Recent years have seen periodic violent attacks on Christians and mainly-Christian ethnic groups in Ethiopia. Ask the Lord to give Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is a Christian from a Muslim background, wisdom, insight and strength as he seeks to lead Ethiopia from division to unity. Pray for an end to the anti-Christian violence, comfort for the grieving, healing for the wounded, and food and shelter for the displaced.
Many villagers are turning to Christ in a certain area of Chhattisgarh state, India, but others are reacting strongly against this and threatening the Christians that they must abandon their new faith or else leave the area. This would mean losing their homes and the land on which they depend for their livelihoods. Pastors from outside the area are being banned from coming to visit the new believers to teach and encourage them. The pressure on the Christians is getting worse. Pray that those who are stirring up this opposition will cease their activities, and that God’s Kingdom will continue to spread and grow.
Four Christians were killed by Islamist militants in a remote Christian community on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, on 27 November. One victim was beheaded, one had their throat slit, one had their neck broken and one was burnt to death. They were all adults from the same extended family. The ten attackers also razed the church building and set light to six homes in the village. Pray that the Lord will be a wall of fire around this Christian community to protect them, as well as its glory within. (Zechariah 2:5)
Iranian Christians Sam and Maryam are still hoping and praying for a breakthrough in their efforts to have their toddler Lydia restored to them. At the time of writing Lydia is back in the state orphanage from which Sam and Maryam adopted her when she was three months old. Last year a court ruled that she should be taken away from her parents because they are converts from Islam and had been convicted of various “crimes” relating to possessing evangelistic literature. An open letter signed by 120 Iranian lawyers and activists, has been sent to Iran’s head of judiciary, asking him to overturn the court’s decision. Ask the God of hope to continue to fill Sam and Maryam with all joy and peace as they trust in Him (Romans 15:13). Pray for the safety of Lydia (now nearly 2½) who has serious health problems, and that the court’s decision will be reversed.
Ask the Lord to protect and strengthen Iraqi Christians who feel unsafe in their own homeland. Pray that God will guide those displaced by Islamist militants as to where they should settle down and make their future lives. Ask that the promise of peace and stability made through the prophet Micah long ago will be fulfilled for them. “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own figtree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:4-5)
Pray that the Church in Kazakhstan will be given courage to continue to spread the Gospel, despite the fact it is illegal, and wisdom to know how best to do it. Ask that they will remain steadfast when suffering persecution, whether from the authorities or from the Muslim majority community. Pray that the many legal restrictions on religious freedom will be removed, if this is the Lord’s will.
Heavenly Father, we lift to you all Christian refugees and Christians displaced within their own country. We ask that You will be their refuge and strong tower. Please watch over and care for all who have lost their homes, possessions, farmland or livelihoods. Fill them with your comfort and peace, a peace that transcends human understanding. Remind them that they and all Your people are only pilgrims passing through this world, that their true citizenship is in heaven, where You have prepared a city for them. We pray this in the Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 11:16)
Rejoice with Christians in Kyrgyzstan for answered prayer concerning a key meeting in November 2020 about a new constitution being created by the new government (installed after a brief “revolution” the previous month). The new Director of the State Commission for Religious Affairs had proposed to remove the secular status of Kyrgyzstan and make it a Muslim or Islamic state. The meeting took place in a friendly atmosphere, and representatives of all religions, scholars and government officials spoke. It was agreed that Kyrgyzstan should remain a secular state, with no single religion having dominance. Thank the Lord for this. Christian speakers at the meeting described the problems Christians face and the authorities promised to help. Pray that real change for the better may come.
Two Christian families in Laos were evicted because they refused to renounce their Christian faith. Their homes were then demolished on the orders of the village chief. After about a month living rough in the nearby forest, depending on gifts of food from other Christians, they were allowed to return to the village but not to rebuild their houses. A law passed in December 2019 is supposed to ensure freedom to worship for evangelical Christians, but in rural situations it is as if the law did not exist. Pray that the Lao authorities will ensure this law is put into practice.
The Christian presence in Libya is mainly foreign migrant workers and refugees, but there are also a very small number of indigenous Libyan converts from Islam. Islamists target Christians for killing, kidnap, forced conversion and sale in “modern-day slave markets”. Violence against Christian refugees in detention centres is commonplace. Pray that our weak and vulnerable brothers and sisters in Libya may know the truth of God’s promise: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6)
Islamist violence is on the rise in Mali and the small Christian minority is especially likely to be targeted. Pray that the president, Bah Ndaw, a retired officer in the Malian Air Force with a reputation for honesty, will be able to bring an end to the violence. He was appointed interim president in September 2020, after a coup, for an 18-month period. Ask that Christians will not be fearful but will be filled with peace, knowing God’s presence is with them.
