23 May 2023
Australian missionary doctor released after eight years of being held by Burkina Faso jihadists; Around 130 killed in Christian-majority areas of Plateau State, Nigeria; Christian boys aged 17 and 12 charged with “blasphemy” in Punjab, Pakistan; Churches and church leaders under attack in Sudan
- An Australian missionary doctor who has been held by al Qaeda-linked militants in Burkina Faso since January 2016 was released on 19 May. Dr Ken Elliott, 88 years old, is reported to be in good health, and has been reunited with his wife, Jocelyn – Mrs Elliott was abducted at the same time but released after three weeks. The couple ran a 120-bed clinic in the town of Djibo. A statement from his family said, “We wish to express our thanks to God and all who have continued to pray for us.” Join with Dr Elliott’s family in giving thanks, and pray that he will recover from his lengthy ordeal.
- An estimated 130 people have been killed in a series of attacks launched by Fulani Muslim extremists on Christian-majority areas of Plateau State, Nigeria, in the past week. Daniel C. Okoh, a senior church leader and president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, added that around 1,000 buildings in 22 villages have been burned down in Plateau since 15 May, leaving thousands displaced. In a similar jihadi attack in the Karu Local Government Area of neighbouring Nasarawa State on 11 May, a pastor was among 38 victims. Pray that the Lord will draw near to the mourning and displaced, comforting and providing for them.
- Two Christian boys have been charged with “blasphemy” in the Lahore area of Punjab, Pakistan. On 18 May one of the boys, Adil, 17 years old, was chewing some gum that has the brand name “Muhammad Ali”. His friend Saiman, 12, made a joke about the gum, which was overheard by a Muslim man who accused the boys of making jokes about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. The Muslim man beat Saiman and threatened to kill the boys, before calling the police. Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws stipulate death for defiling the name of Muhammad. Pray that the spurious charges against Saiman and Adil will be dropped, and that the Lord will protect them, their families and the wider Christian community of Lahore from mob violence.
- Meanwhile, a Christian woman and a Muslim man who were accused of “blasphemy” at a school in Pakpattan, Punjab, have been released on bail. Musarrat Bibi and her colleague, Mohammad Sarmad, who are both illiterate, were accused of desecrating the Quran and charged with “blasphemy” after burning waste paper that apparently contained Quranic verses in Arabic. Give thanks for the decision to grant bail, and ask that the charges against Musarrat and Mohammad will be dropped.
- The Sudanese Council of Churches has condemned attacks on church leaders and church buildings as the conflict in Sudan enters its fifth week. Churches have been looted or used as military bases, while several have been burned down. In just one incident on 13 May several worshippers were left severely injured in an armed attack on a church in the city of Omdurman. Christians have been a persecuted minority in Muslim-majority Sudan for decades, though reforms implemented by a transitional government in 2020 included the ending of Islam’s status as Sudan’s official religion and the abolition of an anti-apostasy law. Many Christians have now joined an estimated 250,000 who have fled the country. Ask that our God of peace will bring an end to the violence in Sudan.
“They need food, water and shelter,” said the email from a church leader in South Sudan, pleading for aid for the refugees. Please see our recent appeal for Sudanese Christian refugees in South Sudan.