The Armenian people embraced Christianity in 301 AD and it has been vital part of their identity ever since. They have suffered much in history, particularly in the Armenian Genocide of a century ago, and last September endured violence again, when Azerbaijan attacked Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan with an Armenian population. Armenians felt they were again forgotten and betrayed by the international community in their hour of need and, when a ceasefire was agreed on 10 November, the Azeris kept all the territory they had seized. Thank the Lord for the Armenians’ faithfulness to Christ, undaunted despite centuries of persecution. Pray that they will know God’s grace and peace at this time and that His purposes for them will be fulfilled.
More than half the population of Nagorno-Karabakh fled to Armenia as Azeri forces advanced across their territory during six weeks of fighting last year (see above). Armenia, a desperately poor country, was struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Many people opened their homes to give shelter to acquaintances or strangers from Nagorno-Karabakh, and Barnabas sent funds to help with food and winter clothes for the children of the new arrivals. The hospitals of Armenia quickly filled with wounded from the war zone, forcing Covid-19 patients to be cared for at home. Pray for the Lord’s hope and consolation for these defeated people, and that He will provide for their practical needs.
Six people were killed and three seriously injured when Fulani extremist militants, armed with guns and dressed in police uniforms, attacked the Christian village of Wereng, Plateau State, Nigeria, on 5 October. Eyewitnesses said the attackers specifically identified, pursued and killed the acting village head, Chungyang Mwadkon. Wereng village has been attacked repeatedly and at least 30 of its inhabitants murdered. Pray that the Nigerian authorities will exert themselves to stop this anti-Christian violence.
Northern Mozambique has been afflicted by Islamist violence for the past three years. Christians, moderate Muslims and anyone else who rejects the jihadists’ ideology is a target. Thousands of desperate people are on the move, seeking safety. Some have fled to the bush, others to Christian mission stations, others to small offshore islands, and still others have taken boats to Pemba, the provincial capital, 100 km away. Typically, the attackers behead their victims and cut their bodies into pieces. Please pray that the men of violence will become sickened by their own savagery and turn to the Prince of Peace.
“When they captured us, they set aside the Christians and non-Muslims,” wrote Mani, a Christian from northern Mozambique, one of many whom Barnabas Fund has assisted with food aid after Islamist terrorist violence. Mani had grown up in a Muslim-majority area and therefore could answer correctly the questions on Islam that the terrorists posed to their captives. But other Christians could not. “We had to watch the non-Muslims and Christians be decapitated. From there they took us to the mosque to test our knowledge of Islam.” A few days later, one terrorist advised Mani to flee and even took him to a wooded area so he could make his getaway. Mani eventually got back to his village but found everything burnt down. Please pray for him. At the time of writing, he has been reunited with his daughter but has not seen his wife since the day of the attack.
Despite rising persecution in many countries, North Korea is probably still the hardest place in the world to be a Christian. Please pray for our faithful brothers and sisters, who live daily with the danger of being sent to terrible labour camps, where they could die from the harshness of the conditions and the extra maltreatment they often suffer because they are Christians. Another danger is public execution. Pray that God will give them grace, moment by moment, to fix their eyes on Jesus and on what is unseen and eternal. (Hebrews 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:8)
Heavenly Father, we praise You for the wonderful growth of Your Church in China, and for the courage and endurance of Your people there, who face such a variety of harassment and yet remain faithful. May they be filled daily with fresh love, joy and hope, may their presence in society bring peace and harmony, may they shine like stars in the sky as they hold firmly to the Word of life, may their lives bear much fruit for Your Kingdom and may they be a vibrant witness to the Lord Jesus Christ in Whose Name we pray. (Philippians 2:16)
In China the authorities are stepping up a policy of withdrawing government social welfare benefits from vulnerable Christians, such as the disabled and elderly, unless they renounce their faith. Christians in the workplace are also coming under increasing pressure to hide their faith because a low score on the nationwide Social Credit Score (SCS) system, showing their “untrustworthiness”, could drag down the score of the business that employs them as well as the Christian’s own personal score. The SCS slogan is “once untrustworthy, always restricted” suggesting that penalties for a low score will continue for ever. A Chinese Christian leader asks, “Please pray that believers will consistently score very high marks and confound the country’s leaders … and that SCS will not be used as a weapon against them.”
