At the start of 2022, after nearly two years of great suffering across the globe due to Covid-19 and other factors, praise God that Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Let us pray that we, along with persecuted Christians who face discrimination, harassment, injustice and violence in addition to the other challenges, may continue to trust unwaveringly in Him. Ask that the Holy Spirit will help us to keep Jesus central in our lives, so that we can face the new year without fear or anxiety but with confidence, walking daily with Him.
Be close, dear Jesus, to all who are despised and rejected by their society because they trust You as their Saviour and follow You as their Lord. Comfort with Your presence those who face mockery and contempt from all around them, who are falsely accused or whose actions and motives are misunderstood. May they be encouraged by remembering that You also bore disgrace when You lived on earth, and that You understand their hurt and distress. May they remember at all times that they are sons and daughters of the King of kings, redeemed and beloved, for whom a place in heaven has been prepared. (Hebrews 13:13)
Many Pakistani Christians work in dirty, high-risk, low-pay jobs such as cleaning sewers. One is Michael Masih who, on Sunday 3 October, was sent, without any protective equipment, to clear a dangerous sewer in Sargodha. While underground he lost consciousness due to the toxic gases, so two more Christians were ordered to go down and rescue him, also without proper equipment. Faisal and Nadeem managed to get Michael out but then a strong current swept them away. Emergency services refused to help because touching the Christians would make them ritually “unclean”, so a fourth Christian, Shahbaz, was sent down. He found his two colleagues dead. The men’s employer, Sargodha Metropolitan Corporation, said afterwards, “Whatever happened that night, it was Allah’s will. The corporation carries no fault.” Pray that this shocking event will result in better treatment for poor Christians in Pakistan. Michael’s eyesight and lungs were damaged by his ordeal, apparently permanently, but pray that God will heal him.
“We miss him so much,” said Mariam after her husband Nadeem died in a sewer (see above). “But God has called him to his breast, and we thank God for His gift of heaven.” Praise God for Mariam’s strong Christian faith and pray that He will be close to her in the difficult days that lie ahead. She draws comfort also from remembering that her husband died saving the life of another man. Anum, widow of Faisal who also perished in the sewer, recalls how her husband had been very ill but had to go to work that night because otherwise he would have lost his job. Faisal’s sister believes that his Muslim boss had purposely forced Faisal to work on a Sunday because it is a Christian holy day. Ask the Lord to comfort the widows, children and extended families of Nadeem and Faisal.
The minimum age for marriage in Pakistan is 16 (or 18 in Sindh province) but a judge at the Lahore High Court has set aside the law of the land and ruled that a girl can be married as soon as she reaches puberty because by then she will generally have the required mental capacity. He explained that this is in line with Islamic teaching. On this basis he refused the request of a Christian family that their 14-yearold daughter, Chashman, be returned to them, after she was abducted, converted to Islam and married to a Muslim man. This legal ruling sets an alarming precedent, as many Christian and Hindu underage girls in Pakistan are kidnapped and forcibly married to Muslim men. Chashman’s father, Gulzar Masih, has said he will appeal against the judge’s decision. Pray that his appeal will succeed.
Christians, Hindus and Buddhists in Bangladesh joined together to call for greater protection for the country’s non-Muslim minorities. The rally on 23 October followed a wave of violence by radical Islamists against Hindus. Christians also are sometimes violently attacked. Hindus are about 9% of the population, Christians and Buddhists far fewer. Pray that the authorities will be able to stop the trend to violence. The rally also called for greater participation in the government by representatives from the minorities. Pray that this will also be forthcoming.
Several people were wounded and one was killed when gunmen opened fire during a Sunday morning church service on 26 September in Gabaciwa, Kaduna State, Nigeria. Pray for the Lord’s healing touch on those who were injured. Kaduna’s governor, a Muslim, strongly condemned the “evil attack targeting innocent citizens” adding that the attack was intentionally divisive and the perpetrators were “leveraging religious sensitivity”. Pray that Governor El-Rufai will be able to turn his supportive words into effective action and stop the constant attacks on Christians in Kaduna.
