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.

Leah Sharibu   Leah Sharibu - Photo: World Watch Monitor www.worldwatchmonitor.org

The world has been appalled at Boko Haram’s frequent abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls. News that over 100 kidnapped schoolgirls were released by a Boko Haram faction on March 21, 2018 brought joy to concerned parents, a nation and people around the world. The girls had been kidnapped from their school in Dapchi on February 19th and taken to an unknown location. According to those released, five of the girls died earlier due to the stress and trauma of the attack. One girl, Leah Sharibu, remained in captivity for one simple reason: she refused to convert to Islam.

The attackers announced that Leah would also be released if she complied with their demand to repeat the Islamic confession of faith. As a Christian she refused, despite the cost. Leah's parents, Nathan and Rebecca, continue to be concerned. Yet, as Nathan said, "I am very sad; but I am also overjoyed because my daughter did not denounce Christ."

Leah managed to send a message to her mother a few weeks later. It read, "My mother, you should not be disturbed. I know it is not easy missing me, but I want to assure you that I am fine where I am.... I am confident that one day I shall see your face again. If not here, then there at the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ."

 

25 July 2019

IRAN: Government Concerned with the Growth of Christianity

Iran’s intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi, has openly expressed concern about the spread of Christianity in the Islamic republic.

According to the International Shia News Association, Alavi blamed “evangelical propaganda” for the increase in Iranian Muslims converting to Christianity in Iran.  Despite Christianity being criminalized in a country where the government is entangled with hard-line Islam, the nation is experiencing one of the fastest evolving underground church movements in the world.

Alavi said that the Intelligence Ministry and Qom Seminary, the country’s largest Islamic seminary, have dispatched individuals to “counter the advocates of Christianity” in areas where Muslims are being converted.

The intelligence minister reportedly said that although the agency is not responsible for finding the root cause of the mass religious conversion to Christianity in Iran, it is “happening right before our eyes.”

Underground house churches continue to spring up across Iran, although they must do so in secrecy because they risk torture and imprisonment in the Islamic republic.

Believers can be arrested for preaching the Gospel or having a copy of the Bible translated into Farsi.  Although it’s hard to obtain an accurate read on how many Christians are in Iran, estimates have ranged from 800,000 to over 1 million.

The Islamic Revolution of 1979, led by Ayatollah Khomeini established world’s only country governed by an Islamic theocracy. Today, many of those who committed their lives to Islamic rule are filled with despair. This disillusionment has opened new doors for the Gospel, which is sweeping across the nation via satellite TV, Internet, and growing house church movements.

Sources: The Christian Post, The Voice of the Martyrs USA, Australian Prayer Network

  • Praise God for the way He is rapidly growing His church in Iran.
  • Pray the church may be unified in their love of God and one another and their desire for biblical wisdom. Pray for efforts to equip the church with Bibles and discipleship material.
  • Pray for those who are being detained for their faith. May the Lord give them opportunities to share the message for which they have been imprisoned. Ask God to sustain them.

 

17 July 2019

PAKISTAN: Pastor Acquitted of Blasphemy Charges

Jadoon Masih, a Pentecostal pastor who was arrested two years ago on charges of blasphemy, was acquitted on 12 July by the High Court in Lahore. Before his arrest, Masih was a pastor at Nasiri Pentecostal Church. While this is good news for Masih and the Christian community of Pakistan, the potential for mob violence against him and his family continues to raise concerns.

On 2 February 2017, Masih was arrested after Muslim clerics repeatedly found pages of the Koran lying on the grounds of his church. Torn pages of the Koran kept being left by unknown individuals on the grounds of his church for more than two months prior to his arrest.

In 2016, a similar incident happened to a different Christian leader named Babu Shabaz. In Shabaz’s case, his name was inscribed on the torn pages of the Koran that were left scattered on the floor of his church. There is little doubt that both Shabaz and Masih were framed for committing blasphemy.

Christians who are accused of blasphemy in Pakistan fear being killed by a mob or suffering severely in prison. In fact, even though Masih was granted bail in 2017, he lives in hiding with his six children because of the stigma attached to blasphemy victims.

False accusations of blasphemy are unfortunately common in Pakistan. The country’s notorious blasphemy laws are widely misused to settle personal scores or incite religious hatred against a minority community. In the case of Masih, it is great to see that Pakistan’s judicial system was able to come to a just result. However, the stigma of being accused of blasphemy will likely follow Masih for the rest of his life.

