The kidnappings of Nigerian Christians also continue. On 20 May two more church ministers were abducted in Katsina State – Joe Keke (aged 75) and Alphonsus Bello (aged 33). The body of Alphonsus was found the next day, but Joe was set free after two weeks. On 22 May eight Christians in Ondo State were abducted from their church bus by Fulani bandits and marched into the forest. At about 2 a.m. on 5 July gunmen kidnapped around 120 pupils from a Christian boarding school in Kaduna State. One was released because of ill health, five escaped and a group of 28 students was released almost three weeks later. Remembering the many promises in His Word about setting captives free, pray that the remaining pupils and many others who have been kidnapped will be released unharmed.
Eight Christians were killed by armed bandits at Ungwan Gaida village, Kaduna State, Nigeria. A church building and several homes were burnt to the ground in the same attack, which occurred on 19 May. Pray for those who mourn for Bawa, Bitrus, Gideon, Samaila, Sambo, Samuila, Solomon and Umaru, asking also that the bereaved and those who have lost their homes will have Christ-like grace to forgive their enemies and persecutors.
Lord Jesus, we lift before You those who have been bereaved through their loved ones’ martyrdom. We thank You that You are the resurrection and the life and for Your assurance that whoever lives and believes in You will never die. Please grant that those who mourn will be comforted by the certain knowledge that their loved ones have been faithful and that the death of Your saints is precious in Your sight. Please inspire and encourage those who remain behind to stay faithful to their calling and to draw strength from the One who comforts those who mourn. (John 11:25)
In Campina Grande, Brazil, is a “Memorial to the Bible” building, constructed in 2011. Inside visitors can read the Scriptures in various languages, including Portuguese, Greek and Hebrew. On 19 June a bomb attack destroyed the door and one of the walls. It was an unusual event for Brazil, but a Brazilian Christian leader explained to Barnabas Fund that it is a symptom of growing hostility in the country to Christian values and principles. Pray that Christians in Brazil will be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves in this changing situation (Matthew 10:16 ESV).
Three church buildings in Oran, Algeria, have been forced once more to close. The order was issued on 4 July and the churches were sealed on 7 July. This is the latest development in a legal battle that began in 2017 and has seen the churches closed, re-opened and now re-closed. Pray them open again, remembering the words about Jesus given to the persecuted congregation in another Mediterranean city long ago: “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Revelation 3:7)
Praise God for a ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court to grant tax-deductible status to a non-profit organisation run by Messianic Jews (Jewish followers of Jesus). The organisation, called Yachad, which runs a messianic congregation called Tiferet Yeshua (Hebrew for “Glory of Jesus”), first applied several years ago but kept being refused, apparently on the grounds of its outreach activities. Pray that this ruling will set a precedent for the same status to be granted to other messianic organisations.
At the time of writing, Lebanon continues in political deadlock. There are shortages of food, medicines, electricity and petrol/diesel. A lot of the damage caused by last year’s massive explosion in the port of Beirut is still not repaired. The Lebanese pound continues to tumble and salaries are all but worthless. In any case, many people have lost their jobs because of Covid-19. The middle classes are as helpless as the poor. “I can do without food myself, but I cannot let my children go hungry,” said a weeping Christian mother. Barnabas Fund is continuing to assist our brothers and sisters in Lebanon. Pray for Lebanon and for daily strength for our partners on the ground as they distribute the aid, trying also to bring encouragement and hope.
“Operation Claw” is the name of a Turkish military campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan this year, which has destroyed acres of farmland and at least 800 beehives, making it impossible for many families to support themselves. Most of those affected are either Assyrian Christians, Kurdish Muslims or Yazidis. Chalke is a Christian village in the area, to which some people fled in early May when other villages were bombed by the Turkish forces. But then the villagers of Chalke decided to leave and, by 9 May, Chalke itself was empty except for one young man who stayed to tend his small flock of sheep. Pray that the Lord our Shepherd will bring peace and will lead His faithful people in Iraq beside quiet waters and green pastures to a place of rest, security and plenty (Psalm 23:2).
Tomorrow elections will be held for the 325 parliamentary seats in Iraq. There are at least 34 Christians standing for election, amongst some 3,500 candidates representing 267 political parties grouped into 44 coalitions. The Iraqi electoral system reserves a minimum quota of five seats for Christians in the five provinces of Baghdad, Kirkuk, Erbil, Dohuk and Nineveh. Ask that the Lord’s hand will be over the elections, that those of His choice will be elected and will govern with justice and righteousness. Pray that Christians elected may use their earthly powers for the glory of their heavenly Father.
Sovereign Lord, we ask for protection for Your people in Saudi Arabia. We stand with them in prayer as they are forced to follow You in secrecy in a country where it is a capital offence to leave Islam. Thank You for recent signs of a slightly more lenient interpretation of Islam. We ask that there will be further moves towards freedom of religion. We ask that the vast wealth in Saudi Arabia will be channelled towards godly purposes and that You will awaken both government and people to the true riches of Your grace that are found in the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose Name we pray.
