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.
9 August 2018
ERITREA: 35 Prisoners Released!
In a surprising move, 35 prisoners of faith were released on bail from the Mai-Sirwa prison on 17 and 18 July, after serving more than four years.
The 11 women and 24 men, all members of unregistered Christian churches, were mostly young people not in leadership positions. Although all of them had signed a statement four and a half years ago, promising to no longer attend meetings at unregistered churches, officials continued to hold them in detention without cause.
It is unknown why they were released at this point. Greg Musselman, Minister at Large for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, speculates that it could have something to do with Eritrea’s move to rebuild its relationship with Ethiopia. “Regardless of the motivation, it’s a good thing,” he explains. “We pray that many more followers of Jesus will soon be released from prison and reunited with their families.”
Hundreds of Christians remain imprisoned in Eritrea for their faith; some for as long as 20 years. Prison conditions in Eritrea are often horrendous, leading to permanent disability or death for those being held.
Sources: World Watch Monitor, Mission Network News, Asmarino Independent, The Voice of the Martyrs Canada
- Praise God for the release of these 35 prisoners! May they have the strength to continue standing firm in their faith, despite governmental opposition.
- Remember the many other believers who are still suffering in Eritrean prisons, praying that they will know the presence of God in a tangible way, while awaiting release.
- Pray the Lord will continue to be at work in the hearts and minds of the country’s authorities to encourage them to seek justice and mercy.
26 July 2018
NIGERIA: Leah Sharibu Still in Captivity for Her Faith
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Leah Sharibu is still being held by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. It has been 120 days since the release of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls. Sadly, Leah Sharibu, the only Christian girl among them, is still in the clutches of Boko Haram. At present, there are no known efforts by the President Buhari-led Nigerian government toward securing Leah’s release, nor the release of the 105 primarily Christian Chibok schoolgirls who have been held captive by Boko Haram since 2014.
Leah’s father, Nathan shared, “There is still no news about our daughter. We need help from whosoever to mount pressure on the federal government of Nigeria to do whatever it can to get our daughter released.” Leah’s father, who is still working and trying to maintain his family’s life in north-eastern Nigeria, said of Leah’s mother, “She is feeling lonely and I don’t want her to get too depressed.” He calls on Christians everywhere to continue to pray for the family.
Not only has their 15-year-old daughter been in captivity for a total of five months since the abduction in February, but they also had to send their son to a school that is further away because they fear for his safety. In the midst of these difficult choices, the family continues to live in a region that is vulnerable to attacks by Boko Haram. Just days ago, the terrorists struck a military base close to them, causing many casualties.
Controversy surrounded the abduction of the Dapchi schoolgirls. Some saw the Nigerian authorities as complicit in the saga. Some believed that public funds were advanced to the insurgent group to secure the release of the girls, thereby arming the group to continue its murderous acts. Most wondered why the only Christian girl among them was not released if there was no religious, anti-Christian motivation. Her freed classmates reported that it was because Leah refused Boko Haram’s demand to renounce Christ and convert to Islam.
Source: International Christian Concerns
12 July 2018
NIGERIA: Killing Spree by the Fulani Herdsmen
For four days from the 21 June, Fulani herdsman went on a killing spree and wiped out northern Nigerian villages in Plateau state surrounding the city of Jos. At least 200 Christians lost their lives in the massacre.
Currently, over 3,000 survivors have lost their homes and families with no food and no place to go.
Most of the attacks began early in the morning while the victims were asleep. The heavily armed herdsman burned most of the houses with the victims inside. In one case around 120 victims were hacked to death on their way home from a funeral.
This year, over 600 Christians have been killed along the Nigerian middle belt region by the Fulani herdsman.
President Buhari met with state officials, security leaders and traditional leaders on Tuesday 26 June and later said he would not relent in his responsibility to protect the lives of Nigerians.
Sources: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, Assist News Service
28 June 2018
PAKISTAN: Asia Bibi Marks Nine Years Since Arrest
This month marks the ninth anniversary of the arrest of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy in Pakistan.
The case against Bibi remains the highest profile blasphemy case in Pakistan and has claimed the lives of two prominent Pakistani politicians.
In 2009, Bibi was accused of blasphemy following a dispute between herself and a group of Muslim co-workers harvesting berries in Sheikhupura. An argument broke out when Bibi drank from the same water basin as her Muslim co-workers, because she was a Christian and considered by the Muslim women to be unclean. A few days later, it was reported to a local cleric that Bibi had blasphemed against Islam by allegedly saying, “My Christ died for me, what did Muhammad do for you?”
Since her arrest, Bibi’s case has become symbolic of the persecution facing Pakistani Christians and the widespread abuse of the country’s blasphemy laws.
Bibi was convicted, and she was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in November 2010 by the Session’s Court in District Nankana, Punjab.
Months later, the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, visited Bibi in prison. Upon leaving the jail, he made a statement that the blasphemy laws had been misused in her case. Within days, he was murdered by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, who had been convinced by radicals that this was an attack on Islam. Two months after this murder, in March 2011, the Federal Minister of Minorities’ Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti – the only Christian in the Pakistani cabinet – criticized the country’s blasphemy laws, noting that they were easily manipulated.
On 13 October 2016 the Supreme Court of Pakistan indefinitely adjourned Bibi’s appeal after one of the three Supreme Court Justices hearing the case decided to recuse himself.