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Thank the Lord for Masih’s acquittal. Pray for him and his family as they make plans for their future life and ministry.
  • Pray the family will be greatly supported by their Christian community. Ask the Lord to surround the family with His protection.
  • Pray those in authority may quickly make the necessary changes to ensure the blasphemy laws can no longer be abused.

 

11 July 2019

IRAN: Christian Convert Family Targeted in Bushehr

Iranian Christians request prayer for eight Christian converts recently arrested in the city of Bushehr, south-west Iran, seven of whom are still detained.

Human rights organization Article 18 reports that on 1 July, intelligence agents raided the homes of Christian converts and arrested eight people, including five members of one family: Sam Khosravi (36), and his wife Maryam Falahi (35); Sam’s brother Sasan (35), and his wife Marjan Falahi (33); Sam and Sasan’s mother, Khatoon Fatolahzadeh (61), as well as Pooriya Peyma (27), and his wife Fatemeh Talebi (27), and Habib Heydari (38).

Security agents also confiscated Christian literature, pictures, crosses, laptops, mobile phones, IDs and bank cards. A source reported that the arrests were conducted with unnecessary severity and in the presence of small children.

Security agents, in a further show of force, arrived in six cars to arrest the matriarch, Khatoon Fatolahzadeh. She was later released the same day on account of her age.

According to Article 18, the seven other Christians remain detained, with no access to lawyers, and are being held in solitary confinement in the MOIS (Iranian Intelligence) office in Bushehr.

Source: Middle East Concern

  • Ask God to uphold those detained and help them to respond wisely during interrogation. Pray they will be encouraged by God’s abiding presence.

  • Pray the Lord will give His peace to all those who were arrested and also the children who were present at the time.

  • Pray the authorities involved will have an opportunity to repent and come to faith in Jesus Christ.

 

20 June 2019

BURKINA FASO: TERRORISTS KILL 29 CHRISTIANS IN TWO ATTACKS

Two terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso have left 29 Christians dead and countless others fearing for their lives. The twin attacks, which took place on 9 and 10 June, specifically targeted Christians and came on the heels of a series of attacks targeting churches in the West African nation.

The first attack took place in the town of Arbinda. Nineteen Christians were murdered as a result of that attack. Reports confirm that ten others were killed in a nearby province named Namentenga the following day. According to local reports, the attacks have displaced the entire Christian population of Arbinda who fear they too will be targeted and killed.

These attacks represent the fifth and sixth attack on Christians living in northern Burkina Faso within the last six weeks. An estimated 82 pastors and 11,245 Christians have been displaced by the targeted killings.

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Pray for an end to the recent violence targeting Christians in Burkina Faso.
  • Pray for the Lord’s comforting presence to surround those who have lost loved ones. Ask the Lord for healing for all who have been injured in these attacks.
  • Pray the Christians in the area will come together to care and provide for one another. Pray their witness may be powerful, even to those responsible.

 

23 May 2019

BURKINA FASO: TEN MORE CHRISTIANS KILLED

Ten more Christians were killed as attacks on churches continues in northern Burkina Faso (located in West Africa). The ten, including a Catholic priest, died in attacks on 12 and 13 May.

On 12 May, in the village of Dablo, 90kms from the city of Kaya, between 20 – 30 armed men stormed a Catholic church, opening fire on the worshippers. Six people were killed, including the 34-year-old priest.

On 13 May Catholics returning a statue of Mary to their church in Singa, 25 km from Kongoussi were attacked. Armed men let children go before killing four adults and destroying the statue.

Violence in Burkina Faso involves two main ethnic groups: the Fulani, accused of having ties with terrorist groups including the Ansar ul Islam – a homegrown group which emerged in 2016 – and members of the Kouroumba group.

Islamist militants have taken over several villages and towns in the area. They ‘parade’ around freely (most of the time on motorbikes and carrying sophisticated weapons), attacking and killing anyone who does not share their radical Islamist ideology.

A local church leader, who wants to be anonymous for his security, said “Christians are now in hiding in the region, no-one dares to sleep in his house overnight, for fear of being killed. It’s very hard for us.”

Many Christians have already fled to safer towns further south.

Sources: Assist News Services, World Watch Monitor

  • Pray for God's protection and peace for Christians in this region of unrest.
  • Ask the Lord to strengthen and encourage His children. To deliver them out of the hands of evil.
  • Pray for the Gospel to go forth and be heard, so that many will come to Christ.