“Please pray for Nepali Christians … We are losing many pastors and leaders. Even this morning we lost two pastors. Situation is very bad right now. More than 150 pastors and leaders are in hospitals, isolation and C19 positive. Many poor Christians have no food to eat.” This message came to Barnabas Fund from a Nepali Christian on 26 May, describing the pressures that the pandemic was bringing, on top of the poverty and harassment that they faced already. Our heavenly Father knows their situation today – ask Him to grant our brothers and sisters in Nepal strength, courage, health and hope. Barnabas Fund has sent food aid.
Sikapai village, Odisha state, India, is a remote community of 40 families. About a decade ago, eight of the families became Christians and have suffered for this decision. Sometimes, for example, the women went to the well, about a kilometre away, but had to come back without water because of the intimidation they encountered. Earlier this year the houses of the eight families were destroyed by a mob, who did not even allow the Christians to retrieve any possessions. “They can destroy our homes but not our faith in Jesus,” said Nori, one of the victims. The homeless believers took refuge in the forest. Pray that the Lord will protect and provide for them. Ask that, like other Christians before them, the eight families will joyfully accept the confiscation of their property, remembering that they have “better and lasting possessions” in Christ (Hebrews 10:34).
In the village of Bodoguda, in Odisha state, India, twelve Christian families (about 17% of the village’s population) were building themselves a church when a crowd of around 150 armed extremists destroyed the half-constructed building. This was the third violent attack on the Bodoguda Christians and their buildings in about a year. Pray that they may have grace to count their trials pure joy and that their faith will grow as it is repeatedly tested (James 1:2-4).
By the middle of June, over 2,000 pastors in India had died of Covid, leaving their congregations bereft just at the time they most needed pastoral care, for almost every church and every family had deaths. In addition to a devastating second wave of the coronavirus, there was an outbreak of the previously rare “black fungus” (mucormycosis) which posed an additional deadly threat to bodies weakened by the virus. Some Christian ministries were expected to close because there was no one left with the ability to lead them. Pray that, in the face of such danger, Indian Christians will rely on Christ our cornerstone and sure foundation.
On 1 June a new law came into effect in Gujarat state, India, stipulating that teachers and head teachers of secondary schools (high schools) will no longer be appointed by the schools but by a new Central Recruitment Committee. Church leaders fear that the law will dilute the Christian character of church schools and that it may be a first step in bringing them under full state control. Christians and other non-Hindu minorities in Gujarat have launched a legal challenge against the law. Pray that the law will be amended or repealed.
Two weeks after the law on appointing teachers (see above), a new anti-conversion law came into force in Gujarat state, increasing the maximum sentence from four years to ten years in prison for trying to convert people by fraud, force or allurement. The definition of allurement was extended from cash or other material gifts to include the promise of “divine blessings”. If applied rigorously this could make it illegal even to tell a non-Christian that repenting and believing in Christ will bring forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Pray that Christians in Gujarat will take courage from the example of the apostles in a very similar situation and will obey God rather than human beings (Acts 5:27-29).
Heavenly Father, help us to grieve with the Body of Christ around the world as so many have been lost to the coronavirus pandemic. We especially stand with Christians in India and Nepal, where over 2,000 pastors and Christian leaders have died of Covid. We ask that vital Christian ministries will not have to be closed down through lack of leadership, and pray that You will raise up new leaders full of faith and the Holy Spirit who will trust in You to supply strength and wisdom in embracing new responsibilities. We make our requests in Jesus’ Name. (Acts 11:24)
The Koya tribal group in Odisha state, India, mostly follow a traditional animistic religion, but some have become Christians. Pray for a Koya Christian woman, whose husband, also a believer, died recently. Before his death, other Koya people, angered by his decision to follow Christ, had confiscated parts of his farmland and tried to obstruct his work on what remained to him. After his death, they buried him according to their own religion (having told his widow they would not bury him at all unless she re-converted to her former religion). They took money from her and even tried to beat her. “Today I have no other way,” she explained to her pastor, “but I will not leave the Lord Jesus. I will come back again.” Pray for our sister that she will continue strong in the Lord and ask that she will soon be able to join with other Christians to worship Him once more.
Sri Lankan Christians have been caught up in several serious problems afflicting their country. There are many Christians amongst the western coastal fishing communities, whose livelihoods were affected when the X-Press Pearl container ship caught fire and eventually sank, spilling nitric acid and other chemicals into the sea. Some have also been affected by floods and landslides and Covid-19 has caused many to lose their jobs and income, so that they are struggling to find their daily meals. Even some Christian leaders are suffering depression. Pray that our heavenly Father will provide for their needs, and that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, will strengthen them, as they fix their eyes on Jesus who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).
An online report in July stated that customs officials in the Maldives Islands have intercepted envelopes addressed to government bodies, businesses and private homes which were found to contain “information about Christianity” in Dhivehi (the Maldivian language). The envelopes had been sent from a variety of countries. The Maldives is one of the strictest Islamic countries in the world. Maldivian law bans any literature which promotes values that are contrary to Islam. Pray that, despite the efforts of the customs officials, the Gospel will be made known in the Maldives and many will put their trust in the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour.
