social Solidarity Ministry received four housing blocks from the Housing Ministry to accommodate the displaced Copts, until the situation in Arish calms down.

The Long Live Egypt Fund (Tahya Misr) has allocated five million Egyptian Pounds ($365,803) to support the displaced families from North Sinai, due to terrorist operations that target civilians.

The Social Solidarity Directorate in North Sinai says hundreds of Coptic Christian families have fled from Arish city for 13 different governorates. Coptic Christians started leaving the city late last month after Islamic State-affiliated militants threatened to kill them if they stayed in the city.

Seven Copts were killed by extremists in Arish in less than three weeks, including two people who were burned to death. The incidents sparked panic among Coptic families residing in the city and prompted them to move to other provinces, mainly Ismailia.

The killings came days after Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate, which is based in the Sinai Peninsula, vowed to step up attacks against the embattled Christian minority.

The IS group published a video threatening Egyptian Christians and showing the last statement of a man it said was responsible for the deadly bombing of a Coptic cathedral in Cairo in December.

Sources: International Christian Concern, Egypt Independent

  • Pray for God’s wisdom to be with the church members as they serve and care for the Christian families fleeing Arish.
  • Pray for the many more families who remain without a home. Ask for the Lord’s protection and provision.
  • Pray that fleeing families will continue to look to God as they settle into these new homes.

 

30 March 2017

ERITREA: Christian Women Die Following Hunger Strike

Two Pentecostal Christians are reported to have died in Eritrea on 17 March, days after being transferred to a hospital from detention, where they had been on hunger strike.

According to the Eritrean website Erimedrek News, the two women, who were detained in Wi’a military camp, were transported to Massawa Hospital in critical condition on 12 March. They had embarked on a hunger strike in protest at the abuse they were receiving in detention, and their bodies were allegedly marked with bruising consistent with sexual abuse.

Once at the hospital, the women were reportedly kept in isolation and guarded in shifts by security personnel. Following their deaths, military commanders confiscated their medical cards.

Reports have also emerged of the arrests of a significant number of Christians on Christmas Eve 2016 in the capital city Asmara, after they had been caught praying. They were allegedly transported barefoot to an unknown location.

The Eritrean government is one of the most repressive in the world. Thousands of prisoners of conscience are detained arbitrarily for indefinite periods of time in unsatisfactory facilities where conditions are life threatening and torture is rife. A campaign of arrests targeting selected religious communities has been ongoing since 2002, when the government effectively outlawed all practices not affiliated with the Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran or Orthodox Christian denominations and Sunni Islam.

In its June 2016 report, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea (COIE) found “reasonable grounds to believe” that crimes against humanity have been committed by state officials in a “widespread and systematic manner” since 1991, including the crimes of persecution against religious groups, and rape, repeated rape, and gang rape by detention officials.

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

  • Pray for those grieving the loss of these two women. May they take comfort in the knowledge they are now safe with the Lord, without pain, sorrow or fear.
  • May the deaths of these two Christian women not be in vain but may be used by the Lord to highlight evil practices within the prison system and bring change. Pray He will release the captives in Eritrea.
  • Pray for wisdom for church leaders as they strive to carry out the Great Commission in this repressive nation.

 

30 March 2017

IRAN: Prisoners Needing Prayer

  The health of Iranian Christian convert, Maryam Naghash Zargaran, continues to decline. It was reported that over the past week her condition worsened and she is again in need of urgent medical care. According to a prison mate, Zargaran is also suffering from severe weight loss. The stressful conditions in prison have exacerbated a congenital heart condition, which can reduce the blood’s oxygen levels.

Zargaran, accused of running a house church, was imprisoned in the women’s ward of Evin Detention Centre, Tehran, in 2013. She has been on hunger strike several times to protest against being denied medical treatment for long-standing health issues. Her sentence was extended to make up for time receiving treatment outside prison. Last year her family said that prison conditions and the pressure of her pending court case had traumatised her and left her suffering with depression.

Another imprisoned Christian convert recently heard from the Iranian Court of Appeal that his five-year sentence has been upheld. The decision over Ebrahim Firouzi’s case – made in December 2016 but only just revealed – means he will not be released until January 2020. After release he will be exiled to Sarbaz, a deprived township in Sistan-Baluchestan.