 

16 May 2019

NIGERIA: LEAH SPENDS HER 16TH BIRTHDAY IN BOKO HARAM CAPTIVITY

Leah Sharibu spent her second birthday in a row in Boko Haram captivity. She was captured in February 2018 with 109 other girls from the town of Dapchi. A month after their initial kidnap, Boko Haram released 104 of the surviving girls, keeping only Leah, the lone Christian in the group.

Tuesday marked her 449th day being held against her will and her 16th birthday. The government of Nigeria has all but forgotten Leah and her family.

As Leah has become a symbol of faith and martyrdom for many around the world, it is unclear why the Nigerian government under President Buhari has proved so apathetic. Buhari made almost no mention of the young woman during either the recent presidential campaign and or since his re-election.

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Please continue to pray for Leah, who has shown that real faith can withstand anything.
  • Leah represents many more young women in captivity in Nigeria, including 112 Chibok girls still missing, please uphold them and their families too.
  • Pray the Lord will secure the release of these young woman and frustrate the plans of those intent on evil and violence in Nigeria.

 

2 May 2019

NIGERIA: INFANT DEDICATION CONCLUDES IN MASSACRE

On Sunday 14 April, Safaratu and her husband John Kabiru Ali dedicated their baby to the Lord in a special service in the Ruhaniya Baptist Church in Nigeria’s central, Middle Belt state of Nasarawa. Later in the day, as believers gathered for a celebration dinner, Fulani Muslim militants burst in and began shooting indiscriminately.

Seventeen believers aged between 10 and 80 years died in the massacre, while eight others were wounded. The baby’s mother is dead and the father was taken to hospital in a critical condition. A funeral was held on Wednesday 17 April.

Local, Jacob Tantse reported that 10 of those killed were members of the Ruhaniya Baptist Church; five were members of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC); one was a member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) and one was a musician who had been performing for the guests.

Sources: Christian Faith and Freedom, Morning Star News

  • Please pray for those who grieve, for the wounded and for those who are traumatized.
  • Pray for the imperiled church across Northern Nigeria, ask for courage and protection. Pray against any kind of retaliation.
  • Ask the Lord to have mercy on the perpetrators and remove hate, evil and violence from their hearts and reveal to them, the one true God.

 

18 April 2019

MALAYSIA: STATE POLICE FOUND RESPONSIBLE FOR DISAPPEARANCES

Pastor Raymond Koh disappeared on 13 February 2017 when his car was forced to stop and he was abducted in broad daylight by masked men. On 3 April this year, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia released findings that placed blame for the attack on the Special Branch of the state police.

The disappearance of Pastor Koh is not the only such incident. On 24 November 2016, Amri Che Mat was grabbed under almost identical circumstances. He also has never been found. Amri was a Shiite activist, a branch of Islam which has been banned in Malaysia. The commission’s report states that religious activities were the reason behind both attacks.

A gold coloured Toyota Vios, owned by Special Branch officer Saiful Bahari, was spotted at the scene of both attacks, Bahari has since disappeared. The commission has stated that it may yet open an investigation into other unresolved disappearances, including that of Joshua and Ruth Hilmi, Christian evangelists who went missing in late November 2016.

Pastor Koh’s family, along with others, continue to push for answers. Pastor Koh’s wife, Susanna, intends to give the Special Branch six months to provide answers or she may take legal action. “This is the beginning of our fight for religious freedom and human rights,” she told the press after hearing the ruling. Some suspect that investigations may not begin until the national police chief, Mohamad Fuzi Harun, officially retires.

Sources: Open Doors USA, Anglican Communion News Service, National Post

  • Pray for God’s leading as Susanna and others determine their next steps. Pray also that they will be comforted in their grief.
  • If Pastor Koh and the other abducted Malaysians are alive, ask the Lord to sustain and protect them.
  • Pray that the government will act upon the recommendation of the commission by enacting freedom of religion as a human right.

 

11 April 2019

KURDISTAN: CHURCH BUILT WITH STATE APPROVAL

Hope awakens in northern Iraq as another church is built with the support of the government. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) supervised the construction of the first Armenian Orthodox Church in Erbil through their department of religious affairs.

According to a local news source, a spokesman from the KRG was quoted as saying, “The opening of this church itself is laying another foundation stone for a peaceful coexistence of ethnic and religious groups in the Kurdistan region.”

