Soldiers were deployed to petrol stations in Sri Lanka in March as protests broke out among motorists queuing for scarce fuel. The South Asian island nation is grappling with its worst economic crisis in almost 70 years, stoked in part by the devastation the pandemic caused to its tourism sector. There are rolling electricity blackouts and essential goods such as food and cooking gas are in short supply. Another year of poor harvests is expected because of a shortage of fertiliser. School tests have been cancelled for lack of paper and ink.
Ask the Father of Compassion to comfort the people of Sri Lanka, especially the small Christian minority (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4) and pray that their needs are met.
After seven years of holding church services at his home, a Sri Lankan pastor has been ordered by local authorities to stop. Officials informed him in a letter that express permission is required for a building to be used as a place of worship (though this is not correct) and claimed that there had been objections from the office overseeing Buddhist affairs. The pastor said he has sought permission several times over the years but has never received a response from the authorities. Ask the Lord to give wisdom to pastors on how they may continue to meet for worship.
Pray that churches will not be forced to close and that Christians will be able to live out their faith in peace.
On 6 March a mob of around 600 people, including as many as 60 Buddhist monks, forced their way into the grounds of a church in Sri Lanka’s Southern Province. They threatened to kill the pastor unless he shut the church immediately. Two of the mob attacked a worshipper, who needed hospital treatment. Police advised that there was no legal basis to shut the church. The police agreed with the pastor that four Buddhist monks be allowed to enter the church building and question the pastor about his activities. Before the mob dispersed the four monks told them that that the church was illegitimate.
Pray that no further action will be taken against the church, and that the Christians there can continue to worship in safety.
Bangladesh has witnessed a rise in Islamist extremism in recent years. Since October 2020 the country has been convulsed three times with violence led by the extremist group Hefazat-e-Islam. Hefazat seeks to implement a manifesto that includes the death sentence for those who insult Islam, compulsory Islamic education for children, and outlawing media content deemed anti-Islamic.
Ask that the Lord restrain the hand of the Islamists, causing them to repent and turn to Him for forgiveness. Pray for the safety of Bangladesh’s small Christian community.
Lord God and Heavenly Father, we praise You for the gift of the Holy Spirit. We thank You for His work of bringing individuals to faith, and of comforting, sustaining and teaching each one of Your saints. We ask that suffering Christians around the world will be encouraged in the knowledge “that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives among you”. Whatever our circumstances, we pray that the Spirit would increase our joy in You, because we ask it in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 3:16)
Lift up our brothers and sisters in the Philippines as they struggle to rebuild from the devastation wrought by Typhoon Rai. At least eight million people were affected and 1.4 million homes damaged or destroyed in December 2021. Some of these were makeshift houses built after Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded, struck the region in 2013. Field crops and fishing boats were also destroyed, depriving people of their livelihoods. Barnabas responded to church leaders’ urgent calls for help by sending food as well as building materials and tools to assist in repairs. Pray that the rebuilt homes will be robust enough to withstand even the strongest tropical storm, and that livelihoods will soon be restored. May the joy of the Lord be their strength in these days of trial (Nehemiah 8: 10).
Civilians, including children, are being killed in Christian-majority areas of Myanmar as the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) attacks mainly Christian ethnic minorities. In January alone a seven-year-old girl, her 18-year-old sister and a man in his 50s were killed during the bombing of a camp for internally displaced persons in Kayah State; the bodies of ten civilians arrested by Tatmadaw troops, including that of a 13-year-old boy, were discovered in Chin State; and six bodies, exhibiting signs of torture, were found dumped in a sewage pit in Kayah. Pray that the Lord will comfort the bereaved and intervene to put an end to acts of violence carried out on His people.