Please pray for our new Barnabas Food Box programme (see food.gives for more details). Praise God for those who have already donated dry goods (or money for shipping costs) and pray for all involved in the logistics of collection, packing, shipping and distribution. Ask the Lord to make smooth the way through customs and thank Him for opening up this opportunity to get help to our brothers and sisters in such need.
“Is the fellowship of a few Christian brothers and sisters in someone’s house singing worship songs, reading the Bible and worshipping God acting against national security?” asked Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh from prison in Iran in an open letter. A convert from Islam, he had been given a ten-year sentence because of his membership of a house church. Before beginning his sentence in January 2018, Nasser (now 60) had been the primary carer for his elderly mother. He is desperate to get out and resume his caring duties. Although eligible for parole, his requests keep being rejected. In June, after yet another rejection, he asked people to pray for him, saying that he needed “comfort from the Lord”. Ask the God of all comfort to be close to our brother and guard his heart and mind with a peace that transcends understanding (2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Philippians 4:7).
New amendments to the Religion Law and Administrative Code of Azerbaijan mean that churches have to get approval from the state for any leaders they want to appoint. The rule applies to all non-Islamic religious leaders in the Muslim-majority country. For the appointment of foreign-born leaders there are even more hurdles to overcome. Pray that the King of kings and Lord of lords will overrule the Azerbaijani decision-makers, so that the people of His choice will lead His Church there.
Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for our brothers and sisters in North Korea. We ask You to enable them to see clearly in the thick darkness of a country where owning a Bible can lead to imprisonment or even execution. Please enable them to grow in faith. We intercede for those suffering harsh treatment in labour camps and ask You to sustain them through the light of Your presence. We pray that these faithful disciples will feel the unity of Your Body around the world supporting them. Help us to suffer with our family in North Korea and bear their burdens in Your Name.
China is continuing its crackdown on Christians, with more churches and Christian ministries being removed from WeChat, China’s main social media platform. Those affected even include some officially registered churches. Christian search terms such as “Christ”, “Bible” and “Gospel” have been blocked. Pray that all the obstacles being thrown in the path of Christians by the Chinese authorities will only serve to strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters and help them to grow in perseverance.
A group of schoolchildren from a madrasa (Islamic school) in Indonesia desecrated a Christian graveyard in Solo, Central Java, in June, breaking the crosses off twelve graves. The children were thought to be aged from 5 to 12, causing a shocked reaction across Indonesia because the perpetrators were so young. Many commentators, including the Muslim mayor of Solo, blamed the school for radicalising the children and teaching them to be intolerant. Thank the Lord for the outcry on behalf of Christians and pray that these youngsters will be taught to be compassionate, just and loving to all.
Give thanks to God that Indonesian police discovered an anti-Christian terrorist plot before any attacks were launched. Several churches in Papua province were to have been targeted by suicide bombers. Another part of the plan was to assassinate one of Papua’s most senior church leaders, which would have been the third attempt on his life. Thankfully, he was out of town when the previous two attempts were to be staged. Pray for the Lord’s continued protection of His people in this very poor part of Indonesia.
Several pastors in Java, Indonesia, have applied for permission to construct simple church buildings for their growing congregations of converts from Islam. In the meantime they rent premises for worship, but this is fraught with problems as rented properties are usually near residential areas, so the sound of the worship could cause complaints. Massive rent rises are not uncommon and sometimes congregations are evicted without warning. Applications for permits to build churches are dealt with extremely slowly in some places, and often refused. Ask God to intervene and cause permits to be granted and promptly.
After Jewish leaders in Australia had called on the Australian government to recognise the Armenian Genocide, the Arab Council of Australia also added its voice, saying a formal act of recognition would give dignity to the victims and help “the healing of a community [including] many generations living with inherited trauma”. Thank the Lord for these developments and pray for the success of Barnabas Fund’s petition to the governments of Australia, New Zealand and the UK for recognition of the Armenian, Assyrian, Syriac and Greek Genocide a century ago in which 3.75 million Christians died under Ottoman Turkish rule.
Please bring before the Lord the tensions that Christians face daily in being faithful to their calling in countries with strict Islamic “blasphemy” laws. Pray that our brothers and sisters will remain firm under trial. Ask that they may have the courage to be visible disciples of Christ, despite the constant possibility of arrest for “blasphemy” if they say what they believe. Pray that they will know God’s wisdom in communicating His love sensitively yet faithfully.
God our rock, be with us in this time of trouble. Be with our brothers and sisters who are marginalised and despised. God our comforter, be with us in this time of suffering. Be with our brothers and sisters who endure injustice and violence. God our protector, be with us in this time of evil. Be with our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for the sake of Christ. God our healer, be with us in this time of sickness. Be with our brothers and sisters wherever death stalks the land. God our hope, hear us, as we cry to You. Come to us and come to them. For You alone are the Hope of Your people. Restore us all, that we may sing Your praises in the house of the Lord. In the Name of Christ, Amen.