The Kurdistan region of northern Iraq was a hotbed of ISIS activity and violence in recent years. Church buildings were burned, women and children were kidnapped, and many were murdered because of their faith.

Christians are beginning to return to their homes in northern Iraq now that ISIS has been driven out. The construction of this church gives hope to many Christians returning home that a new day is dawning for Christians in Iraq.

Sources: International Christian Concern, Kurdistan 24

  • Praise God for this new development. Ask that the church may be a light to the community as its members reach out to those in need and to those who are seeking.
  • Pray for those who are returning home after years of displacement. Pray that families will be reunited, homes and communities will be re-built and people will be provided with stability.
  • Pray for the authorities as they help to support the establishment of communities, ask the Lord to grant them wisdom and much needed provision.

 

4 April 2019

NIGER: PERSECUTION IS FERTILIZER FOR THE GOSPEL

A VOM partner ministry worked with 144 evangelists in Niger last year, providing discipleship training and opportunities to help them support themselves.

The evangelists then visited communities throughout the country, sharing the Gospel and teaching people about Jesus.

As those hearing the Gospel began to place their faith in Christ, some were threatened or expelled from their families. One Christian worker, however, said the persecution also had a positive effect. “Persecution became fertilizer for the spread of the Gospel,” he said.

In places where there was strong persecution, the evangelists observed more eagerness among the new believers to apply biblical principles to their lives. In some places, their dedication even made communities more accepting of Christians. “Extending discipleship to the persecuted will bring about a stronger church,” the Christian worker said.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Thank the Lord for working through these courageous believers. Pray that God will multiply their efforts.
  • Thank Him for turning opposition, difficulties and suffering into light and spiritual life.
  • Pray for the growth and spiritual maturity of new believers.

 

28 March 2019

NEPAL: CHRISTIANS BLAMED FOR VILLAGERS’ DEATHS

When five people died within a week in a small Nepalese village in January, the only Christian family in the Hindu village was blamed for the deaths.

Gianprakash and his family were asked to leave the village because they were following a foreign God.

One night, six young men came to Gianprakash’s home, shouting and trying to break down the door. When Gianprakash asked them why they were disturbing his family, one of the young men said, “We know the death spirit is here, and that’s why five people are dead!” Before leaving, they broke the home’s water cistern.

Gianprakash and his family have temporarily moved to another city.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Ask our Lord, the great encourager and provider to minister to this family.
  • Pray the Lord will surround the family with love and support of fellow believers.
  • Pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the village. May many of the villagers come to know the living Christ and put their hope in Him.

 

21 March 2019

INDIA: CHURCH BRACED FOR MORE VIOLENCE AS ELECTIONS LOOM

There’s been a sharp rise in attacks on Christians in India so far this year – and many fear that things could get worse with a general election on the horizon.

There were 77 recorded incidents of hatred and violence against Christians in the first two months of 2019. This is up from 49 cases over the same period last year, according to the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (RLC-EFI).

This tally includes two murders by Maoist militants last month, one in Odisha and one in Chhattisgarh. Christians fear that violence may increase now that elections have been scheduled to start on 11 April.

In many instances, Christians are being persecuted by those who should be protecting their rights. In Tamil Nadu, police have reportedly joined with Hindus going door-to-door telling Christians not to meet for worship.

In Uttar Pradesh, Pastor Sindhu Bharti was beaten unconscious by police after they arrested her and five other church members during a Sunday service. All six Christians were charged with intent to offend religious feelings, defiling a place of worship and rioting. The RLC-EFI documented 325 incidents against Christians in India last year – with 40% of attacks happening in Uttar Pradesh.

Sources: International Christian Concern, Release International

  • Please pray for peace and protection for God’s people in India. Pray that God will renew in them a steadfast spirit (Psalm 51:10).
  • Pray that the new government elected will take firm action to uphold religious freedom for all India’s citizens.
  • Thank God for the overcoming faith of our Christian family in India. Many churches continue to spread the Gospel despite warnings and threats. Pray that God’s word will touch the hearts of the persecutors.

 

7 March 2019

PAKISTAN: CHRISTIAN TEEN ABDUCTED AND FORCEFULLY CONVERTED TO ISLAM

A Christian teenager was abducted and forcefully converted to Islam last month. The abductors are now using Pakistan’s legal system to keep the abducted Christian girl, who they claim has embraced Islam.