More than ten thousand civilians, many of them Christians, who are sheltering from military attack in the Myanmar jungle on the border between Kayah and Shan states, are at risk of starvation because army roadblocks are preventing food from reaching them. Beseech the Lord to intervene and enable food to reach these desperate people, who fled their homes with little except the clothes on their backs. Ask that they will have courage and perseverance knowing that God will meet their needs according to the riches of His glory (Philippians 4:19). Pray that supplies of food and practical aid funded by Barnabas will continue to get through to Christians in even the least accessible areas.
“Pah”, 33, and her four children are one of many persecuted Christian families in Myanmar for whom Barnabas has provided food and other basics. Pah’s husband was attacked by the Myanmar military when they invaded their village, and his burned body was found the following day. The family has since been forced to move from place to place. “I just comfort myself with the words of God,” says Pah, “and I’m strongly believing that God will continue to protect me and my children.” Give thanks for the many families who have been helped and ask that the lives of hundreds of Christians will be preserved as they are compelled to leave their homes. Pray that Pah and others similarly bereft will experience the Lord’s sovereign guidance as they seek to rebuild their lives.
“Generosity extended during such times of crisis and recovery is a testament of hope and God’s unfailing love for His people – through His people.” These were the words of thanks from our church partner for the generous gifts of Barnabas supporters to our brothers and sisters in Tonga after the island nation suffered three devastating natural disasters. In two weeks in January an underground volcano erupted, covering a wide area in ash, and triggered a tsunami followed by an earthquake. Homes were destroyed or damaged while the ash cloud polluted water bodies and ruined crops. Praise the Lord for the generosity of Barnabas supporters in responding to the crisis. Pray that the Lord, who “established the mountains by His strength”, will strengthen His people in Tonga as they rebuild (Psalm 65:6).
Baroness Caroline Cox, a patron of Barnabas, has raised concerns about the threat to Armenian churches and Christian sites in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan, which controls parts of Nagorno-Karabakh, is removing visible indications of Armenian Christianity. The government of Muslim-majority Azerbaijan claims falsely that these are forgeries, and that the area does not have an Armenian Christian heritage. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Nagorno-Karabakh and in Armenia itself, who have suffered so much for so long, that the Lord will keep church buildings safe from cultural vandalism and believers themselves from physical violence.
Father God, we thank You that we may draw near to You in prayer and in worship, clothed in the righteousness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit who causes us to be born again. Blessed Trinity, we praise You for Your grace and mercy. Your Word proclaims You to be three times holy – yet You have made a way by which sinners can be forgiven. May fellowship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit be a source of strength to Your suffering people around the world, for we ask in the precious Name of Christ. (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)
Barnabas has created The Shepherd’s Academy (TSA) to provide theological education to grassroots church ministers across the Global South who would otherwise be without such training. By March 2022 TSA already had more than 100 students from eight different countries. It is hoped that this will rise to 500 in 2023, and that those who complete their training will in turn train others. Pray for the success of this ministry, and that the Word will be entrusted to “reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
On 24 February the conflict in Ukraine began. At the time of writing around 3.5 million people have fled from Ukraine, including many Christians. These have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, where churches are among those to offer help and practical support. Meanwhile those who remain in Ukraine are desperately short of food, drinking water and other necessities. Thank the Lord that we have been able to send both funds and lorries/containers full of aid from the US and the UK to these neighbouring countries and into Ukraine itself. Pray for the restoration of peace and security in this troubled region.
The conflict in Ukraine is already having a knock-on effect on food supply around the world, especially in the poorer regions that have long suffered from food insecurity and famine. Russia exports more wheat than any other country in the world, while Ukraine is also one of the world’s largest exporters. The two countries are also leading exporters of other grains, seeds and vegetable oils, as well as much-needed fertilisers. Supplies of bread and other food are diminished in many African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Food prices are rising beyond the means of the poorest, among them many thousands of our brothers and sisters. Pray that the Lord, who provides even for the birds (Job 38:41; Matthew 6:26), will provide for these needy people.
