Praise God that the Church in Uzbekistan is growing and that persecution is decreasing. Thank Him for the faith and courage of our brothers and sisters who still live daily with many risks and restrictions and – for converts from Islam – the pain of rejection by friends and family. A new rule requires all church leaders to receive theological training. Pray that God will use this to be a blessing to His people in Uzbekistan, and that their leaders will be enabled to study for acceptable qualifications that will also equip them with all they need to strengthen believers in their faith.
As we remember today, with thankfulness beyond words, the death on the cross of Jesus our redeemer, praise Him for the perseverance of His martyred followers, especially those who have died in the last year, who did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death (Revelation 12:11). Pray that their sacrifice will embolden others to endure persecution and to be a powerful witness to their killers. Ask that the Lord will comfort their grieving loved ones, giving them His peace that passes all understanding.
In some parts of Vietnam, Christians are treated well, while in other parts they suffer arbitrary arrest, brutal police treatment and jail. Pray that the good treatment will spread throughout this communist state and that the 2018 law which requires authorities to protect religious freedom will be implemented whole-heartedly, without efforts to ban Christian activity on pretexts of harming social order or national unity.
Christ is risen! Alleluia! Thank you, Lord Jesus, for Your victory over death, which gives us, who trust and love You, the sure and certain hope of heaven. We pray for our brothers and sisters who face harassment, discrimination, violence and persecution in their daily lives, who may have lost homes, possessions and livelihoods just because they follow You. We ask that they will stand firm in the assurance of this living hope and of their heavenly inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. May they be sustained by the comfort of Your Holy Spirit and Your resurrection power. (1 Peter 1:3-4)
Egyptian Christian brothers, Ramsis and Adel Hermina, each ran a small shop in Alexandria. On 10 December Ramsis (47) heard a commotion as two Muslim brothers, well known locally for their hatred and harassment of Christians, approached carrying knives, clubs and a sword. Ramsis hastily began to bring in the goods displayed outside his shop, but the Muslim men grabbed him and stabbed him in the abdomen and neck. Adel (60), coming from his shop next door, and Tareq Shenouda, another Christian shop owner, arrived on the scene to help Ramsis but each got stabbed. Ramsis died later in hospital. Senators and MPs attended his funeral, showing solidarity with the shocked Christian community. Pray for the two Muslim brothers, whose mother had died that morning, that they may find peace, love and wholeness in Jesus Christ.
Praise God for the brave and kind Muslim neighbours who protected a Christian family in Egypt from an angry Muslim mob on 25 November. The mob, who attacked Christian homes and a church building in al-Barsha village, Minya governorate, were enraged by an allegation that a Christian called Girgis Sameeh had made a Facebook comment that insulted Muhammad. Girgis said his account had been hacked. The Christians defended their homes and church from the stones and Molotov cocktails that the mob threw, and the only person seriously injured was an elderly Christian woman whose face was burnt when a Molotov cocktail hit her bedroom. Four days later the extremist Muslims set fire to farm huts where Christians kept the feed for their cattle. They also called for a boycott of Christian-owned businesses. Pray for an end to this persecuction of our brothers and sisters.
Christians in Egypt were outraged in December 2020 when an appeal court acquitted three Muslim men who had been charged with stripping naked an elderly Christian woman, Suad Thabet, and dragging her through the streets of al-Karm village in Minya province during mob violence in May 2016. Afterwards President Sisi apologised on behalf of the shocked nation and ordered that the five Christian homes set on fire by the rioting Muslims be repaired. Many moderate Muslims expressed outrage at the acquittal and a Muslim actress posted online photos of a life-size sculpture she had made of Mrs Thabet, while studying Fine Arts at Minya University. It had been her graduation project and the theme set was “a sculpture of a public figure in Minya”. Praise God for this affirmation of Egyptian Christians by Egyptian Muslims and pray that it will spread to the whole Egyptian population.