Firouzi’s requests for special leave during his imprisonment have always been turned down. In the past, he has asked for leave to see his mother, who has had cancer for the past year, and whose poor health has left her unable to visit her son in prison. In July 2016, she sent a video message to court officials saying she believed the stress of not seeing him was the major cause of her cancer.

Firouzi, was arrested in March 2013, aged 28 (he’d already spent 10 months in prison on a previous charge). In June 2013, he was charged with “promoting Christian Zionism, attempting to launch a Christian website, making contact with suspicious foreigners, and running online church services”. His sentence for the 2013 arrest was first just one year with two years exiled to Sarbaz. However, when he should have been released in January 2015, a new case was opened against him – which he eventually started to serve time for in April 2015. At present, he barely has access to a mobile phone.

Sources: Mohabat News, World Watch Monitor

  • The Lord’s mercies are new each morning ─ ask Him to provide Maryam, Ebrahim the physical, emotional and spiritual strength they need each day. Commit to the Lord their families especially Ebrahim’s mother.
  • Pray the authorities will show kindness and mercy to Maryam, Ebrahim and other prisoners. Ask the Lord to provide His protection to them. Pray for their release.
  • Ask the Lord to strengthen the resolve of His children in Iran to love, serve and follow Him even through great trials and suffering. Pray He will pour out His Spirit and grow His church throughout this nation.
 

2 March 2017

INDIA: Village Passes Resolution Banning Non-Hindu Faiths

 A village council in Benje village, located in India’s Chhattisgarh state, passed a resolution on 6 February 2017, banning the practice of non-Hindu faiths, essentially deeming Christianity illegal. This resolution was passed despite a decision by the High Court of Chhattisgarh overturning similar resolutions.

A local newspaper in Benje, the Patrika, reported the news about the resolution, while also noting that local Hindu nationalist groups arranged for neighboring villages to pass similar resolutions. According to ICC sources, there is only one Christian family in the village Benje. A Christian leader, who wished to remain anonymous, contends, “The magnitude of [the] immediate effect might be small, but the resolution will have huge consequences for the future as no one will be able [to] preach or practice Christianity in the area.”

These resolutions banning the practice of non-Hindu faiths started in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh in June 2014. Then, more than 50 villages in Bastar passed resolutions which banned all non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers, and speeches in the villages. The institution of these bans led to a spree of physical violence and social boycotts against Christians in the district.

Christians, represented by Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF), filed a petition in the High Court of Chhattisgarh challenging the bans’ constitutional validity under Article 25 of India’s constitution which states, “All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.” In January 2016, the High Court overturned the bans.

Dr Arun Pannalal, a Christian activist and the president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, told ICC, “Even though Chhattisgarh’s High Court invalidated the resolutions last year, the resolutions continue to spread to other districts like Balod, Kondagaon and Kankher.”

He added, “There has been [a] shift from the traditional way of [persecution] from individual cases of harassment to institutional terrorism that denies poor Christians their basic right to live on par with others. There is not much we can do except fight in the courts.”

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Pray to the Lord who is above any laws of men to overrule and to strengthen and grow His church in India.
  • Ask for His protection to be upon the Christians who live in the villages affected.
  • Pray for church leaders, grant them wisdom to know how best to encourage their congregations. Pray the Lord will grant courage and spiritual maturity to His children throughout India.
 

 

IRAN: Christians Still Waiting to Hear if they’ll be Whipped

Next time you take communion at church spare a thought – and a prayer – for three Christians in Iran who may be whipped as a punishment for taking communion wine.

The men have appealed against the sentence but if their appeal fails they will receive 80 lashes each.

The lawyer for Yaser Mosibzadeh, Saheb Fadayee and Mohammad Reza Omidi attended a hearing on Thursday during which they made their appeal against the brutal sentence handed down in September. The verdict is expected within 20 days.

The three men were arrested in Rasht in May as they celebrated communion. Their lawyer insists it is not illegal in Iran for Christians to drink wine, only Muslims. The three men have a Muslim background.

The three have also been charged with “acting against national security”. Iranian officials have threatened further charges if the men meet together or share the Gospel with others.

Meanwhile, Christian converts Amin Nader Afshar and Hadi Askary have gone on hunger strike inside Tehran’s Evin Prison unless they receive adequate medical care and a fair trial soon. Hadi is reported to have a kidney infection which has not been treated.

They have been behind bars since their arrest last August, at a picnic in Firuzkuh, but have not yet been charged, despite weeks of interrogation. The other three men arrested with them posted substantial bail and were released.