Lift up our brothers and sisters in Central Asia who are desperately poor and hungry. It is especially difficult in this Muslim-majority part of the world for converts from Islam who often face hostility and threats to their lives. The ongoing pandemic makes it difficult to find employment. In one region of Uzbekistan the river has dried up causing crops to fail – this means less food, and less work as seasonal harvesting jobs were not available. In Turkmenistan the price of bread in state-owned shops has more than doubled. In other areas families have to queue outside stores from 3am to buy bread. Through local churches, Barnabas is helping hundreds of the poorest Christians, including the elderly and disabled. Pray that the spiritual and physical needs of believers are met and they grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
After many years of living in harmony with their Muslim neighbours, Christians in a north-eastern city of Uzbekistan are at risk of attack. In recent months an Islamic cleric has been calling for a ban on Christianity and urging Muslims to rise up against Christians in areas where churches are growing. Radicalised Muslims have begun going from house to house in the city to find Christian converts in an attempt to stop them from going to church. In response, police are stepping up patrols near the church and are urging its leaders to install an emergency call button and video surveillance cameras. Cry out to the Lord to strengthen and protect Christians (2 Thessalonians 3:3-5). Give thanks for the police response to the threat of attacks. Pray that the words of moderate Muslims will drown out the words of the militants and that harmony will be restored between Christians and Muslims in the city and elsewhere.
Give thanks for the completion of a new church building in Uzbekistan, which provides one of country’s few registered churches with spacious and modern worship facilities. These are large enough to share with other local congregations, so they no longer have to meet illegally in unregistered premises. Praise the Lord that the building of the church has changed attitudes of Muslims towards Christians so that they are less suspicious of the small but growing community of believers. Local officials are now even urging the church to hold an official opening ceremony. Give thanks that the new church is enabling more of our brothers and sisters to worship without fear of police raids or arrest. Rejoice that the building project has drawn more people to the Lord’s Word and pray that through it they will come to love Him as we do (John 12:32).
Our God and our Father, we thank You that You have knit together for Yourself a people “from every nation, tribe, people and language”. It is a testimony to Your grace and goodness that salvation has been extended to a countless multitude of people from every part of the world, and we “are all one in Christ Jesus”.
Please encourage us in love, in prayer and in giving for our brothers and sisters near and far, especially those who suffer for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in whose Name we pray. (Revelation 7:9; Galatians 3:28)
Globally there are estimated to be more than 82 million refugees and internally displaced persons, among whom are many Christians. In the early weeks of the conflict in Ukraine at least 3.5 million people sought sanctuary in neighbouring countries. Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamist attacks in Nigeria, the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, oppression by the Myanmar military government, and land disputes in various countries where they are driven out by followers of the majority religion. Cry out to the Lord on this World Refugee Day that His children will experience God’s peace amid the trauma of displacement. Pray that they will be encouraged with the thought that they have citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20).
The tide is gradually turning against Christians in China, despite the relative freedom to worship and to practise their faith that has characterised the period from the 1990s to the mid-2010s. Unofficial churches (sometimes called house churches) are now less likely to be tolerated, while churches of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement – China’s officially recognised Protestant church – are coming under increasing pressure to align their teachings with the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party and the thoughts of President Xi Jinping.
Pray for China’s Christians, that the Lord will grant them the wisdom to adapt to changing circumstances, and continue their brave stand for the Truth that never changes.
North Korea’s grim reputation as leading persecutor of Christians shows no sign of abating. Christians have been executed for the “crime” of owning a Bible and many parents even have to keep their faith secret from their children for fear of being reported to teachers at school.
Pray that believers in North Korea will experience God’s protection as they are confronted with danger daily. Ask the Lord to fill their hearts with hope, especially those enduring the harsh realities of the labour camps and prisons.
Christian widows face a harsh struggle when they lose a husband’s support. In many cultures they are doubly vulnerable because of their faith and gender, and often pressurised to convert to the majority religion on the loss of their partner. On this International Widows’ Day, give thanks for the many Barnabas-funded initiatives – among them sustaining desperately poor Pakistani widows with food aid, giving practical support to women who have lost their husbands through Islamist extremist violence in Nigeria, and providing skills training programmes for Senegalese widows to set up small businesses.