The Chinese authorities are also starting to enforce a strict ban on printing Christian and other religious literature. Owners of printing businesses and even photocopying businesses are being threatened with heavy fines or prison sentences, as are the staff employed at the businesses. There are also threats to forcibly close down the businesses. Sending such materials by post is forbidden, along with any other books that have not been passed by the government censors. Praise God that His Spirit moves where He pleases and cannot be stopped by human rules. Pray that He will continue to be at work in China, drawing many to the Lord Jesus. (John 3:5-9)
Two Christian families from Pasing-Kang village, Saravan province, Laos, were evicted from their homes on 10 October because they refused to renounce their Christian faith. The village authorities banned any other villagers, whether relatives or church members, from taking aid to the seven evicted individuals, who had found shelter in a hut in the forest but had no food or blankets or change of clothes. Such harsh treatment occurs quite often to rural Christians in Laos. Pray that those targeted may have grace from the Lord to sustain them and even to count their sufferings joy. (James 1:2-4)
More than a year ago, Laos passed a “Law on the Evangelical Church”. It grants Lao Christians the right to conduct services and preach, and to maintain contacts with other Christians outside of Laos. However, churches must obey other Lao laws and be self-funding. It was in the rural parts of the country that this law was needed, as Christians in the big cities did not suffer harassment. But news of the new law has taken a long time to filter out into the countryside, where Christians are often severely persecuted, for example, having their homes destroyed. A number of workshops and seminars were organised over the last year in rural parts of Laos to make the new law known. Pray that real change will be seen in 2021 as the legal rights and freedoms of Christians become known across the whole country.
Thank the Lord for the early release from prison of Pastor A Dao in Vietnam, having served four years of his five-year sentence. One of the Montagnard people-group, who live mainly in the Central Highlands and have been persecuted for decades because of their Christian faith, Pastor A Dao had been jailed because he was calling for religious freedom for Montagnards. Pray that the Lord will enable him to recover from his long ordeal and will bless and guide his future ministry.
Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the general election on 8 November. The NLD announced it would form a national unity government, and would be inviting ethnic minority parties to work with it, an offer it did not make when it won the last election in 2015. This offer is very significant for Christians in Myanmar, most of whom come from the non-Burman ethnic minorities, and also for the Rohingya Muslims – all these ethnic and religious minorities have suffered great persecution. However, on 1 February a military coup overthrew the elected civilian government. Pray that whoever governs Myanmar (previously called Burma) will rule with justice and righteousness, caring for all citizens equally.
Lord Jesus, in a world of migrants and refugees, where hostility, poverty and natural disaster cause millions to uproot themselves and move, we pray especially for the many Christians displaced by persecution or violence. Homeless, unwanted and destitute, may they find hope and comfort in remembering that You too fled danger as an infant with Your parents, and in Your years of earthly ministry travelled without knowing where You would lay Your head at night. Fill them with Your healing peace, especially those who have been displaced repeatedly, and comfort them with the knowledge that their citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20)
“Our joy is now complete,” said an Egyptian Christian mother. Her two sons had been beheaded by Islamic State terrorists in February 2015 after they and 18 other Egyptian migrant workers, along with one Ghanaian, had been captured in Libya. Today Egyptian Christians celebrate the anniversary of the martyrdoms. The victims were selected because they were Christians and refused to embrace Islam. When their bodies were discovered in 2017, the remains of the Egyptians were repatriated but no one could trace the family of the Ghanaian martyr, Matthew. Egyptian Christians began to ask if Matthew could be buried in Egypt with the 20 Egyptian martyrs, and eventually this was done. It was then that the bereaved Egyptian mother expressed her joy. Praise God for the way in which Egyptian Christians see dying for the Lord as the greatest gift He could bestow.
The general election in Jordan on 10 November had a very low turnout, due to Covid-19 and was immediately followed by a four-day total lockdown. The Islamic Action Front party (linked to the Muslim Brotherhood) dropped from 15 to ten seats (out of 130 in the lower house of parliament) and complained that the system was unfair. No women were elected this time, apart from the 15 seats reserved for women. Christians had a generous quota of nine seats and there were three seats reserved for Chechens and Circassians. Pray for King Abdullah II who holds a lot of political power, appointing the government and all 65 members of the upper house. Pray also for Christians in the Jordanian parliament that they may be salt and light, and a channel of blessing to their country.
At the time of writing, American troop numbers in Afghanistan were set to be roughly halved by mid-January, a decision which many observers feared could allow violence to escalate again in Afghanistan. Attacks by Taliban insurgents on Afghan government targets had continued during many months of a supposed peace process. Please pray for just and lasting peace in this war-torn country. Pray also for the protection of Afghan believers (converts from Islam); the less law and order, the more vulnerable they are.
A referendum held in Algeria on 1 November voted in favour of a set of changes to the constitution, which had already been approved by the Council of Ministers and both lower and upper houses of parliament. These changes have removed the guarantee of “freedom of conscience”, leaving only “freedom of opinion” and “freedom to exercise worship”, although the latter is restricted for non-Muslims by other laws. The removal of “freedom of conscience” is a troubling step, especially in a country where most of the indigenous Christians are converts from Islam or their children. At present there is no law to prevent Algerians choosing or changing their faith. An Algerian church leader wrote to Barnabas Fund that he hoped God would raise up wise leaders whom He could use to help the Algerian Church live in peace as they wait for the return of Christ. Please make his hope into your prayer.
Poor tribal Christian parents in Bangladesh are often persuaded to send their children away to be educated, thinking this will give their little ones a better future. The same persuasion is applied to poor Hindu and Buddhist families. The Christian, Hindu and Buddhist children are then forcibly converted to Islam in Islamic madrassa schools. Pray that the Bangladeshi authorities will be successful in preventing this “trafficking” and that parents will understand the true agenda of the Muslims who go door-to-door offering to “help” the impoverished families.
