Almost a year since the Taliban takeover, Christians in Afghanistan (converts from Islam and their children) are still at severe risk of death for apostasy. Believers remain in hiding due to threats from both the Taliban government and the Afghan militant group affiliated to Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh). Taliban rule also places believers at greater risk of violence and death at the hands of the local community, including Muslim relatives and acquaintances. Since mid-2021 the Taliban have said that Christians must leave, re-convert to Islam, or face death.
Pray that the Lord will sustain the faith of those who cannot leave, empowering them to overcome evil. Ask that He will work mightily to “protect them from those who malign them” (Psalm 12:5).
At the time of writing there remain many Afghan Christians who have sought refuge from the Taliban in neighbouring countries. However, these Muslim-majority countries are not safe places for Christian converts from Islam to make a permanent home. Barnabas Aid continues to provide practical support to our brothers and sisters, including working to help them settle permanently in safe countries where they can rebuild their lives. Pray for the success of these efforts, and that the Lord will restrain the hand of any who plan to do harm to the Afghan refugees.
Pakistan is undergoing a period of political turmoil. On 10 April the National Assembly passed a no confidence vote in then Prime Minister Imran Khan, immediately removing him from office. He was replaced by Shehbaz Sharif, who has been leader of the opposition since 2018. Imran Khan, who had been very supportive of Pakistani Christians, blamed the US and Western powers for his political demise, alleging a “foreign-funded” conspiracy to bring him down. Pray for peace in Pakistan, and that the Christian community will not suffer the consequences of political rhetoric and accusations. At times of national crisis, Christian minorities often suffer suspicion and hostility from the Muslim majority.
A Pakistani Muslim man was arrested after desecrating a cross on top of a church building in Lahore. The man attempted to break the concrete cross, then sat on the cross and chanted the Islamic phrase “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest) for half an hour. Praise God for the restraint shown by Christians in response to this act of desecration and ask that their calm will be a powerful witness to their Muslim neighbors.
Pray that the Pakistan authorities will take steps to protect Christians and other minorities from discrimination and harm.
“May God bless Barnabas … and may they keep doing their work to change lives of poor people,” said Pakistani Christian brick-kiln worker Asif after we paid off the debt he inherited from his father that kept him bonded to his employer. Now he can afford to give his two children the education he never had. Asif is among 474 Christian families whose debts have been cleared recently by Barnabas, making a total of 1,475 families freed since the project began 10 in 2017. Give thanks to God that so many families have been freed from bonded labor and pray that we can release many more of our impoverished brothers and sisters.
Pray for an end to the exploitation of Christian workers in Pakistan. Zafar Bhatti, who has been imprisoned for nearly ten years.
Concerns are growing for the health of Zafar Bhatti, a Pakistani Christian who has spent nearly ten years in prison after being accused of “blasphemy”. The physical wellbeing of Zafar, who is diabetic and suffered a heart attack in September 2020, is said to be deteriorating further, and his lawyers are applying for his release on medical grounds. Zafar was convicted of “blasphemy” in 2017 for allegedly sending texts insulting Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, on a phone that was not even registered in his name. He was handed a death sentence in January 2022.
Pray for the success of Zafar’s application for his release on medical grounds, and ask that the death sentence will not be carried out.
O Jesus, Light of the World, we ask You to bring clarity to many facing difficult choices in countries where freedom is severely limited. Please guide Christians in China to be loyal to the truth and wisely navigate government regulation of their activities. Please enable North Korean brothers and sisters to weigh up each action under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, even while having to keep hidden their belief in You. Please direct Christians living as oppressed and despised minorities to sense when and how to let their light shine and be channels of Your grace (John 8:12).
Voters in Kenya will tomorrow go to the polls in presidential and parliamentary elections. In previous years Kenya’s elections have been marred by violence – more than a thousand people died in riots that broke out following the 2007 election. Kenya also faces the threat of the Somalia based Al Shabaab, an Islamist group who have declared Kenyan Christians to be enemies who should be subjugated, converted or killed. Furthermore, northern Kenya is among the parts of the world bearing the brunt of the global food crisis. Pray that elections will take place peacefully, and that whoever is elected will be granted wisdom to deal with the problems of terrorism and food poverty.