Sources: The Herald, International Christian Concern
21 June 2018
NIGERIA: “Please Wish Her Happy Birthday” – Missing Chibok Girl’s Mother
For the 20th birthday of one of the missing Chibok girls, her mother has sent a plea: “Please wish her a happy birthday and remember her in your prayers,” CNN reports.
The mother of Dorcas Yakubu – kidnapped by Boko Haram from a boarding school in Nigeria’s north-western town of Chibok four years ago – said she did not want her daughter to be forgotten.
Dorcas is among over 100 young women still being held captive by the Islamist group. Her parents, Esther Yakubu and Yakubu Kabu, still hope their daughter will return home safely.
“She’s a special child. My first daughter. She’s my adviser. She makes me happy all the time and comforts me when I’m down. She’s my everything,” Esther said of her daughter.
She also said that her struggle to stay hopeful was sustained by her faith in God. Esther last learnt about her daughter two years ago through a Boko Haram propaganda video in which Dorcas appeared among other captives.
The girl’s family marked her 20th birthday, on 8 June, by holding an afternoon of prayer.
Some 57 of the 276 Chibok girls managed to flee in the first few weeks after their abduction. More than 100 have been either found or freed so far, including a group of 82 girls released in May 2017 in exchange for an undisclosed number of Boko Haram commanders, while 21 others were released in October 2016. In January 2018, the Nigerian Army announced it had rescued another of the schoolgirls.
Sources: CNN, World Watch Monitor
14 June 2018
CHINA: Underground and Official Churches Targeted
As of the end of May, almost 100 house churches in the central Chinese province of Henan have been shut down. Along with those closures, authorities have taken action against the official Three-Self Patriot Movement churches, demanding that all crosses be removed from their buildings.
According to a member of an official church, after orders were received to remove the crosses, they chose to remove them on their own, rather than face demolition by government crews. “No one dares defy the orders,” he stated.
For house churches not yet closed, officials have ordered that any religious decorations be covered or removed. If this is not done, the symbolic emblems will be removed forcibly. Churches have also been forbidden to allow the singing of hymns. Guards are posted at some locations to keep members out, and authorities are not allowing more than five people to meet together at a time without permission.
Since changes were made to the “Regulations for Religious Affairs” in February 2018, the government has tightened its grip on religion.
31 May 2018
RUSSIA: Church Attack in Chechnya
On Saturday 19 May, four gunmen stormed the Archangel Michael Orthodox Church in Grozny, Chechnya. Before they were shot dead by police, they had killed one church member and two security officers. Two other officers and another church member were also injured.
According to the pastor, churchgoers heard shouts of “Allahu Akbar” outside the church and rushed to bolt the doors just as the attackers tried to break in. It appears that the attack started as a hostage attempt. Along with guns, the four perpetrators also carried axes and Molotov cocktails. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group has claimed responsibility.
Chechnya, which is located in southern Russia, has been a hotbed for Islamist activity — often attacking police, government officials and moderate Muslims.
Militants have been attempting to establish a Muslim emirate in the region for years. The population is predominantly Muslim after most of the Christian population fled during the separatist wars of the 1990s.
Sources: World Watch Monitor, Radio Free Europe
10 May 2018
INDIA: PASTOR BEHEADED BY SUSPECTED MAOISTS
The body of a pastor was found beheaded on the shore of a reservoir in eastern India on 2 May, hours after he was abducted by around 25 masked men whom police believe to be Maoists.
Residents of Kubasal village, in the Tamar area of Jharkhand state, identified the body lying on the shore of Surangi reservoir as Pastor Abraham Topno and alerted police. He is believed to have been murdered in the late hours of 1 May.
The 46-year-old pastor was last seen by villagers travelling in a jeep with a local taxi driver named Ranga Singh Munda.
“It was late in the evening, as they entered the thick forests surrounding the state capital, Ranchi,” Inspector Gimal Kumar said. “They pulled the pastor and the driver out, blindfolded them and tied their hands with a stiff rope. Then they cut his throat.
“The masked men told Ranga Singh Munda to go away and that that they have no business with him. ‘We only want him [the pastor],’ they said, and asked Munda to run away.”
The inspector stated that the pastor’s body, whose head had been severed, had been taken for a post-mortem. He added that the jeep was found near the body and had been set on fire.
A note was found in red ink in the Hindi language that said, “Death to police spy. Long live PLGA [People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army],” and signed “Your Maoists”.
Source: World Watch Monitor
3 May 2018
MYANMAR: CIVILIANS CAUGHT UP IN VIOLENCE
At least 10 Christian civilians have been killed and thousands need urgent medical attention in Myanmar’s Kachin State as the fighting between ethnic rebel groups and government troops in a conflict area rages on, according to reports.
The ethnic Kachin civilians were killed in Mansi Township in southern Kachin and in Tanai Township as they sought to flee areas where the fighting is ongoing on, according to Frontier Myanmar.
About 2,000 civilians remain displaced and around 160 people have been “forced to tag along and [stay]” with the military, it reported.
The displaced people are “in dire need of medical treatment as well as rations,” the Rev Mung Dan, a Baptist community leader, told CBN News.
A coalition of 32 Kachin groups have urged the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.
The fighting, which includes government shelling and airstrikes, escalated in January and re-erupted earlier this month.
Burma army soldiers are at war with armed ethnic minority groups that have been demanding autonomy for decades, including in Karen and Kachin states which are home to a vast number of ethnic minority Christians.
Source: The Christian Post