“Killings, maiming, burning, looting and kidnapping have continued unabated from village to village,” said Mr Awema Maisamari, national president of the Adara Development Association, Nigeria. The Adara tribe are about two-thirds Christian and only 7% Muslim. They have suffered repeated violence from Fulani militants. Mr Maisamari was describing a spate of attacks from 18 to 21 May, during which 16 villages were targeted and 20 Christians killed. Since the beginning of 2020, said Mr Maisamari, 107 Christians have been killed in 63 attacks in the same Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State where these 16 villages are. “Our brutalised, dehumanised, terrified and traumatised community members are reeling in pain, ever wondering why this contrived anarchy is still being condoned by the powers that be,” he said. Ask the Lord to be a wall of fire around the villages of His faithful people, to keep them from harm. (Zechariah 2:5)
At about 7.00 p.m. on 14 April, Fulani militants shouting “Allahu akbar, come out, come out!” attacked the village of Hura in Plateau State, Nigeria. Nine Christians were killed, including a pregnant woman, her three-year-old son and two five-year-olds from other families. The attack came only weeks after another raid in the same district in which seven elderly Christians were burnt to death. Ask that our Father in heaven will bless all those who grieve the loss of loved ones, turning their mourning into gladness and giving them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. (Jeremiah 31:13)
Twenty-eight homes were damaged or destroyed in Hura village on 14 April (see previous), and most of the women and children fled the village after the dead had been buried. Barnabas Fund sent immediate aid including food, blankets, buckets and roofing sheets to repair the houses. Hura villagers had taken in people displaced by previous violent attacks nearby, so that households numbered between 17 and 26 people each when Hura itself was attacked. Aid distribution was hindered by rains, by further Fulani aggression in the area, and by Covid regulations about transport of non-essential items and a ban on groups of more than 50 people. But eventually it was accomplished. “What you have done is rekindle the faith in our people that indeed God cares and He is always with us in our suffering,” said the pastor who coordinated the distribution. Praise God for the generosity of Barnabas supporters, the ingenuity of local organisers in Nigeria, and the renewed faith of the persecuted believers.
“We are tired and we do not want to bother others about our tragedies. We seem always to be reporting deaths and attacks, and people are weary of our reports,” said a village head from Nigeria’s Middle Belt earlier this year, as he tried to explain how the scale of anti-Christian violence is greater even than is reported. Pray that our brothers and sisters in Nigeria will know that they are not forgotten, and that fellow-Christians around the world are not weary of hearing about the attacks and deaths. Ask that they will be comforted by the knowledge that they have a heavenly Father who knows and cares if even a sparrow falls to the ground and that they are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)
O God of hope, please fill us with joy and peace as we trust in You. In a world of uncertainty and anxiety, when many are mourning for loved ones, when many have lost their means of livelihood, when old familiar ways of living may be gone forever, where the “new normal” is as yet unknown, and where persecution of Your followers looks set to increase, please make us people who overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. (Romans 15:13)
A “house church” (i.e. unregistered church) in Shangrao city, Guangxin district, Jiangxi province, south-east China was demolished on 27 April. A member of the congregation, which numbers 20+, attributed the attack to the fact that “more and more people believe in Christianity”. If they are caught meeting again, the congregation will be fined 50,000 yuan (£5,700; $7,000; €6,300). Praise God that the Holy Spirit moves wherever He pleases and cannot be stopped by human efforts. Pray that even the atheist officials who try so hard to suppress the Church in China will come to believe in the Son of Man who gives eternal life. (John 3:8,15)
In mid-April, two Chinese “house church” venues in Fenglingtou town, Guangxin district, were raided. One was attacked by over 30 local thugs, led by town government officials, who stormed into a meeting and told the worshippers they must display portraits of China’s Communist founding father, Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976) and of current Chinese President Xi Jinping. They ordered the Christians to disperse and never gather again. The other church was raided by officials who removed a cross, the financial donations and other items. “The government aims at eliminating our faith,” commented a member of that frequently harassed church. Pray that its members will be strengthened by remembering that the Lord can do all things and that no purpose of His can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)
Pastors in China report that the authorities maintained their crackdown on churches during Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, preventing Christians from accessing livestreamed church services. As ever, authorities in different parts of the vast country acted differently, some ordering churches to stop live-streaming and some actually blocking the livestream. Certain churches were also banned from using WeChat, the main Chinese messaging app, which allows groups to communicate together. Pray that, despite all such efforts, Chinese Christians will be able to build themselves up in their faith and keep praying in the Holy Spirit, even if they cannot pray together. (Jude 20)
Praise God that most of the pastors and church ministers held in labour camps in China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang province were released around the beginning of this year. But all those released continue to be monitored and restricted by the authorities in various ways, for example with electronic ankle tags. Many are being held by force in the places of their registration. Please pray for courage and wisdom for these faithful servants of the Lord and that He will show each one how they can continue to build up His people and extend His Kingdom in their present situations.