Ask the Lord God Almighty to restore peace and stability in northern Mozambique, where relationships between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority used to be good. Ask Him to touch the hearts of the Islamist militants who have killed over 1,000 people since the violence began three-and-a-half years ago. Pray that their efforts to teach their violent and extremist ideology to the local Muslims will fail. Thank the Lord that many Mozambican Muslims still reject violence in the name of Islam, and pray that these peace-loving Muslims may come to know the Prince of Peace.
Lift up to the Lord the Chin, Karen and Kachin Christians and other persecuted ethnic minorities in Myanmar (Burma) including the Rohingya people, who are mainly Muslims. Pray that they will be given strength to endure hardship as they live in camps for displaced people, and that all who have lost loved ones will be comforted. Ask that military perpetrators, and government leaders who have been complicit, will turn in horror from their atrocities. Pray especially for Rohingya Christians, a very small minority amongst the Rohingya people, asking for the protection of those living as refugees in Bangladesh and vulnerable to attack by Rohingya Muslim extremists in the camps.
O Jesus, our Good Shepherd, we thank You for pastors, church-planters and evangelists who serve You diligently in contexts of opposition and violence. Please provide for their practical needs, even as the Holy Spirit equips and empowers them for ministry. Guard and protect them from violent attack, and, if it is Your will, save them from harassment by the authorities and unjust punishment because of their obedient service to You. We ask that their work will bear much fruit for Your Kingdom as more people put their trust in You and believers are strengthened to face persecution with courage and perseverance.
Thank the Lord for rapid Church growth in Nepal in a Hindu-majority context of mixed opposition and support for Christians. Pray that pastors and other believers will have wisdom and boldness in sharing God’s Word, as it is now a criminal offence to try to convert a Hindu or Buddhist to another religion. Pray that Nepali Christians may stand firm in their faith, knowing that the Lord is an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
Give thanks that the government of Niger (a country that is 98% Muslim) has a history of supporting religious freedom, which was re-affirmed in the first article of a 2019 law. However, Boko Haram Islamist militants have reached even into Niger, threatening especially the tiny Christian minority (less than 0.4%). Pray for their protection and ask that the Lord who makes wars cease to the ends of the earth will bring peace in this troubled region. (Psalm 46:9)
At least 24 people were killed, over 20 abducted and a church burnt by jihadi militants during two anti-Christian attacks in north-east Nigeria on Christmas Eve. One attack targeted a Christian village. In the other attack, Christian individuals were singled out, and five lined up. “Celebrate your Christmas with the present of the heads of these Christians,” said one of the militants and the five were then shot dead. Nigeria’s President Buhari had said in a Christmas message, “For me, providing security for all residents in the country remains an article of faith.” Pray that he will make this pledge a reality and bring an end to the long-running slaughter of Christians in parts of Nigeria.
“She was a light that came and warmed me when I was drowning in my sorrow … I would have killed myself if it were not for her.” A former prisoner in one of North Korea’s horrific “re-education camps” explained how a fellow-prisoner, who was a Christian, encouraged and supported her even though being caught doing this would result in a severe beating. So many died on the virtual starvation regime, said one camp survivor, that corpses were burned every few days and their ashes scattered on the fields to make the crops grow better. Thank the Lord for the courage and fortitude of Christian prisoners and their willingness to keep serving Him and helping others.
Farah Shaheen, a 12-year-old Christian girl, was abducted in Pakistan by a 45-year-old Muslim man who forced her to convert to Islam and marry him. For about three months, the police refused even to register the case, despite her father’s repeated pleas. Instead, the police insulted and threatened him whenever he came to the local police station to ask them to rescue his daughter. After another two months, Farah was found by police in a locked room with injuries to her feet, apparently due to torture though she was too traumatised to say what had happened. She is now back with her family where she has been the main caregiver to her younger siblings since their mother died five years ago. Pray that she will recover from her ordeal.