Sources: Release International, Middle East Concern

  • Pray the appeal judge will scrap the earlier sentence against Yaser, Saheb and Mohammad. Pray no other charges will be brought against them.
  • Pray that God will protect and heal Amin and Hadi. Amin’s hunger strike has caused his blood pressure to drop dramatically. Pray that they and their three friends will be tried and acquitted soon.
  • Pray that every Christian behind bars in Iran will know that God will prove wrong every false word spoken against them (Isaiah 54:17).
 

 

2-2-17

SYRIA: Pray for Saif and Naama

An Assyrian family was forced to leave their home, business and community in northern Syria because of the war. As refugees, they began attending prayer meetings, a Bible study, and the whole family soon put their faith in Jesus.

‘Saif’ invited twenty more Assyrian families to join the meetings and many of these families also became new converts.

In one meeting, one family asked, “Why would God allow for misery, persecution, and destruction to take over the Assyrian, the people who have first accepted Jesus thousands of years ago and speak His language to date?” ‘Naama’ responded, “We, as Assyrian, have known the truth thousands of years ago, yet we have never glorified God or walked on His steps! Today we need to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness!”

Saif and Naama recently moved to another country and hope to plant a church to serve the Assyrians there.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Thank the Lord for the way He is working in this community to bring hope during this time of unrest.
  • Pray the Gospel will continue to spread to further extend His kingdom in the Middle East.
  • Thank the Lord for the faithfulness of Saif and Naama, pray the Lord will go before them and also protect them as they live and work as His disciples.

 

1-20-17

IRAQ: PRAY FOR REFUGEES FROM DESTROYED QARAQOSH

Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian city, was liberated from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) in October 2016, but believers who lived under the terrorists’ control for two years
continue to struggle for survival. More than 20,000 people fled the city as Iraqi and Kurdish forces fought for its liberation, with thousands of Iraqi Christians fleeing to Iraqi Kurdistan and neighboring Jordan. These
people have lost everything. Their city has been destroyed, and ISIS stole everything they
owned.

VOM workers recently distributed MP3 New Testaments to many families from Qaraqosh, praying with them and offering encouragement. VOM also ministers to 1,000 Christian
families from Qaraqosh living in Jordan. “It is difficult for me to describe the needs of the people we minister to,” a VOM worker said.
“They are overwhelming and the suffering is indescribable. They are comforted in knowing their Western brothers and sisters know of their suffering and are praying for them.”

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Pray earnestly for these suffering Iraqi people; may the Lord be their
    protector and provider. May He strengthen their faith.
  • Ask the Lord to grant wisdom to the VOM contacts and other
    organizations who are ministering to those in need.
  • Ask the Lord to bring an end to the violence and provide people with the
    opportunity to return home and start to rebuild their lives.

 

1-13-17

EGYPT: Four Arrests for Copt Cathedral Bombing

Egyptian police have arrested four people in the wake of the bombing that killed dozens of Christians at Cairo’s Coptic Christian cathedral last month, the Interior Ministry said.
The death toll from the bombing at a chapel next to St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo has risen to 28, the Health Ministry added. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said following the attack that the perpetrator was a man named Mahmoud Shafik, who had worn a suicide vest, and that security forces were seeking two more people in conjunction with the attack.

The Interior Ministry said it had arrested one of the two, as well as three others who were part of the same cell. It added that one man was still on the run.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing but the Egyptian Government has sought to link the attack to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has condemned the attack and accused Sisi’s administration of failing to protect the church, Reuters reported.

President Sisi, who attended funerals at the cathedral for the victims, attended Christmas Eve Mass in the Coptic Cathedral for the third year. In 2016, he promised to rebuild all churches destroyed or damaged in the violence of August 2013. He also pledged 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($7200) towards construction of what will become the largest church (built at the same time as the largest new mosque) in a new political and administrative area planned for the edge of Cairo. He said the church is due to be inaugurated in 2018.

Source: World Watch Monitor

Prayer Points
• Commit to the Lord those who continue to grieve over the loss of loved ones. Pray too for those who sustained serious injury.
• Thank the Lord for the government support of the Christian community. Pray the Lord will grant them His strength and protection.
• Pray for those who oppose the Lord and His church in Egypt and ask Him to frustrate their plans and remove the hatred from their hearts.