A church member had two ribs broken when about 100 police stormed into a church service being attended by some 20 worshippers, and wrestled adults to the ground as children screamed. Xingguang Church in Xiamen, a popular tourist city in south-east China, is a “house church”, which had been coming under pressure from the authorities to register and thus allow Communist state officials to monitor its activities. When the attack happened on 3 May, the worshippers were singing Amazing Grace. Pray that God’s grace will continue to bring each one “through many dangers, toils, and snares”.
Rumours swirled in April about Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, after he disappeared from public view for some weeks. But he then reappeared again without explanation, so the idea of a change of leadership in the secretive and closed nation was quashed. The extreme repression of North Korean Christians therefore continues. Pray for daily grace for those living out their normal lives, never knowing when they may be arrested, and for those already in the dreaded labour camps. May all know God’s sus-taining power and unquenchable hope.
O Lord, who commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous, make us brave and bold to face a post-Covid future in which so much that is familiar and normal has changed, perhaps for ever. We praise You for Your mighty resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead, and we ask for You to empower us and our persecuted brothers and sisters to face whatever is to come. May we glorify You by our lives in the post-Covid world and reflect the character of Your Son Jesus Christ, in whose Name we pray. (Joshua 1:6)
Locusts in Pakistan and Iran were predicted in May to become the worst outbreak for 50 years. The unusually warm and wet weather in wintertime has allowed an extra generation of breeding this year, thus posing a major challenge to food security. The third generation was expected to hatch in June-July. East Africa was bracing itself for a third locust generation at the same time. A female locust can lay more than 100 eggs in her lifetime, so each generation is far bigger than the one before. Ask our sovereign Lord, who made the heavens and earth and for whom nothing is too hard, to halt the devastating progress of the locusts. (Jeremiah 32:17)
Anna, aged 85 and blind, used to grow all her food on her little plot of land, until locusts destroyed her crop. After three days living on water and a daily half cup of milk from a neighbour, Anna thought she was going to die. Then her pastor visited to tell her that there was food aid for her at the church. Anna thought she was dreaming! But she called her little grand-daughter to lead her and they collected the life-saving supplies of maize, beans and oil, provided by Barnabas Fund for tens of thousands of locust-affected Christians in Uganda. Thank the Lord for the generosity of Barnabas supporters and ask that aid may reach all those in need.
“Pray with us for God’s intervention that He may control the weather so that [the River Nyamwamba] may stop overflowing … Amidst the lock-down this is what is happening. And in all this we pray that people will turn to God and find the reality of life according to God [not] what man takes life to be.” This prayer request to Barnabas Fund from a church leader in Uganda, at a time when floods were devastating its south-west, finished by quoting John 3:16. Only God knows what will be afflicting Uganda at the time you are reading this – coronavirus, floods, locusts or more – but pray that God will work out His sovereign purposes, and that people will turn to Him.