On the same day as the attack in Gabaciwa (see above) gunmen attacked Madamai and Abun villages in Kaduna State, Nigeria, killing 34 people, mainly women and children. Thirteen of the dead were from the same family. The villages are in Kaura Local Government Area, which is 95% Christian. Several houses were set ablaze and other property destroyed. Pray that the bereaved and other survivors will be given grace to obey their Saviour’s command to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44).
Lord Jesus, we bring before You the turbulent land of Nigeria. We thank You for the faithfulness of Your people despite great danger and suffering, particularly in the north of the country where they are a small minority and the Middle Belt where they endure much violence. We pray that You will comfort those bereaved in raids by militants and provide for those whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed. We ask that these attacks will cease and that those who follow You will remain steadfast in their faith, knowing that their labours for You are not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Pastors in India’s Madhya Pradesh state are facing false accusations that they have illegally converted Hindus to Christianity. Two pastors spent 16 days in jail in September 2021 having been accused. They were leaving a prayer meeting at the home of a believer in Satna district when they were beaten by extremists and then arrested by the police. The two were eventually released on bail when the house owner filed an affidavit refuting the false accusations. The state’s law forbids the use of fraud, force or allurement in such conversions but Christians are often falsely accused of using such methods. Ten months ago Madhya Pradesh increased the maximum prison term for such offences from three to ten years. Pray that the charges against the two pastors will be dropped.
On 31 October, again in Satna district (see above), Indian Pastor Biju Thomas experienced an apparent attempt to trap him when, it seems, extremists staged a fake “conversion” by planting a non-Christian in a worship service. This man claimed he had been taken to the church for conversion, but neither the pastor nor his church members had ever seen him before. Pastors in Madhya Pradesh are now arranging to document the names of all the Christians attending church services so that such traps cannot be set again. Pray that genuine seekers may still be able to find the Lord.
Some Christian women from Ladamila village, Odisha state, India went to fetch water for cooking and washing for their four families. The majority community would not let them use the well, so the women filled their containers from the paddy field. After they got home, a hostile group of men and women burst into their houses, beat the Christians and threw away the water the women had collected. The four Christian families fled. Two days later they returned to Ladamila and found their homes had been destroyed. The other villagers told them that they were no longer allowed to live in Ladamila because they had become Christians. Pray that these brave believers will be filled with peace, joy and hope as they look forward to the day when Jesus will lead them to springs of living water and 2022 5 God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Revelation 7:17).
“You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). The village council of Mangapat Sirsai village (population 700) in the Indian state of Jharkhand agreed on 17 September to ban three Christian families from accessing the common land where cattle are grazed and to exclude them from social gatherings. Any villagers who failed to stick to this boycott were to be fined. The aim was to pressure the three families into returning to the Sarna belief system of nature-worship followed by all the other villagers. Pray that the three Christian families, who had converted from Sarna a year earlier, will stand firm and that other Sarna-followers will become followers of Jesus.
Church leaders in Kyrgyzstan notice a declining interest in the Word of God, except among the deaf, who are still eager to “hear” the Gospel. Many deaf people and those with a speech impairment are turning to Christ and being baptised. Ministry leaders have organised seminars in local churches to train many volunteers in sign language. Praise God that in our day “the deaf hear the words of the book” (Isaiah 29:18 AV) and that when they hear they believe and call on the Name of the Lord and are saved (Romans 10:13-14). Pray that they will grow in their new faith, and not be dismayed by the persecution that they are likely to face in Kyrgyzstan and the ongoing suffering of their disabilities.
The economic situation in Kyrgyzstan continues to deteriorate. Many businesses have closed and people cannot find work. It is even harder for those who have left Islam to follow Christ, as the Muslim majority often refuse to employ them. To make things worse, 2021 was a very dry year, and many crops failed in the extreme heat. The price of hay rose so high that families had to sell their livestock because they could not feed them. Please pray for better rains in 2022 and for livelihoods for our brothers and sisters, most of whom live in rural parts of the country. Pray also that Christians in the region will have a thankful and trusting attitude that draws non-Christians to our heavenly Father.
