A bomb explosion ripped through an evening baptismal service on Sunday 15 January, severing limbs and killing at least 17 people. The terrorist attack, which was claimed by Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh), took place in North Kivu, an area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo which has been suffering Islamist violence for years. This violence has escalated since March 2022 and the UN warned in December that one of the main groups had changed its tactics, going for “more visible and more lethal” bomb attacks in urban areas. Please pray for the bereaved, the injured, and the traumatised survivors of the baptism bombing that the Lord will comfort and heal each one.
Give thanks for continued answers to prayer in Egypt as the government has licensed a further 125 churches and church-affiliated buildings. The government committee overseeing the licensing process has also offered help and practical support to churches in improving safety standards following the tragic death of 41 people in an accidental fire at a church in Giza in August 2022. This reflects the more tolerant attitude towards Egyptian Christians by the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Pray that this support and tolerance from the Egyptian authorities will continue, and that it will be increasingly shared throughout Egypt’s Muslim majority.
Cry out to the Lord on behalf of Christians in highly authoritarian and repressive Eritrea. The communist authorities of this East African country permit only four expressions of religion – Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Sunni Islam. Christian believers from unlawful denominations are vulnerable to arrest and lengthy spells in prison, often without charge or trial. They can be subject to terrible torture and abuse, with church leaders singled out for especially harsh treatment. Even those from the permitted Christian denominations can face intimidation and harassment. Pray that the Lord will protect His people in distress, sending them help from His sanctuary (Psalm 20:1-2).
Believers in Christian-majority Ethiopia are suffering one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, as a result of persistent conflict and droughts that are causing acute food shortages across the Horn of Africa. Christians in the Tigray region have suffered torture, rape and forced removals. Many pastors and church ministers are among the dead, churches have been destroyed or looted, and harvests razed. It is estimated that 20 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, with nine million at risk of famine. Ask the Lord to send much-needed rain, and pray that a fragile ceasefire agreed in November 2022 will hold, allowing humanitarian aid to reach those who need it most.
Heavenly Father, we bring before You Christian children around the world, remembering especially those experiencing hostility from classmates or even teachers, simply for their faith in You. We pray for Your provision for those children unable to attend school because of acute poverty or displacement by terrorist violence. We ask that all children of persecuted Christian families will not be deprived of opportunities to learn and develop. We pray that as they grow up they will know the abundant protection of the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. (John 10:11)
Give thanks that the government of Indonesia has taken steps to combat Islamist extremism and promote tolerance towards Christians. Nevertheless, Islamist attitudes persist among segments of society and in the policies of some local authorities. A jihadi group, the Islamic Reformist Movement, has emerged to replace two terrorist groups that were successfully dissolved by President Joko Widodo’s government. Pray for the success of official efforts to counter the Islamist narrative, and pray that Christians will take heart, despite the troubles facing them, remembering that the Lord Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Christians in Iran who worship in the national language of Farsi (Persian) are subject to considerable pressure from the authorities. As converts from Islam they are punished as apostates in line with sharia (Islamic law), which is rigorously enforced in Iran. The authorities also routinely charge converts and Christians who minister to converts with “acting against national security”. Punishments include imprisonment, “internal exile”, or restriction of freedoms (for example, a ban on meeting with other believers). Pray that God will renew the strength in mind, body and spirit of Christians in prison or those suffering other forms of punishment for their faith. Pray also that Farsi-speaking Christians will be permitted to worship freely in their own language.
Thank the Lord that the accounts of Christians who suffered under the Islamic State (IS – also known as ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) occupation of Iraq have been vindicated by an extensive UN investigation. A report by international human rights experts has concluded that IS engaged in war crimes and crimes against humanity in its treatment of Christians, and other minorities. After IS took control of around a third of the country in 2014, it seized Christian-owned properties, looted and destroyed churches and subjected believers to sexual violence, forced conversions and enslavement. Give thanks for the work of the investigators in revealing these terrible crimes. Pray that all Christians, and other minorities that suffered such persecution, will recover from the physical and emotional trauma they endured.
Intercede for the members of a church in the Almaty region of Kazakhstan, which has had its bank accounts frozen almost continuously since 2017 because a donation from abroad towards the purchase of a new church building was flagged as “suspicious”. Kazakhstan does not prohibit registered places of worship from receiving funds from foreign countries. The church has contacted several state agencies, including the Financial Monitoring Agency, but has not been able to regain access to banking services. Pray that the situation will be resolved, and that the Kazakh authorities will see that the church does not pose a threat to national security.