“By God’s grace she is still alive,” wrote one of our project partners in Uganda. Aisha had been rejected by her family when she left Islam to follow Christ, but Barnabas Fund paid for her to train in hair-dressing and receive a start-up kit to establish her own business. She married a Christian young man and her hairdressing salon prospered, making enough money to cover the family’s food and rent for two rooms (one for the salon, one for the family home). Her husband also contributed financially. Then her brothers threatened her that something bad was going to happen to her business. “During this corona time [Aisha and her husband] had gone in the market looking for food but someone called them on phone that their house was burnt,” wrote our project partner, describing the attack by her relatives that destroyed Aisha’s home, business and all the family’s possessions. Praise God for kind local Christians who are caring for the family. Pray that Aisha and her husband will not be disheartened, fearful or waver in their faith.
A video was trending on Indonesian social media around Good Friday with a poem about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, written by a young Muslim scholar who belongs to Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organisation in Indonesia. “He has redeemed me from a faith that feels great and proud,” the poem says at one point, as well as referring often to His blood. Given that Muslims are taught to believe the crucifixion and resurrection did not occur, the fact that this poem was circulating freely and widely is something to praise God for. Pray that many Indonesian Muslims will come to a personal faith in Jesus who died for their sins and rose again.
“A Christian brother gave us rice. We were very grateful. But soon one of our church members, a widow with three children, came and asked me for help because they had run out of rice and had nothing they could eat that day. The rice that I received then, I gave all to her. Amazingly today God performed again His miracles, Barnabas Fund came and gave us enough rice for us to eat for one month.” This was the testimony of Indonesian Pastor Markus, during Covid lockdown. He is one of 330 rural pastors in Indonesia whom Barnabas Fund helped after they lost the income they used to receive from Sunday service offerings, when lockdown prevented Christians meeting together. Praise the Lord who said, “Give and it will be given to you,” (Luke 6:38) for the faith of Markus and the grace of God our Provider.
O God of love, in these difficult times when many have lost their jobs, and some have suffered terrible hunger and deprivation due to Covid lockdown, fill us to overflowing with Your love – a love that never fails, but always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Keep us from selfishness or greed when resources are scarce. Make us generous, cheerful givers who show our love in practical care for those in need, as we continue to trust in Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who will provide. May we show forth the love of Jesus, in Whose Name we pray. (Genesis 22:14, 1 Corinthians 13:7-8)
Seven villagers were killed, eight injured and eight homes burned down when mortar fire from military aircraft hit a village in Christian-majority Chin state in Myanmar (Burma) on 7 April. Many villagers had hidden under their houses (which are typically built on stilts) but some sustained burns when the house above them was hit and caught fire. The military claimed to be fighting rebel forces, but the dead were civilians including three females and a toddler. Pray for the protection of the Chin people, who are 90% Christian and mostly very poor.
Pastor Tun was kidnapped at gunpoint by Buddhist Militants from his home in Rakhine state, Myanmar, on 19 January 2019. After two weeks looking for him, police and militia gave up the search. In any case, on 1 February 2019 it was reported that the kidnappers had killed him. But Pastor Tun’s wife never stopped praying for her husband’s safety. On 7 March 2020 he was released and reunited with his wife and three children. Praise God for this wonderful answer to a woman’s faithful prayers.
Egyptian police uncovered a plot by an Islamist terrorist cell to attack Christians in Egypt under cover of the nightly Covid-19 curfew. Apparently, the plot was planned for Easter. Thank the Lord for protecting His people from those who planned to kill them as they celebrated the Lord’s resurrection.
Despite its moderate reputation, Jordan is in many ways quite a difficult place for Christians. Conversion from Islam is illegal and therefore evangelism is highly restricted. Family law is strongly Islamic with regard to marriages and children, and children’s education is slanted in favour of Islam. Pray for encouragement and safety for all Christians in Jordan, especially those from a Muslim background, who are very aware that they pose a security risk to any church which embraces them.
