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.

Thought it might be interesting to know a few facts about “Praying for the Persecuted Church." 

WE (our prayer chain) began receiving weekly prayer requests for the “Persecuted Church” in April of 2015.  The first country we prayed for was Nigeria.

 We now pray for 53 different countries where people are commonly persecuted for their faith

 Those countries most often prayed for are Pakistan (with 40 prayer requests) and Nigeria (with 38), 

 These are followed by China (36), India (35), Egypt (30) and Iran (31) then Uganda (15), Sudan (13) and Kenya (10).

 There are several requests that we have followed as things have changed in the countries.  The most well known of these is the Boko Haran capture of 219 girls in Nigeria in April of 2014.  As of June 2018 about one hundred of these girls are still being held.

 

11 October 2018

CENTRAL ASIA: Clampdown on Christianity

Throughout Central Asia, Christians are facing worship bans, arrest and torture as Islamic nationalism gains ground.   

A recent survey revealed that 263 people had been punished in Kazakhstan during 2017 for hosting religious meetings, offering religious literature, or other religious crimes. Most of those prosecuted were Protestant Christians. The clampdown continued into 2018 with almost 80 prosecutions within the first six months.

Churches in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan face regular harassment from authorities for meeting without a permit, while those same authorities refuse to issue the necessary permits.

In Kazakhstan, Christians are perceived as a threat to the state. Homes and church buildings are regularly searched. Even praying together can be deemed illegal.

Throughout the region, Christians from Muslim backgrounds are facing the worst persecution. One church leader, Pastor Batyr, recounts: “If a Muslim decides to follow Christ, then he is considered to be a traitor — a traitor to our people, our culture and our nation. All former Muslims who believe in Christ are secret and underground. They can never be officially recognized”.

Source: Release International

  • Uphold the Christian workers throughout Central Asia who are spreading the Good News of the Gospel.
  • Pray for deliverance for those imprisoned for their faith and that in the meantime, God will mightily use them to reach fellow prisoners and guards.
  • Pray for Muslim background believers, that they may be granted wisdom and discernment as they worship the Lord secretly and take opportunities to share their faith.

 

20 September 2018

TIBET: Minors Banned from Religious Activities

As a ‘semi-autonomous state’ under the control of mainland China, Tibet has maintained a unique place for being predominantly Buddhist. However, since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has adopted stricter controls over religious activities, all religions in Tibet have been affected. Most recently, controls have been enforced prohibiting children from participating in any religious activities.

Signs have been posted on churches throughout China and Tibet, stating, “No minors”. Before Tibet’s school students left for summer holidays, a letter was sent home to their parents. Part of the letter included a notice that the students were barred from participating in any religious activities during their summer holidays.

The control of the CCP over the people is also affecting religious holidays and festivals. Celebrations demonstrating “freedom of religion” to the world are only intended as propaganda to visiting tourists, as Tibetans are specifically excluded from participating.

Sources: UCANews, Tibetan Review

  • Pray for these Tibetan Christians as they endeavor to bring up their children in the ways of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
  • May God continue to bless their efforts while sharing the Gospel with others of their communities.
  • Intercede for the opposing political leaders, that they too will come to realize their need for Jesus as Savior.

 

13 September 2018 

CHINA: Officials Crackdown on Christianity

More than 50 officials broke into Meisheng Church in Luohe, Henan, on Sunday, beating Christians and confiscating most of the church’s property.

Uniformed and plainclothes police, as well as agents from the local religious affairs and cultural bureaus invaded the service as the pastor, Chen Qi, was reading the Bible.

“They shouted as they came in, ‘Don’t take pictures. Put your phones in your pockets,’” one Christian said. “Then they grabbed the pastor’s microphone and forcibly stopped the worship.”

A man surnamed Li, the director of Luohe’s Yuanhui District Religious Affairs Bureau, walked to the podium and announced that the fellowship was “illegitimate.” After reading a document about the church’s supposed violation, he asked Chen to sign it, but Chen refused and was taken away. An official said to him, “The document will be effective no matter if you sign it or not.”

During the ordeal, a woman stood in the hallway and photographed the situation. Police pulled her hair and slapped her face as they pushed her up against the wall. They then they took her into custody.

Similarly, another woman was kicked by a handful of policemen for her attempt to take pictures. She fell to the ground, and her phone was confiscated. When her fiancé confronted one of the officers, saying “How can you bully a girl?” he was punched and accused of assaulting the police.

The authorities did not permit those gathered for the service to leave until they had seen their ID cards and collected other personal information. Then, they took desks, stools, the podium, computers, televisions, pianos, projectors, guitars, fans, water dispensers, water bottles, instant cookers, drums, and some trivial items, according to one of the church members. They also removed a cross and cut the electrical wires. Only two air conditioning units remained, since the officials had difficulty taking them down.

On the same day, authorities in Xinyang, Henan, entered a local church without showing any papers, drove out the Christians, and sealed the door using electric welding. Some of the congregants attempted to film evidence, but police took their phones. Later on, the church rented a storage unit to hold their services in.

In the same area, officials closed off the road leading to a church, not permitting its attendees to enter. The Christians decided to sing hymns on the street instead, with one minister saying, “If we lose our church, we will go out onto the streets; we will not retreat home. If we are also arrested for proclaiming the Gospel in the streets, it is the mission and responsibility of those Christians to proclaim the Gospel in every prison!”

Similar disturbances occurred in other areas of Henan, including Hua County, where Christians gathered in front of Baidaokou Church to prevent authorities from breaking in. After a short confrontation, the authorities forced their way into the church and took chairs, desks, and a variety of other items. As they resisted, some of the Christians were injured and fell to the ground.