Praise God for the many Fulani Christians in Burkina Faso and pray for their protection. As converts from Islam, Fulani Christians are very much a target for zealous Fulani Muslims, especially Fulani Christians who are active in spreading the Gospel. They are recognisable by other local people as Fulanis, from their physical appearance. Pray that the Fulani Church will continue to grow and that God will keep our brothers and sisters safe.
O LORD, our rock, our fortress and our deliverer, we pray for Christians suffering violence or injustice because of their faith in Your Son Jesus Christ. Be their refuge, shield and stronghold. If it is Your will, protect them from those who seek to harm them, and save them from their enemies. If not, please strengthen them to endure. Whatever troubles come to them, fill them with a peace that passes understanding. May their loving and forgiving reactions bring glory to our Saviour and their Saviour, the Lord Jesus, who was betrayed, falsely accused and crucified, in Whose Name we pray. (Psalm 18:1-3)
In October the Cameroonian authorities closed 62 schools in the far north, to protect pupils and teachers from continuing attacks by Boko Haram, whose headquarters are just over the border in Borno state, Nigeria. At least 13 schools had been torched by Boko Haram in the previous two months, but most of the Boko Haram attacks in Cameroon last year were by suicide bombers, mainly women and children. Some of the thousands of Cameroonian children displaced when their schools closed were given new teachers – from the Cameroonian army. As Nigerian children blow themselves up to kill others and Cameroonian children are sent miles from home and taught by soldiers, pray that the God who makes wars cease will bring peace and healing to all these young lives. (Psalm 46:9)
Although a secular state, Chad’s politics are dominated by the Muslim majority, as are the armed forces, civil service and business. Discrimination against Christians is the norm in Chadian society, which has a long history of Muslims oppressing Christians, including Muslims raiding non-Muslims to seize them as slaves. Muslim superiority was reinforced during colonial times. The result is that Christians are the poorest section of society, uneducated and vulnerable to exploitation. Because of their poverty Christians were the most severely affected by the multiple natural disasters which afflicted Chad last year including Covid-19, measles, meningitis, chikungunya, polio and cholera as well as drought and floods. Pray that Chadian Christians will be strong and united in the Lord.
The Chinese Communist Party has installed facial recognition cameras inside more than 50 three-self (i.e. registered) church buildings and 16 Buddhist and Taoist temples in Poyang county, Jiangxi Province. Poyang county has a large Christian population. If an unknown face is seen in church, the police come to find out who it is. The cameras also listen to the content of the sermon. Nervous church leaders have reacted by hiring security guards to disperse their congregations after services, to ensure that church members chatting together do not say something against the government, which the cameras would pick up. As surveillance reaches new heights in China, pray that Christians will not give way to fear, but will respond with courage and wisdom.
At least 21 residents of Lisasa village, in north Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo were killed during a terrorist attack on 30 October. Fifteen of the dead were women. Other villagers were abducted, the health centre looted, a church desecrated and homes burnt. Days earlier, an attack on Baeti village in the same province killed 18 people, with several homes and a church building burnt. The suspected perpetrators are the Islamist group ADF (Allied Democratic Forces), originally from neighbouring Uganda. Pray that the mainly Christian people of North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province, who have suffered at least 1,105 terrorist killings in the last two years, may have grace to follow their Lord’s command to forgive their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. (Matthew 5:44)
After a five-month break during the Covid-19 crisis, the committee overseeing the licensing of church buildings in Egypt resumed its work and approved 100 new registrations. This was the seventeenth batch of licences issued since a law was introduced in September 2016 to facilitate the registration of churches. Thank the Lord and pray that the remaining 1,992 applications for licences will be granted soon. Until they are granted, worship activities on the premises are illegal.
Eritrean Christian asylum-seekers in Israel are so marginalised and cut off by language and culture that many were at first unaware of the coronavirus pandemic last year and did not know what precautions to take. The low-paid jobs they tended to have in restaurants and hotels disappeared. At the same time, however, there was good news when the Israeli Supreme Court repealed the disastrous Deposit Law on 23 April 2020. This law had required employers to take 20% of the earnings of asylum-seekers for a fund which they could only access if they voluntarily left Israel. Barnabas is continuing to help the most vulnerable including survivors of torture and human-trafficking and those with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Pray that the Lord will continue to soften the hearts of the Israeli government towards the Eritrean Christians who fled terrible persecution in their homeland and expected to find safety and security in Israel.
O Lord Jesus, who called little children to Yourself, we bring to you the children of persecuted Christian families, and children who have made a decision to follow You against the beliefs of the rest of their family. Please be a light to their paths, whether they face poverty, discrimination and hardship or opposition and even violence, because they choose to be Yours. Help them to grow strong in their faith, protect and comfort them in the face of danger. May we all learn from their example of simple trust and unwavering love for You. (Luke 18:16)