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.
03 October 2019
IRAN: Educational Challenge for Children of Converts
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and his wife Tina Pasandideh are very concerned about the future of their sons Daniel (17) and Yoel (15), who are unable to receive high school qualifications, as the state refuses to recognize them as Christians and insists that they complete Islamic education.
Youcef is serving a ten-year sentence in Evin Prison for “acting against national security through propagating house churches and promoting Zionist Christianity”. He and Tina are converts from Islam, and this educational problem affects all convert families in Iran.
Although Christianity is an officially recognized minority faith, alongside Judaism and Zoroastrianism, only Christians from ethnic Armenian and Assyrian families are permitted to practice – not converts from Islam, who are considered apostate.
In 2009, Youcef protested a change in Iranian educational policy that required all students, including his children, to take Islamic studies in school. Daniel was being prevented from progressing at school because he refused to sit an Islamic religious education test. The authorities had insisted that he take the test – against his own wishes and those of his parents – and attend Koran classes.
Youcef’s protest led to him being charged with apostasy and evangelism and receiving a death sentence. His case gained international attention and he was acquitted of apostasy in 2012 and released. In May 2016, Yousef was re-arrested, when security forces raided a house gathering of the Church of Iran in Rasht.
Youcef, Tina and other Christian parents want a solution so that their children can complete their education. They also want the authorities to stop forcing children of converts to participate in Islamic studies at school.
Sources: Church in Chains, Middle East Concern
- Pray that a solution will be found for Daniel, Yoel and others in a similar situation, so that they will be able to complete their education.
- Pray for Youcef and his fellow prisoners. May God grant them the grace and strength they need each day to endure prison. Pray they may be given opportunities to share their faith.
- Thank the Lord for the growth of the church in Iran and praise Him, for although men may oppose God and His word, nothing can stop His plans.
12 September 2019
TAJIKISTAN: Bakhrom’s Family Anticipates his Release Next Year
Bakhrom’s Kholmatov’s family say they are looking forward to Bakhrom’s expected release in April of 2020.
According to Bakhrom’s wife Gulnora, the first two years were a struggle, but now that his release date is less than a year away, she feels like she is nearing the end of a difficult season. Gulnora began to suffer from severe high blood pressure after her husband was detained. Fortunately, she has started to experience an improvement in her health.
Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov, who was detained by police in April 2017, was sentenced in July 2017 to three years in prison. The 44-year-old pastor also known as Bakhrom Holmatov, was arrested after KNB (national security) officers raided the Sonmin Sonbogym (Good News of Grace) Protestant Church, harassing and beating church members in addition to arresting the pastor. During the raid, the officers confiscated items from the church, including the pastor’s computer and the book More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell.
Officials claim that Christian songs found on Pastor Bakhrom’s computer and the More Than a Carpenter book are “extremist materials”.
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
- Pray for Pastor Bakhrom and his family as they look forward to reaching the end of this difficult trial. Pray they may finish this time well. Thank the Lord for Gulnora’s improved health.
- Pray for Pastor Bakhrom as he considers his future, ask the Lord for His leading.
- Pray the Lord will provide Pastor Bakhrom with opportunities to share the Gospel while he remains in detention.
05 September 2019
NIGERIA: Government Official Claims Leah Sharibu is Alive
A Nigerian government official has claimed that Leah Sharibu, a Christian teen kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2018, is still alive. This comes more than a month after a Christian aid worker, also kidnapped by Boko Haram, indicated that Sharibu had been killed by her Boko Haram captors.
“Contrary to false reports, she [Leah] is alive, given assurances from our security agencies, and the government is committed to her safe return as well as all other hostages to their families,” Garba Shehu, a presidential spokesman told the media. “Instead of giving up, the government is carrying forward process that should hopefully yield her release by her captors.”
On 19 February 2018, Sharibu, age 16, was kidnapped by Boko Haram along with more than 100 other students from the Government Girls Science and Technical Secondary School in Dapchi, located in Nigeria’s Yobe state. The others kidnapped with Sharibu were released on 21 March 2018 after Boko Haram concluded negotiations with the government. However, Sharibu was not released because she refused to renounce her Christian faith.
In July 2019, Boko Haram released a video in which Grace Taku, a kidnapped Christian aid worker, mentioned that Sharibu and three other Christian women had been killed in captivity. In that video, Taku pleaded to have authorities intervene and secure her release.
“The government is pursuing many options to ensure the safe return of Leah Sharibu,” Shehu told the media. “The worrying cycle of speculations on whether Leah Sharibu had been harmed by her abductors is what has made us to speak out.”
Sources: Morning Star News, International Christian Concern
- Ask the Lord to intervene on behalf of Leah and other captives in Nigeria. Ask Him to be their rescuer.
- Pray the Lord will have mercy on the perpetrators, to bring about a miraculous change of heart, repentance and faith.
- Pray for the Nigerian authorities to expedite action to ensure her release.
21 August 2019
MEXICO: Pastor Killed During Church Service
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
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
23 May 2019
BURKINA FASO: TEN MORE CHRISTIANS KILLED
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.
2 May 2019
NIGERIA: INFANT DEDICATION CONCLUDES IN MASSACRE
18 April 2019
MALAYSIA: STATE POLICE FOUND RESPONSIBLE FOR DISAPPEARANCES
11 April 2019
KURDISTAN: CHURCH BUILT WITH STATE APPROVAL
4 April 2019
NIGER: PERSECUTION IS FERTILIZER FOR THE GOSPEL
28 March 2019
NEPAL: CHRISTIANS BLAMED FOR VILLAGERS’ DEATHS
21 March 2019
INDIA: CHURCH BRACED FOR MORE VIOLENCE AS ELECTIONS LOOM
7 March 2019
PAKISTAN: CHRISTIAN TEEN ABDUCTED AND FORCEFULLY CONVERTED TO ISLAM