Extremists conducted a pooja (Hindu religious ceremony) in the grounds of a Christian church in Goa, India, on 30 December. The Christians called the police, who asked the extremists to move elsewhere but did not file a report of the incident. Similar incidents have occurred at churches in other states across India and also at the famous Muslim tomb, the Taj Mahal. Pray that Christian and Muslim places of worship in India will be treated with respect by the majority community.
The lockdown in India last year has led to great blessing in some village Christian communities. Instead of meeting just once a week in a big Sunday service, the Christians began to meet in small groups, each with its own leader – mostly new young leaders who had had no active role in the large-scale Sunday worship. The small meetings enabled believers to draw close to the Lord in more authentic ways; the result was spiritual growth for the Christians and effective witness to non-Christians, with many giving their lives to Christ. Give thanks to our God, who in all things works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Police in Shahjahanpur district, Uttar Pradesh state, India, have been instructed to keep a watch on Christian prayer meetings to see if there are any unlawful efforts to convert people to Christianity. A new anti-conversion law came into effect in this state in November 2020 prohibiting conversion by “force, misrepresentation, undue influence, and allurement, or fraud, or marriage”. There are now nine Indian states with legislation of this kind in force, making it very easy for Christians engaged in genuine evangelism to be falsely accused of using wrong methods. Pray that Indian Christians will have courage to obey God rather than human beings and keep sharing the Gospel. (Acts 5:28-29)
O Prince of Peace, we pray for the Christian town of Mozogo in the far north of Cameroon, attacked in January by militants, armed with guns and machetes, and a girl suicide bomber. Please comfort those who mourn for the twelve dead, five of them children, even as young as three years old. We ask for Your healing touch on the injured, including six children seriously wounded. We long to see the increase of Your government and of peace, and Your just and righteous rule, as promised in Your Word. Please hasten this day and glorify Your Name. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Boko Haram militants attacked the mainly Christian village of Gabass in Far North Cameroon in the early hours of 26 November, killing at least three people and abducting another. On the same night, Boko Haram also attacked Guidi village, also in the Far North, setting fire to five homes. Rural Christian communities in this part of Cameroon are frequent targets of Boko Haram, whose aim is to establish an Islamic Caliphate in West Africa. Pray, in the words of David, for our Cameroonian brothers and sisters, that the Lord will protect them from violent men who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war. (Psalm 140:1-2)
At least 30 Christians were killed, 14 seriously injured and ten young women and girls raped, in a string of jihadi attacks on five villages in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo between 20 November and 3 December. According to reports, the militants tried to force some of the Christians to convert to Islam and killed them when they refused. Our heavenly Father knows all the details – ask Him to comfort and care for the survivors.
Six Christians died in an attack on the Christian village of Ungwan Bido in Kaduna State, Nigeria, on Sunday 29 November. Pray for those who mourn for Silas, Malaki, Geofree, Anna, Sunday and Fidelis. Pray too that Barnabas Fund’s campaign to have the deteriorating situation for Christians in North and Middle Belt Nigeria put on the agenda of the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, expected to be held in late June, will be successful. (Sign our Open Letter at barnabasfund.org/save-nigeria)
Joseph Swanta (20), a member of his church choir, heard gunfire in his village in Plateau State, Nigeria, on 1 December. When it stopped, he went out to see if he could help the victims, despite the pleas of his mother, Ruth. Ruth heard the gunfire resume and very soon heard her son’s scream as the Fulani militant attackers shot him first in the hand and then in the chest, killing him. Two other Christians died in this attack. A woman called Adegoke, who had been lying on her bed reading the Bible, was abducted. Pray that the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, will keep His people in Nigeria from all harm, watching over their lives and their coming and going. (Psalm 121:7-8)
North Korea punishes all religious believers, but often the harshest punishments are given to Christians. This is the conclusion of a London-based research group, based on interviews with more than 100 North Koreans who had survived and escaped their country. From their harrowing testimonies, the research group identified 215 Christian victims of persecution, some of them children, who had suffered in the period 1990-2019. Arrest, interrogation, hideous torture and the terrible “re-education camps” were the repeated theme of these testimonies. Praise God for the faithfulness of our North Korean brothers and sisters, as they suffer
Some North Korean Christians manage to escape over the border to China but sometimes the Chinese authorities forcibly return them to North Korea. Engaging in religious activities while in China is a crime in North Korea, along with religious practice, possessing religious items, contact with religious persons, attending places of worship, and sharing religious beliefs. These are typically what North Korean Christians are punished for. Remembering that nothing is too hard for the Lord (Genesis 18:14) pray that He will bring relief to suffering Christians in and from North Korea.