For 20 years Cana Girls’ Rescue Home in Kenya has provided a safe Christian refuge for girls fleeing female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, sexual abuse or other dangers. It offers them loving care, spiritual support and a Christian school education. When Cana opened in 2002 it provided shelter to five girls; however, thanks to the donations of Barnabas supporters, it has been able to grow and offer protection to 247 girls. Give thanks to the Lord for the loving Christian care of the Cana team who have transformed the lives of so many abused and vulnerable 11 girls. Pray that the work of Cana will continue for many more years to come. Ask for an end to the abuse and exploitation of young girls in Kenya, especially the practice of FGM.
10 Four years of repeated droughts, followed by five destructive tropical storms in the first three months of this year have devastated Madagascar, especially the south. Tuberculosis (TB) is ravaging the population, even though it is easily treatable by modern medicine. Malnutrition weakens the immune system and therefore infectious diseases like TB spread fast. But TB reduces the absorption of nutrients by the body, so the weakened body becomes more susceptible to disease, creating a “vicious cycle”. Pray for the success of Barnabas Aid’s two-year rolling program to provide 234 tons of nourishing ePap porridge for more than 79,000 Christians across the 22 regions of Madagascar, that this will increase their strength and health, enabling them to fight disease.
Togo appears to have suffered its first Islamist terrorist attack. Eight soldiers were killed when the suspected jihadists attacked an army post in northern Togo in the early hours of 11 May. Other countries in this region of West Africa already suffer persistent Islamist violence. Togo is one of the smallest countries in West Africa, where almost half of its population of eight million is Christian. Call on the Lord, our rock and our refuge, to protect Togo from Islamist terrorists (2 Samuel 22:3-4). Ask that He will keep our brothers and sisters in perfect peace, their minds steadfast, as they trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3).
North Korea remains one of the world’s worst countries for persecution of Christians and abuse of human rights in general. The totalitarian government controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives, and religious believers are all considered hostile to the state. Actions as simple as attending worship, owning a Bible, or teaching your own children about Jesus can result in whole families being imprisoned and subjected to horrendous torture and abuse. Call out to the Lord to do a mighty work in this dark land, that, like the rulers of Nineveh, the rulers of North Korea will “call urgently on God” and “give up their evil ways and their violence” (Jonah 3:8).
Pastor Alimujiang Yimiti (49), a Uyghur convert from Islam, has now spent 14 years in prison in China. Alimujiang was arrested in February 2008, charged with anti-state activities, and later sentenced to a 15-year prison term. Despite imprisonment he is in good spirits, and it is hoped he will be released from prison next year. Pray that Alimujiang will indeed be released in 2023, and that he will have a joyous reunion with his wife, Gulinuer, and two sons. The younger was only a toddler when his father was arrested.
Lord God and Heavenly Father, we bring before You the Church in China, which is increasingly burdened with government restrictions. We think especially of the requirement that churches gain a license from their provincial government in order to share information online. Thank You that churches are applying for these licenses, and that some have 12 succeeded in gaining the necessary permission to continue sharing the Gospel message through the internet. We pray for those whose applications have been rejected, and others who are unable to apply, that You will grant wisdom to them in how they can adapt their ministry and continue “proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah”, for we ask it in His Name (Acts 5:42).
In some parts of the world, it is difficult for those in Christian ministry to undertake pastoral and theological study. Sometimes even theological books and Bible commentaries are hard to find. The Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life (OCRPL), the academic branch of Barnabas Aid, is helping such leaders by providing low-cost opportunities to study. Several OCRPL students have now gained their doctorates and two of their theses are being prepared for publication as books, so that their research can benefit many other church leaders. One thesis is from Nigeria, the other from South Sudan. Pray that the Lord will guide all the students, who continue with their ministries while they study, that their researches may help to build up His people and extend His Kingdom.
The Shepherd’s Academy (TSA), the undergraduate section of OCRPL, is set to expand its work across Africa, with five new study centers in Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zambia. The aim of TSA is to provide training opportunities – whether full bachelor’s degrees, certificates and diplomas, or short courses – to Church leaders in the Global South who would otherwise be unable to get the teaching and ministry training that they need. Pray for the success of this expansion, that through these new study centers many Church leaders will be equipped to be faithful and effective “shepherds of God’s flock” (1 Peter 5:2).