Pray that Christian widows throughout the world will receive the support they need to thrive as faithful, fulfilled women of God.
Eighteen people, including a baby, were killed when Fulani militants attacked the predominantly Christian Irigwe village of Ancha in Plateau State, Nigeria in the early hours of 12 January. Following this eleven people were killed and more than 30 houses razed when gunmen raided Zaman Dabo village in the Atyap Chiefdom in neighbouring Christian-majority southern Kaduna State on Sunday 30 January. Seek the Lord for protection for the Irigwe and Atyap peoples, and ask that their faith will sustain them in dark days as they grieve for loved ones lost in the violence.
The kidnapping of Christians is becoming ever more commonplace as violence rises in the Middle Belt and North of Nigeria. In early March an armed gang stormed a church in Kaduna State and shot dead at least one security guard before kidnapping the church minister Joseph Aketch, as well as a mother and her two children. Just a month earlier another minister, Joseph Danjuma Shekari, was abducted in the same state by a gang who killed his cook, Sati Musa. Thankfully, the minister was freed safely almost 24 hours later. Praise God for the release of Mr Shekari and ask that the mother, her two children and Mr Aketch will soon be freed unharmed. Pray for the families of those killed in the attacks.
Pray for an end to the kidnappings and ask that Christians will be strong and take heart as they continue to hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).
Lord God and Heavenly Father, as many of us meet to together to worship You, we think of those of our brothers and sisters around the world who are not able to do this. We lift up to You all those in prison, all those in hiding, all those who have no fellowship with other believers because there are so few Christians in their land.
We pray that You will be especially close to all such, that they may not miss out on the gladness of attending “the house of the Lord”, for we ask in theName of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (Psalm 122:1)
“It was when I started reading the Bible that I really understood what Jesus did for me and what it is to be a Christian.” These are the words of Waly, a Senegalese Christian, one of 267 who completed a 14-month programme of adult literacy and numeracy classes funded by Barnabas. Along with other practical benefits, the Christians have been spiritually invigorated by being able to read God’s Word for themselves. Praise the Lord for the transforming power of His Word.
“Cyclone Batsirai has gone, leaving Madagascar with disaster,” wrote a church leader to Barnabas. The tropical storm wreaked havoc on the desperately poor island in February 2020, killing at least 111 people, destroying more than 6,000 homes and wrecking its already underdeveloped infrastructure. At least 81 church buildings, six schools and 13 pastors’ homes were damaged or destroyed. The terrible irony is that Madagascar has suffered repeated droughts in recent years, causing severe hunger and deaths from starvation as crops failed. Now the rain has destroyed the growing rice.
Pray for our suffering Church family in Madagascar. Ask that they will be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12).
Barnabas’ food.gives initiative is making a major difference to the lives of needy Christians in Madagascar. Generous donations have enabled the purchase and transportation of nutritious ePap porridge from South Africa, resulting in significant physical benefits for Christians of all ages. We are also delivering dry food from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the US and the UK to Ukraine and neighbouring countries, Eswatani, Jordan, Mozambique, Namibia, Pakistan, Tonga and Zimbabwe.
Pray for the continued progress of our ongoing food.gives programme and that further opportunities will open up for successful distribution of dry food around the world.
Please continue to remember in your prayers Aasia Bibi and her family, now in a safe country after she spent many years on death row in Pakistan, falsely accused of “blasphemy”. Earlier this year they were all suffering from Covid simultaneously but are now recovered. Every day Aasia thanks God for her freedom, but adds one prayer request: a house of her own. After enduring so much time with her life in the balance, she longs for the security of a permanent family home. Barnabas has sent some financial help towards the costs. Pray that Jehovah Jireh will provide.