O God of justice, we lift to You three of our Christian brothers in Pakistan, who have been falsely accused of “blasphemy” without any evidence against them. We pray for Azeem, who was arrested on Christmas Day, and for Saleem and Abbas, from the same village, who were advised to surrender themselves to the police so that their whole Christian community would not be attacked by an angry mob. Lord, may their innocence be proved. We ask this in the Name of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who was Himself falsely accused. (Isaiah 30:18)
Praise God that Imran Ghafur, a Pakistani Christian, has been acquitted after more than eleven years in prison on a charge of “blasphemy”. He received a life sentence after being accused of burning a portion of the Quran while cleaning his bookshop in Faisalabad. Pray that our brother Imran may be fully restored to hope and peace after his long ordeal of injustice and suffering (Joel 2:25-26). There are still more than 20 Pakistani Christians in prison on charges of blasphemy, of whom seven have been sentenced to death. Pray for them to be acquitted.
When three Muslim men held up a rickshaw in Pakistan on 28 December in order to rob the passengers, they found that the travellers were a group of Christians including two teenage girls, whom they decided to rape. Normally they just robbed and did not rape, and said afterwards, “We only raped because they were Christian.” The older girl (aged 16) begged the men to leave her 14-year-old sister alone, which they did, but gang-raped the older sister. Please pray for our loving Lord’s peace for both girls, especially the 16-year-old.
Sonia Bibi, a 24-year-old Christian woman living in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, was shot in the head on 30 November and died on her way to hospital. A Muslim man had wanted to marry her, but Sonia and her parents declined the offer, knowing that marrying a Muslim would mean converting to Islam. Her suitor then threatened to kill her. “We are Christians from generations,” said her father, “and Sonia was a true Christian and strong in her faith and she has been killed for following her Christian faith.” Sonia, a domestic servant, was an important breadwinner for the family, as her father is a low-paid sanitary worker and her mother has a disability which means she has had to give up work. Pray that the Lord will protect, comfort and provide for Sonia’s family.
At the time of writing there are known to be around 150 Armenian soldiers held by Azerbaijan as prisoners-of-war and still alive. But the fate of 1,300 other Armenians is still unknown, after the short and bloody war in September-October 2020 when Muslim-majority Azerbaijan seized territory in the Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Christianity is a vital part of Armenian identity. At least 11 Armenian prisoners-of-war have been killed by the Azerbaijainis and videos show the beheadings of two elderly civilians by men dressed in the uniform of the Azerbaijani armed forces. Pray that the God of all comfort will console those who mourn and those who still do not know whether their loved ones are alive or dead. (2 Corinthians 1:3)
“A new war with Armenia is now inevitable … This time the war will go to the territory of Armenia.” This tweet from Ahmad Shahidov, head of the Azerbaijan Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, is one of a number of Azerbaijani threats to the country of Armenia, which have been made since Muslim-majority Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, attacked the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2020, and successfully seized control of much of its territory. This part of Azerbaijan is inhabited by Armenians, who are Christian. Pray that Armenia, the first Christian nation in the world, will not be conquered by the Muslim armies of Azerbaijan and its allies.