Islamists are “mercilessly killing Christians”. These were the words of a Ugandan church leader after a spate of violent attacks in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by an Islamist group called Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). At least a dozen people were killed on Sunday, April 3 in an attack on the village of Masambo. More than 80 people were killed in March in ADF attacks in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Many others were forced to flee for safety in Uganda. Pray for the Lord’s protective shield around our brothers and sisters in north eastern DRC and an end to violent Islamist extremism there. Pray for churches in western Uganda as they seek to help thousands of refugees who have fled across the border.
“Your intervention has strengthened us in our faith in the Lord,” said Mama Laya, a grandmother who was among 152 Christians of all ages in Burkina Faso evacuated to a place of safety and given food, Bibles and medicines by Barnabas. This was after they had lived in hiding for more than six months from the jihadi gangs who have brought death and destruction to the impoverished West African nation. Give thanks to God for the courage of the church volunteers who put their own lives in danger to drive through the bush and discreetly take the Christians to safety. Praise the 13 Lord for His protection over them and the families they rescued as well as for their unshakable trust in Him. Ask for peace in this troubled land.
When will this killing of innocent people in Kaduna stop?” asked a pastor after suspected Fulani militants attacked four Christian communities in Kaura Local Government Area on Sunday, March 20, killing 32 residents and two military personnel. Only days earlier 40 residents from another Christian village in Kaduna had been abducted. Call out to the Lord for comfort for those grieving the loss of loved ones, and pray that the kidnapped will sense God’s mighty protection and power in the ordeal they face and that they will be released unharmed. Pray that both national and state governments will be guided as to effective strategies to prevent further attacks and overcome evil.
“I have been troubled since the resurgence of these attacks because of its devastating effects. I pray that God lift this hardship.” These were the words of His Royal Highness Ronku Aka, ruler of the Irigwe nation and a retired pastor, after Islamists killed 12 Christians in Irigwe Chiefdom, Plateau State, Nigeria. The violence continued on Palm Sunday as Islamist gunmen riding motorcycles killed at least 80 and abducted more than 60 from ten predominantly Christian villages in southern Plateau. Call out to God for His protection over the Irigwe people and other Christians facing attacks in Plateau State. Ask for His comfort for those bereaved and healing to the injured.
Lord God and Heavenly Father, we thank You that Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”, who experienced horrendous suffering on behalf of His people. We rejoice that our High Priest empathizes with us in our weakness, since He also has been tempted and tested as we are, yet without sin. Though we tremble at the thought, we are grateful that it pleased You to “crush him and cause him to suffer”, to make “his life an offering for sin”. May these amazing truths strengthen us as we face suffering of any kind, for we ask it in His holy and precious Name (Isaiah 53:3 AV; Hebrews 4:15; Isaiah 53:10).
Eight villagers were killed by suspected Boko Haram militants in May in Kautikari, a community in Borno State, Nigeria, that has been repeatedly attacked by Islamist militants. “The insurgents always come and do whatever they want, and go back to come back another day,” lamented a resident. Only weeks before terrorists had struck another village in the area, killing Christian Godwin Abari and abducting his sister and five other Christian girls. Ask the Lord to draw close to the grieving families of Godwin and the eight Christians killed in Kautikari and pray that the abducted girls will be released soon. Pray that our brothers and sisters will remain strong and courageous, knowing the Lord will be with them always (Joshua 1:9).
Praise the Lord for the success of Christians Lydia Pogu and Joy Bishara, two of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria in April 2014. The two cousins were among the 160 who 14 subsequently escaped and they have gone on to complete their master’s degrees in the United States. Lydia recalls that the terrorists told her that school is “taboo for women”. They “warned us that if we go back to school they will come for us,” she said. Initially Lydia was too scared to go back to school, but God had different plans for her. Lydia aims to become a human rights lawyer, while Joy hopes to start a community support agency in Chibok. Pray that the women will use their knowledge to realize their dream of helping others and serving God. Pray for more than 100 Chibok girls who have not returned home, and for their families who also continue to suffer.
