7 June 2023
Five North Korean Christians arrested; Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for “blasphemy”; Another 216 churches granted licences in Egypt; Iranian believer’s prison sentence reduced from ten to two years; Abducted Christians released in Nigeria
- Five North Korean Christians were arrested as they attended a secret church service in a farmhouse at 5am on Sunday 30 April. The Christians had been meeting each week at the farmhouse in the village of Tongam, South Pyongan province. “At the site of the worship service, the police retrieved dozens of Bible booklets and arrested all in attendance,” said a Tongam resident. Believers in prison or labour camps in North Korea are often singled out for especially harsh treatment, and may well face death. Pray for our brothers and sisters – and any others, not known to us – who have been arrested in connection with this incident. Ask that the Lord will sustain them whatever they face.
- Pakistani Christian Noman Masih was sentenced to death by a court in Bahawalpur, Punjab, on 30 May for alleged “blasphemy” against Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. The 23-year-old was arrested in July 2019 and charged under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code over images allegedly found on his mobile phone. Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws are often used to make false accusations in order to settle personal grudges. Pray that the death sentence and the case against Noman will be overturned on appeal and he will be freed. Ask the Lord to protect him, his family and the wider Christian community. Pray also for protection and wisdom for Noman’s lawyers.
- The government of Egypt has licensed a further 216 churches and church-affiliated buildings. This is the 26th and second-largest batch of approvals made since the government committee overseeing the process began work in 2017. Licences have now been granted to 2,815 of the 3,730 churches that applied for registration under a 2016 law that abolished Ottoman-era restrictions on church building. Give thanks for this latest batch of approvals. Praise God for the increased freedom given to His people in Egypt, and ask that this will continue.
- The ten-year prison sentence of a Christian in Iran was reduced to two years on 24 May after a successful appeal. Joseph Shahbazian, an Iranian-Armenian believer, was sentenced in June 2022 for his role in a “house church” in the Yaftabad area of Tehran, Iran’s capital. Give thanks for the reduction, and ask the Lord to sustain Joseph throughout his imprisonment. Pray that the day will come when there will be no punishment for practising Christianity in Iran.
- Islamist militants who kidnapped around 40 worshipers from a church service in the Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Nigeria on 7 May freed their remaining 16 captives on Sunday 4 June. Initial reports had stated that 14 were still being held after other Christians in the group had either escaped or been freed. Pastor John Joseph Hayab, head of the Kaduna branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria, thanked the Muslim community in the area for their practical help following the kidnappings. Praise the Lord for answered prayers that the remaining captives have been freed. Give thanks for the help of local Muslims.
- A church minister in Imo State, Nigeria, was released on Sunday 28 May, two days after he was abducted by gunmen. Mathias Opara was kidnapped while driving home from a funeral service. In a separate incident in the same state, another minister, Jude Maduka, was abducted as he was preparing to lead worship on the morning of Sunday 21 May. He remains in captivity. Thank the Lord for the release of Rev. Mathias, asking that he will recover from his ordeal. Pray that Rev. Jude will also be released, safe and unharmed.