Sovereign Lord, we ask You to guide Your people in Uzbekistan in view of the restrictions with which they live daily, restrictions that make many ordinary Christian activities illegal. Be with those who share the Good News with others, and protect them from prosecution for this forbidden action. Watch over those who gather in private homes for group Bible study, and protect them from raids by the police as such meetings are banned. Give Christian leaders great wisdom in organising special Christian events, for which the authorities require full details. We ask for Your direction in Jesus’ Name.
Church leaders from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan met together in September for a leadership conference on the theme of “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). Thank the Lord that those serving Him in the hostile context of Central Asia could meet and be encouraged and built up. Many church members are emigrating from these countries because life is so hard, but the Lord is adding new believers, including from the Muslim majorities, so that many churches find that their numbers remain stable. Praise God for this and pray that pastors will have wisdom to care for their ever-changing flocks.
At the time of writing, Barnabas Fund is working with the governments of three countries in three different continents, seeking a safe place for permanent settlement for hundreds of Afghan Christians who fled their country when the Taliban gained power five months ago. Pray that the Lord will open the way in His perfect timing for these faithful and courageous believers. Pray also for their protection and for peace in their hearts as they wait in neighbouring countries, which are also fairly dangerous for them as converts from Islam and their children.
While the eyes of the world were focused on events in Afghanistan last year, Turkey escalated its airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, the targets being mainly Christians and other minorities (Kurds and Yazidis). Turkey’s military campaign, which is supposedly against terrorists, has continued in Syria despite signing a ceasefire agreement in October 2019. Indeed, in the first year after signing the agreement the Christian region of Tel Tamer was targeted every month. Pray that 2022 will be a time of respite for the long-suffering Christians of Syria and Iraq. The Turkish attacks of 2021 reminded them of the genocide a century ago under the Turkish Ottomans and of the 21st century attacks by Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh).
January is usually the coldest month in Lebanon and there can be snow on Mount Lebanon, where many Christians live. The ongoing fuel crisis was bad enough in the summer, but now with short hours of daylight and the cold weather, people are suffering greatly. Both food and medicine are in very short supply. As politicians blame each other, the country is collapsing economically and socially. Some expect a new civil war to break out. Pray that the Christians of Lebanon will be peacemakers and hopebringers at every level of society. Ask that our merciful Lord will restore and rebuild Lebanon, that it may resume its role as a place of safety and freedom for Christians in the Middle East.
A bill to recognise the Armenian Genocide has been introduced into Israel’s Knesset (parliament). If passed, it would also establish an annual memorial day on 24 April, which is already observed as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day in several countries. At the time of writing, the bill still requires approval from the Knesset Presidium (the speaker and deputy speakers) in order to be scheduled for a first reading. Pray that the Lord will guide this bill through to become law and that, as more and more countries recognise the genocide, the possibility of any repeat will become smaller and smaller.
On 25 October 2021 Egypt’s President al-Sisi announced the lifting of a nationwide state of emergency which had been imposed more than four years earlier after bomb attacks on two major churches on Palm Sunday 2017. The bombings killed at least 65 people and injured 126. The lifting of the state of emergency reflects that the country has become more stable and secure. Praise God for this progress and pray that there will be no more bomb attacks on church buildings. The situation of Christians in has improved in many ways under al-Sisi’s rule.
Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for Christians who could suffer greatly just for meeting together to worship You. We lift to you our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia who could be beaten and deported, or in Eritrea and North Korea who could face years in harsh prison camps. We pray for those in Iran who have been released from jail on condition they never meet with other believers. We remember before You secret Christians, whose love for You is known only in heaven, and who dare not tell anyone on earth for fear of violence from their own relatives. May each one feel Your presence with them today.
“Please pray for us! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us.” This WhatsApp message was sent by an American missionary in Haiti on 16 October as a group of 17 North American Christians, including five children, were being kidnapped by a notorious gang called the 400 Mawozo, which has a history of targeting religious groups. The 16 Americans and one Canadian had been in Haiti to build an orphanage and were on their way to the airport to fly home. At the time of writing they are still hostages, so let us “pray pray pray” for them, as the WhatsApp message urged.