Pray that Christians in Russia will be filled with grace and peace as they seek to live for the Lord and be salt and light in their society. The situation varies across this huge country, the largest in the world by area and stretching across eleven time zones, but many believers and churches face harassment from the authorities. Pray that our brothers and sisters will be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves in the way they respond. (Matthew 5:13-16; 10:16)
Our loving Lord, we lift up to you Christian women and girls living in contexts of marginalisation and persecution, where they are often doubly despised – for being women and for being Christians. Please provide for all their needs and protect them from those who plan to harm them. We pray especially for vulnerable Christian widows and their children, without a human defender, and we praise You that You are a father to the fatherless and a defender of widows. We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ. (Psalm 68:5)
Pray for the protection of Christians in Saudi Arabia, whether migrant workers or Saudi converts from Islam. Anyone can be punished if they show their Christian faith in public in any way, and potentially even if caught praying with other Christians in private. Converts also face the possibility of execution as apostates from Islam, although this is not known to have happened in recent times. Give thanks for some small moves towards a more lenient interpretation of Islam in Saudi Arabia and pray that this will be expanded to allow Muslims to choose to follow another religion without being punished for their choice.
Somali Christians face the strong possibility of violent attack, even death, for their faith in the Lord Jesus. Pray that they will find protection under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1). The Somali Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab controls much of southern and central Somalia and raises as much revenue as the Somali government. One of their aims is to kill Somali converts from Islam. Pray that these men of violence may have a personal encounter with Jesus and give their lives to Him.
Christians in Sri Lanka come from Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim backgrounds as well as from families who have been Christian for generations. Many are desperately poor and all are vulnerable to harassment and sometimes violent attack. Pray that such persecution may cease, if it is the Lord’s will. Pray also for unity amongst the Christian community, which spans the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority, so that the love of Christians for each other will be a witness for Christ. (John 13:35)
Give thanks for the dramatic changes in Sudan over the last two years, as it moved from one of the strictest Islamic governments in the modern world to a secular state that guarantees freedom of belief, worship and religious practice to all and forbids discrimination on the basis of religion. Pray that Christians will make wise and godly use of this freedom after 30 years of harsh persecution. Pray also for the protection of the moderate Muslims in government who have brought these changes to pass, thus making themselves a target for violence by extreme Muslims.
At the time of writing, Syria is in a terrible predicament, ravaged by Covid-19 and cut off from outside help by American sanctions. This follows their bitter civil war, which included violent anti-Christian persecution in a country where Christians had previously enjoyed respect and equality with the Muslim majority. Give thanks that the faith of Christians has emerged stronger from the furnace of affliction. Pray that the Lord will continue to provide for them as they rebuild their lives, and ask Him to have mercy on the whole country.
Ask the Lord to uphold Christians in Tajikistan, facing increasingly restrictive laws. Pray that the authorities will relent from their harassment of Christians and will not use the data from the October 2020 census to track down Christians and persecute them. Ask the Lord to provide for the practical needs of Christians, who are mostly very poor, especially converts from Islam who often lose their jobs when they decide to follow Christ. Christian children are banned from attending church; pray that their parents will be enabled to bring them up in the way of the Lord.
O Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, we thank you for every new convert from another religious background who willingly takes up their cross to follow You, enduring loss and suffering for Your sake, knowing that they may even have to lay down their life for You. Please strengthen, encourage and protect them. Equip them with all they need to grow in the knowledge and love of You. Be very close to those who have been rejected by relatives, friends and community and assure them that their place in Your family can never be taken from them.
Pray for Muslim-background Christians in Tunisia that they will have opportunity and courage to meet with each other, whether in person or online, to worship You and build up their faith. Thank the Lord that churches for local Tunisian Christians are not prevented from functioning, even though they have no legal status. Pray that they may be given the same legal standing as the churches of expatriate Christians.
In its final hours, the Trump administration in the US signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Turkey about cultural property. This appears to have granted the Turkish state legal rights to claim the vast religious-cultural heritage of its minority populations including Kurds, Jews and many Christian communities such as Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans and Maronites. The shocking agreement responded to a request made by the Turkish government more than a year earlier. Turkey has a long track record of “destroying minorities, desecrating their holy sites, and erasing even their memory from the landscape of their ancient, indigenous homelands,” said an Armenian leader, Aram Hamparian. Dr Elizabeth Prodromou, formerly of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, commented that the agreement has “put the United States in the position of enabler to Turkey’s weaponization of cultural heritage policy, used for a century as a cudgel to erase the country’s vulnerable religious minorities.” Pray that the new American administration will act to protect the minorities of Turkey and their heritage.
The authorities in Turkmenistan may not yet admit there is Covid-19 in their country but they have introduced a strict lockdown. People used to be fined for wearing face-masks but now masks are mandatory. The few churches that exist are closed. But believers continued to gather in small groups in homes for worship, Bible study and preaching the Gospel. A Turkmen pastor told Barnabas Fund that the Christians are full of joy because the Church has an unshakeable foundation in Jesus Christ. They are very thankful to God for His protection in 2020 and believe that by His grace they will be kept safe in 2021.