Today is the annual commemoration of the terrible genocide of Armenian, Assyrian, Syriac and Greek Christians, in which an estimated 3.75 million people died in the Turkish Ottoman Empire over a period of time, the worst year being 1915. Many countries have not yet officially recognised these terrible mass murders of men, women and children as a genocide. Pray that the international petition and campaign, which Barnabas Fund and others are running at present, will persuade more governments to acknowledge this as genocide and act to protect Armenians from being targeted for destruction again. (barnabasfund.org/armenian-genocide)
O God, we rejoice that You know us fully and one day we shall see You face to face. Please help Your children in China. As surveillance in their country increases, and facial recognition cameras tell the police exactly who went to church, who spoke to whom and what the sermon was about, let our brothers and sisters not become fearful. Though earthly life is very hard for Chinese Christians, fill them with confident hope that one day You will wipe every tear from their eyes, Your Name will be on their foreheads, and they will see Your face. We pray this in Christ’s Name. (1 Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 21:4; 22:4)
Five Christians in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China have been prosecuted for selling audio Bible players (small electronic devices that play pre-loaded digital audio files). They were found guilty of “illegal business operations”. Some who bought the Bible players, which are very popular with Chinese Christians, have been warned by police that they were potentially breaking the law by purchasing them. This is apparently part of the atheist Chinese authorities’ increasingly strict control of Bibles in their vast country. Praise God that no earthly authority can prevent the Word that goes out from God’s mouth accomplishing what He desires (Isaiah 55:11).
When missionaries brought the Gospel to the Pacific Islands, it was welcomed eagerly in many places, though violently opposed in some. Eventually this part of the world became strongly Christian. But in the 21st century, Islam is beginning to advance. One attraction seems to be practical help, and many children from Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu have had a free education at Islamic schools in Malaysia, Yemen, Fiji and Saudi Arabia. Another attraction is the way in which Islam does not separate religion from state, which fits with local people’s preference for religion to be central in their daily lives. Pray that Christians will love the Lord so strongly that they will not convert to Islam despite these attractions.
From small beginnings in the 1970s, when Muslim labourers and diplomats arrived, Islam has been growing in Papua New Guinea. An Islamic Society was established in the early 1980s, the first mosque was opened in 2001 (with an imam from Saudi Arabia, later replaced by a Wahhabi Muslim from Nigeria), and the first Islamic school in 2004. The number of Papuan Muslim converts increased by 1,000% in the first twelve years of this century. The Christian majority began reacting strongly, and sometimes violently, against the Muslims. Some Christians wanted legal solutions to ensure the continued primacy of Christianity. Pray that the Lord will lead Papuan Christians in a loving, just and righteous response to this challenge. Ask that they will be filled with peace-loving wisdom from heaven. (James 3:17)
The Muslim minority in the Solomon Islands is divided between two extremes of the Islamic spectrum. This is the result of two separate Muslim missionary efforts in the late 20th century: Ahmadiyyas (regarded as heretics by most Muslims) and the Tablighi Jamaat (a strict and very conservative Sunni group). From twelve Muslims in 1998, the number of Muslims could now be in the thousands. Many of the new converts to Islam blame Christianity for destroying their traditional customs, including retribution, gender segregation and polygamy. They like Islam’s external codes of behaviour, which they feel hopeful of adhering to, rather than the impossibly high Christian goal of perfect inner holiness, which they say leads to immorality in society. Pray that church leaders in this country, which is approximately 90% Christian, will teach believers clearly about salvation by faith not works, and Jesus’s redeeming death once for all.
Islam is said to have come to the Melanesian nation of Vanuatu when a local Christian went to India to train as a Bible translator and converted to Islam before returning home in 1978. Scores of his relatives became Muslims, all living in the same village on a tiny island and worshipping on the beach. Later Islam spread to other parts of Vanuatu. By 2007, mosques were already appearing on several islands even though there were estimated to be only 100-200 Muslim converts. The constitution of Vanuatu guarantees freedom of religion but also states that Vanuatu is founded on “traditional Melanesian values, faith in God, and Christian principles”. In 2017 the president of Vanuatu declared, “We have only one religion in Vanuatu and that is Christianity. We have declared this nation in Yahweh’s name and no other God.” Pray that Christianity will continue to flourish in Vanuatu, and for wisdom and justice in responding to the growth of Islam.