Saudi Arabia’s top court has announced that flogging will cease to be used as a form of criminal punishment in the kingdom. This is immensely significant, as Islam teaches that Allah himself laid down the penalty of flogging for drinking alcohol and adultery, which are therefore classified as hudud offences. In Saudi Arabia, flogging has been imposed for many other types of offence as well. Some Muslims believe that leaving Islam (apostasy) is also a hudud offence, with a death sentence ordained by Allah. Pray that Saudi Arabia will go one stage further and announce that they will no longer execute people for apostasy. This would enable secret Saudi Christian believers from a Muslim background to make their faith known.
Going on pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your lifetime is compulsory for Muslims, and more than two million visit Saudi Arabia each year for this purpose. The pilgrimage is also a major spiritual “mountain-top experience” for most who perform its complicated rituals over a period of a few days. This year the key dates are 28 July – 2 August but, at the time of writing, it is unclear whether the Saudi authorities will let it go ahead because the vast crowds of closely packed pilgrims would be a serious issue with regard to coronavirus. Pray that Muslims who are sincerely seeking God will find Him, not in Mecca but in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
O Jesus, Light of the World, be our guide through the times of uncertainty ahead, with many changes to our lives because of coronavirus. Although the future is hidden from us, we know that You are the same yesterday, today and forever. Nothing is hidden from You, who are the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Teach us to walk by Your light, with Your unchanging Word as a lamp to our feet, no matter what dark days there may be coming. (Psalm 119:105; John 8:12; Revelation 22:13)
When public gatherings were banned in South Sudan because of coronavirus, Christians had to worship at home. “Instead of Sunday services, we now have daily services!” some commented. Churches are training evangelists to visit homes (while keeping a safe social distance) to teach heads of families how to lead meaningful Bible studies. As coronavirus makes life even more difficult in this poor and struggling country, there is an increasing hunger for God. Pray that South Sudanese Christians will grow in maturity of faith through the hardship of the pandemic.
“Corona doesn’t kill; bread queues do.” This slogan was chanted by protestors (mainly women) demonstrating in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on 12 April. They were flouting a ban on public gatherings which the government had imposed to try to control coronavirus. Four days earlier the price of bread had been doubled by the government, which pays 75% of the costs of the flour that bakeries use. It was bread shortages that had triggered the fall of Islamist President al-Bashir in April 2019 and the April 2020 protestors were his supporters. Some observers fear that the underlying reason for the protests is to try to weaken the transitional government and return to the former strongly Islamist ways of governing. Pray that wise government, toleration and moderation will prevail in Sudan, and that Christians (3% of the population) and other non-Muslims will not be discriminated against.
On 21 May Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N, Agar) jointly agreed to create an independent national commission for religious freedom and a Ministry for Peace and Human Rights. The government stated, “We agreed to establish a commission for religious freedom to address all issues relating to religious freedom in order to affirm the principle of peaceful coexistence in the country.” Praise God for this development and pray that the rights and freedoms of Christians and other non-Muslims in Sudan will be effectively safeguarded by the new institutions.
Eid al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice), one of the two most important annual Islamic celebrations, falls this year on 31 July. It commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son (Ishmael in the Quran, not Isaac as in the Bible). Many Muslims around the world will kill a sheep and share the meat with family, friends and neighbours. As Muslims rejoice in God’s provision of a ram for Abraham’s sacrifice, pray that they will hear and believe the Good News of the Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who died in obedience to His Father’s will, to take away the sins of the world.
When the head of the UN World Food Programme tried to express the scale of hunger that he expects the Covid-19 pandemic to cause, he spoke of “widespread famines of Biblical proportions”. According to his worst-case scenario, as set out in April, the “hunger pandemic” caused by the virus pandemic, along with other causes such as conflict and locusts, could bring famine to over 30 countries. Let us pray to the God of the Bible, the compassionate and gracious God, who is slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, that He will have mercy on the world He has created and avert the threatened famines. (Exodus 34:6)