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.
22 February 2018
15 February 2018
MYANMAR: Pray for the Family of Murdered Christian
24 January 2018
18 January 2018
21 December 2017
30 November 2017
IRAN: Christian Convert Loses Appeal
9 November 2017
2 November 2017
Six house church leaders were released on 16-17 October after being detained for a month on false charges that they forced Hindus to convert to Christianity.
The five men and one woman rejoiced that during their time in prison they were able to share the Gospel with fellow prisoners.
The arrests occurred soon after state officials in Jharkhand state passed the strictest anti-conversion law in India. This has caused many Christians in Jharkhand state to become increasingly fearful. With the implementation of this new law, in the future, an increase in the persecution of Christians is predicted.
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
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
5 October 2017
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
14 September 2017
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
7 September 2017
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
24 August 2017
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
17 August 2017
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
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
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