Thank you for your prayers for the 16-year-old Indian Christian boy who was severely burned when acid was thrown on him, apparently because he would not stop holding daily prayer meetings in the family home. The Lord has now taken our brave brother to his heavenly Home, where there is no death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4) and where he will see face to face the One to whom he prayed so faithfully when he could see Him only dimly as in a mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12). Ask that the grieving family of Nitish Kumar will be comforted. They all converted to Christianity in about 2019.
It was 11 a.m. on Sunday 17 October when extremists forced their way into Bairidevarkoppa Church in Karnataka state, India. The intruders sat down and began to sing non-Christian bhajans (Indian worship songs). They claimed the church was carrying out forced conversions, which the church denies. Pastor Somu Avaradhi and some of his congregation tried to stop the disturbance but suffered minor injuries (Pastor Somu was hospitalised). A member of the local legislative assembly then organised a roadblock protest to demand the arrest of Pastor Somu, who was duly detained by the police, questioned and released. One man filed a complaint against the church, claiming that he had been taken there to be converted. The church denied it and filed a complaint against the intrusion. Pray that the complaint against the church will not be upheld and that the Christians will be able to worship the Lord in freedom and without fear.
“Glory be to God. Five of our Bethel Baptist High School students and the matron … have just been released to us this evening, October 8.” This was the statement issued by the president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, announcing the sixth batch of students released by the gunmen who had stormed the Christian boarding school in Kaduna State on 5 July 2021, and kidnapped around 120 students. At the time of writing at least four students were still being held. Please keep praying until the last captives are free (Isaiah 61:1).
Pastor Yohanna Shuaibu “was hunted and gruesomely killed at his duty post and his wrong was that he was a servant of the Lord,” said the Hausa Christian Foundation, Nigeria, after Pastor Yohanna died from multiple machete blows inflicted on him by a mob of Muslim extremists who burst into his home in Massu village, Kano State, on 22 September 2021. The mob went on to burn his home, church and a school for Hausa Christian children (for which he had raised funds). Pastor Yohanna had also helped provide boreholes for Christian communities who were denied access to government-provided water sources, and under his leadership a faulty water source at the local mosque was refurbished by the Christians. Aware that an attack was likely, Pastor Yohanna and his family had fled the day before but then returned so he could evacuate the schoolchildren. The Hausa ethnic group is mainly Muslim. Pray that God will bring much fruit from the death of our brother Yohanna (John 12:24).
Five gunmen invaded an early morning Sunday service at Okedayo, Kogi State, Nigeria, on 19 September. They killed one worshipper and abducted three. One of those abducted, Chief Julius Oshadumo, was killed in the crossfire when a rescue attempt was staged a fortnight later. His wife, who had been wounded in the attack, was still in hospital on the day her husband died. A Nigerian church leader, commenting on the continuing anti-Christian violence in Nigeria, had said the previous month that “all human authorities have woefully failed us”. But we have Jesus, to whom “all authority on heaven and earth has been given” (Matthew 28:18) and a Lord whose compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22). Pray for Divine intervention to deliver Nigerian Christians from those who plan to hurt and destroy them.
Heavenly Father, we pray for the availability of Your Word throughout the world, especially in the countries whose governments try to suppress it. We lift before You Bible translators and pray for discernment in their painstaking labours. We ask that people groups without clear translations of the Scriptures in their own languages will soon have access to the Truth. We know that “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Please feed Your persecuted people with this spiritual food to strengthen them to endure. We ask in the Name of the Living Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. (Matthew 4:4; John 1:14)
Government officials in Laos promised new homes to five Christian families who were evicted by village leaders more than a year ago when the Christians refused to renounce their faith. Afterwards their homes were torn down. But at the time of writing, no new homes have been provided. The matter has been referred repeatedly backwards and forwards between the local authorities, the village chiefs and the Christians, but still the families are living in makeshift shelters near the forest. Remembering that Jesus warned, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58), pray that the Lord will provide proper homes for these families if it is His will.