On 6 February, Sadaf Maish, age 13, of Cholistan, Wichra Bangla, Bahawalpur was abducted by Maqbool Hussain, Mubashir Hussain Baloch, and Azhir Hussain Baloch. When Sadaf’s family became aware of her abduction, they reached out to the family of the abductors who told them that Sadaf would be returned to them.

After eight days, the abductors told the Christian family that Sadaf was married and had converted to Islam. They then showed the family a marriage certificate which falsely claimed Sadaf was 18, an age old enough to get legally married in Pakistan.

Sadaf is from a poor Christian family and local police have so far failed to act on their repeated requests for help. The men suspected of Sadaf’s abduction are influential and have threatened her family not to take action. Sadaf’s family have made a video appealing to the authorities for help.

Abductions and forced conversions to Islam are unfortunately common for religious minorities in Pakistan. It is estimated that nearly 1,000 women from Pakistan’s Christian and Hindu communities are abducted, raped, and forcefully converted to Islam each year.

Sources: International Christian Concern, Release International, The Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, Pakistan Christian Post

  • Ask the Lord to directly intervene to ensure the release of Sadaf and other captives, either through His miraculous hand or through the work of the local authorities. Pray Sadaf’s case may be taken seriously and that she and her family will be looked upon with compassion.
  • Ask the Lord to comfort, protect and strengthen Sadaf and her family during this very difficult time.
  • Pray the Lord will bring change to the hearts of the captors to bring true repentance.

 

28 February 2019

IRAN: CLERIC WARNS AGAINST SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITY

Iranian cleric Hujjat al-Islam Naser Rafiei delivered a speech in Qom (home to the largest Islamic seminary in Iran) which warned against the spread of Christianity throughout the country. He specifically named house churches and evangelical networks as an attraction for Iranian youth whose faith in Islam is diminishing.

The Islamic Revolution of 1979, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, affected Iran more than any other event in modern history. It led to the establishment of the world’s only country governed by an Islamic theocracy, now 40 years old.

Today, many of those who committed their lives to Islamic rule are filled with despair. This disillusionment has opened new doors for the Gospel, which is sweeping across the nation via satellite TV and Internet, and growing house church movements. However, the government continues its attempts to thwart this move of God.

Sources: International Christian Concern, The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Praise God for the way He is rapidly growing His church in Iran. Pray the Lord will strengthen the church in maturity, wisdom and understanding.
  • Praise God for those who are boldly reaching out to their fellow countrymen with the Gospel. Pray for their protection and favour.
  • Pray for efforts to equip the church with Bibles and other teaching materials as well as discipleship training.

 

21 February 2019

NIGERIA: ONE YEAR OF CAPTIVITY FOR LEAH SHARIBU

On 19 February 2018, at 5:30pm, Boko Haram entered the town of Dapchi, Nigeria, wearing military uniforms and driving trucks mounted with machine guns. They approached the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC) and ordered 110 schoolgirls to enter their trucks. They then disappeared with the girls for more than a month.

The released girls told their families of Leah’s courage and faith in the face of almost certain death. Prior to returning the abducted girls, the terrorists pulled Leah aside and told her that she would not be allowed to go home unless she recanted her faith. She refused. She told the terrorists that she could not deny Christ. After being held for nearly eight months, Leah again made headlines. On 27 August the terrorist group released a proof of life video of Leah. In the video, she pleads for the government to help her and her family.

Then, on 17 September, Boko Haram killed an aid worker from the Red Cross named Saifura Khorsa. During the execution, the militants said that they would kill another three victims including Leah, if the Nigerian government did not pay ransom.

One month later, on 16 October, Boko Haram executed another worker named Hauwa Liman. After her execution, Boko Haram declared that they were going to keep Leah as a “slave for life” because the government had not paid a ransom for her. Since then, there has been little to no communication about Leah from the Buhari administration or Boko Haram.

On the 19 February, the Leah Sharibu Foundation stated, “We cannot forget about her today. Petition God, in prayer and fasting, for Leah’s release and freedom of religion.”

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Join with Leah’s family and Christians all over the world to intercede for Leah and plead for her release. Remember the many other captives held by Boko Haram.
  • Ask the Lord to use Leah’s powerful testimony for the encouragement of believers in Nigeria. Pray it may be used to extend His kingdom.
  • Pray for Leah’s captives, that they may face fierce condemnation from their own consciences. Ask the Lord to pour a new Spirit into them. Pray their hearts of stone may become hearts of flesh, by the work of the Holy Spirit.