Pastor Raphael Opawoye, Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Niger State, called on believers to pray for the release of 45 people abducted by bandits during a two-day raid. Among those abducted was Leo Raphael Ozigi, a church minister who was taken while on his way home from Sunday worship in the village of Sarkin Pawa. “We call on Christians in the state and Nigeria as a whole to pray for his safe return as well as others also kidnapped by the bandits,” said Pastor Opawoye. Intercede for all 45, that the Lord will sustain them to endure their ordeal for as long as they are held, and that each one will be released without harm.
Barnabas Aid has helped 200 South Sudanese Christian families living in a refugee camp in northern Uganda to become self-sufficient by enabling them to grow their own food. Each household (supporting an average of seven people) received six tins of seeds, farming tools and training on the cultivation crops including okra, cabbage, tomatoes and local green vegetables sukuma and dodo. A project partner said that this aid will strengthen the refugees’ faith, because it “has come from a Christian organization and through the church”. Praise God for the opportunity to provide for both physical and spiritual needs.
A pastor in Gezira State, Sudan, was sentenced to serve one month in prison after an attack by Islamist extremists on a church service he was leading. A judge decided to hand a one-month sentence to both Pastor Estefanos and his attacker for “disturbing the peace”, despite the fact that the pastor and three members of the church required medical attention for their injuries sustained in the attack. The attackers also damaged Bibles and furniture. Pray that these Islamist extremists will come to see their own need of the Christ whom they are persecuting (Acts 9:5). Ask the Lord to mightily protect His people in Sudan.
“This is God!” exclaimed Ketrina. “Every day I think of what to eat but for this month I will sleep peacefully.” Ketrina and her family were among many poor Christians in southern Malawi struggling to find food after a lack of rainfall caused crops to fail, leaving them hungry. Barnabas supporters provided maize, beans and salt for 733 households, including for Ketrina and her family. Lift up in prayer poor Christians in need in Malawi and ask that God will meet all their needs according to the riches of His glory in Jesus Christ 15 (Philippians 4:19). Pray that the rains will return to sustain their crops.
Father God, we pray for Your people in Nagorno-Karabakh after the desecration of another Armenian church building in that region. Please bring comfort to the former congregation of the Church of the Holy Resurrection, and all Armenian Christians in this region and beyond, and soothe their pain at seeing their Christian heritage damaged or destroyed. May we all remember that our Lord Jesus Christ “serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being”, and that this heavenly tabernacle can never be desecrated, for we ask it in His Name. (Hebrews 8:2)
Give thanks for the distribution of food and other essentials to Christians in Ukraine. By mid-May nine lorries had left our warehouse in Swindon, UK, each laden with supplies, and reached Romania for onward transportation into Ukraine. Containers from Canada, the United States and New Zealand have also been shipped to Ukraine with more on their way. Pray that this precious aid will continue to reach our brothers and sisters safely and that the Lord will protect drivers as they journey through dangerous terrain. Ask that He will encourage and energise Barnabas partners tasked with distributing aid and caring for those traumatised by the conflict.
Cry out for our brothers and sisters in a strongly Islamic region of Kyrgyzstan where anti-Christian attacks are rising because of the increased radicalisation of local Muslims. Hostility towards Christian converts from Islam has increased and spread to include violence towards ethnic Christians. The church has suffered repeated attacks at night by Muslims throwing stones, and church leaders have become increasingly concerned for the safety of worshippers. Thank the Lord that a new iron fence around the church and newly installed CCTV camera system provided by Barnabas appear to have deterred further attacks. Pray that our brothers and sisters fix their thoughts on Jesus and will not lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3). Ask that hostility towards them will cease.
Rejoice with Iraqi Christians that two severely damaged church buildings in Mosul are being repaired by UNESCO with funding from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The churches, like many others, were damaged by militants from Islamic State (IS) during the period 2014- 2017 when IS captured and occupied Mosul and surrounding parts of Iraq. Christians are very appreciative of the fact that an Islamic country such as UAE is paying to repair the churches (and also a mosque). Pray that other wealthy Muslim-majority nations will follow the example of UAE and help restore the church buildings of Mosul.