After the authorities left, however, some of the congregants stayed and sang worship songs.

Source: ChinaAid

  • Praise God for the faithfulness of Christians in China. May they continue to make every effort to meet together and encourage one another in the Lord.
  • Pray their conduct may act as a witness to the authorities and others in their community.
  • Pray the Lord would give wisdom to pastors and church leaders, when dealing with the authorities.

 

30 August 2018

NIGERIA: Father’s Joy at Voice of Abducted Daughter

The father of a Nigerian schoolgirl being held by Islamist militant group since February has told the BBC he is delighted to hear her voice in a recently released audio recording.

“It really is her voice. Before, I thought she wasn’t even alive,” Nathan Sharibu told BBC Pidgin. His daughter was kidnapped along with more than 100 girls from Dapchi town. The others were later freed, but she was kept, reportedly because she refused to convert from Christianity to Islam.

The 35-second audio recording, which is yet to be authenticated by Nigerian authorities, was published by Nigeria’s cable newspaper on Monday.

In it, the 15-year-old girl calls on the government to help her.

“I am Leah Sharibu, the girl that was abducted in GGSS Dapchi. I am calling on the government and people of goodwill to intervene to get me out of my current situation,” she said.

“I also plead with the members of the public to help my mother, my father, my younger brother and relatives. Kindly help me out of my predicament. I am begging you to treat me with compassion, I am calling on the government, particularly, the president to pity me and get me out of this serious situation. Thank you.”

Leah’s father said that he was confident that if the federal government intensifies efforts his daughter would be released. He said neither government nor anyone else has contacted him or any other member of the family on any plan to release her daughter from captivity.

He added, the recording had given the family hope: “I’m really encouraged that I heard the words of my favourite daughter.”

Militants stormed the north-eastern town of Dapchi on the evening of 19 February. They headed towards the compound of a girls’ boarding school as they fired guns into the air. They then forced the girls into a vehicle and sped off.

The 110 girls were taken by a Boko Haram faction known as the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (Iswap).

Of those seized, 104 girls were released in March but five reportedly died during their captivity.

Nigeria’s government denied claims that the militant group was paid a ransom for the girls’ freedom, or that there was a prisoner swap. Information Minister Lai Mohammad told the BBC in March that the girls’ release was part of ongoing talks about an amnesty in return for a ceasefire.

The Dapchi incident was similar to the kidnap of 276 girls from another north-eastern town of Chibok in 2014.

Boko Haram militants have released more than 100 of the Chibok girls but at least 100 are still being held by the militant group. Their whereabouts are unknown.

Sources: BBC, This Day live

  • Ask the Lord to secure Leah’s release. Intercede for the Chibok girls who remain in captivity.
  • Pray the Lord will comfort, encourage and strengthen the captives as they wait.
  • Pray God will motivate and enable the Nigerian government to do all in their power to intervene.

 

23 August 2018

TAJIKISTAN: Christians Arrested and Fined

Ten Christians were arrested by the security police in Tajikistan on 7 August. The group had gone to the Pamirs mountain area to share the Gospel and hand out Christian literature in Russian, Tajik and other local languages.

According to a partner of Release International, the group were later released but were fined $1,000 by a court. As they had no money a Tajik church paid the fine.

Tajikistan is the poorest former Soviet republic, partly because of its landlocked geography, located between China, Russia and Iran. General corruption and the opium trade compound its difficulties. Most Tajiks are Sunni Muslim

Sources: Release International, The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Please pray for Christians in Tajikistan as they seek to share God’s love in a hostile environment.
  • Pray for the believers who were arrested, that they would continue to live out 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
  • Pray for those who had an opportunity to hear the Gospel and receive His word. Pray the Lord will bear much fruit.

 

16 August 2018

COMOROS: Sunni Islam Declared Official Religion

Constitutional reforms approved in a referendum on 30 July have created concerns in the African island nation of Comoros. Opposition leaders called on people to boycott the referendum, believing that it was not legitimate.

Along with extending the power and term of the president, one area of particular concern to religious minorities in the country is the removal of a clause separating religion and state. Previously, the country was considered an Islamic state, but the constitutional change now officially declares it as such with the following declaration: “The state draws from this religion the principles and rules of Sunnite observance.”

Local sources are concerned over how this development is going to affect Christians and other religious minorities. During his campaign, President Azali Assoumani promised that, if approved, his government would be imposing tougher measures on any citizens who are not Sunni Muslim. More than 95 percent of the population are Sunni, with about two percent Christian.

Proselytisation of any kind, other than Islam, is illegal. Foreigners have generally been free to practice their religion as long as they do not share it with Comorians. These constitutional changes could further restrict religious freedoms.

Sources: Deutsche Welle, World Watch Monitor

  • May God bring peace to the people of this island nation.
  • Intercede for President Assoumani, asking the Lord to work in his heart and help him to realize the need to respect the rights of all citizens of Comoros.
  • Pray for the country’s Christians as they seek to please God in their lives and endeavor to reach out to their neighbors with the saving love of Christ.

 

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

  • Pray for Leah and the other Chibok girls still in captivity and the suffering these young women face daily.
  • Pray for Leah’s family’s faith to be strengthened during this time of uncertainty.
  • Pray for the Nigerian authorities to expedite action to ensure her release promptly.

 

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

  • Pray for God’s comforting presence upon the victims’ families and for His protection over all innocent civilians.
  • Pray the communities who have suffered will not be tempted to retaliate in any way but display God’s love and forgiveness, even though sorely tested.
  • Ask the Lord to give President Buhari strength, wisdom and leading.