Christian-majority Kenya is among several countries in the Horn of Africa suffering from ongoing drought. Kenya should experience two rainy seasons a year, but the last five seasons have failed, resulting in a national crisis of failed harvests and food shortages. Christians in northern Kenya are especially vulnerable, as many northern regions are predominantly Muslim and local Muslim leaders sometimes exclude Christians from aid distribution. Give thanks for the thousands of our brothers and sisters who have received food aid through Barnabas, and pray that this will continue. Ask that the Lord will send the rain so desperately needed by all people in Kenya and its neighbouring countries.
Give thanks that 15 more churches in Kyrgyzstan have gained official recognition in 2022, and are now permitted to operate lawfully. Among other requirements, churches must have 200 or more members in order to apply for registration, and the process can last for several years. Anti-Christian persecution in Kyrgyzstan tends to originate from the Muslim-majority community more often than from the authorities. Nevertheless, a new Religion Law drafted in December 2021 – but not yet implemented – would make the registration process even more onerous. Pray that these tighter restrictions will not come into force. Ask the Lord to give wisdom to smaller congregations who are not at present eligible to apply for registration.
Heavenly Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been rendered homeless through persecution, war, extreme weather conditions or famine. We ask that they will be directed to places of safety and receive food, clothing, medicine and shelter, as well as spiritual counsel and comfort. Please direct those delivering aid to those most in need. We pray that all Christian refugees and internally displaced people will know You as their refuge and rock, and receive Your guidance and comfort as they seek to rebuild their lives. We ask in the Name of the One who is each believer’s true foundation, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Psalm 46:1; 1 Corinthians 3:11)
Since 2019 Christians in Laos have had the right to conduct services, preach throughout the country and maintain contacts with believers abroad according to the “Law on the Evangelical Church”. Believers, however, still suffer persecution and abuse at the hands of non-Christian neighbours or even local authorities, especially in rural areas. Christianity is often viewed as a Western religion and therefore treated with suspicion. Pray that the Laos government’s commitment to freedom of worship is enforced nationwide. Ask the Lord to encourage Christians to remain faithful despite injustice, and that their steadfastness will be a powerful witness of Christ.
The economic crisis in Lebanon is thought to be one of the worst to affect any country since the mid-nineteenth century. Lebanon’s overall inflation rate was reported in November 2022 to be 142%, with food inflation at 171%. There are long queues to buy bread, and cooking oil is virtually unobtainable. Fuel is so costly that some dare not buy food items which require lengthy cooking. Christians have been particularly hard hit, for the neighbourhoods affected by the massive explosion in the Port of Beirut in 2020 were predominantly Christian. Give thanks for Barnabas-funded food, medication and other aid that has been distributed to believers in Lebanon. Ask that the economic crisis engulfing the country will come to an end.
Continue to pray for a Christian convert from Islam in Libya who was sentenced to death for apostasy. At the time of writing there is no further news about our brother who faces execution. Ask the Lord to draw near to him, that his faith will remain firm and that he will continue to trust in God as his helper and sustainer (Psalm 54:4). Pray, too, that, he will be spared from execution, if it is God’s will. The death penalty for apostasy was introduced by Libya’s 2012-14 General National Congress. Its laws were subsequently abolished by the Libyan House of Representatives, but the House of Representatives was in turn declared illegal by the Supreme Court.
Nearly one and a half million people in the southern part of Christian-majority Madagascar are estimated to be in need of emergency food assistance. Years of drought followed by destructive tropical storms have devastated Madagascar, leading to deforestation and turning swathes of land into a dust bowl. Hungry families have been reduced to eating a cactus called raketa that provides little nutrition and causes stomach pains. Tuberculosis (TB), easily treatable by modern medicine, has raged through the population whose immune systems are weakened by malnutrition. Ask that the Lord, who provides rain and sends water (Job 5:10), will restore the fruitfulness of the land. Give thanks for the help provided to Malagasy believers through Barnabas Aid’s food.gives programme.
Widely regarded as a tropical paradise, the Maldives – a group of islands in the Indian Ocean – is also one of the most repressive Muslim-majority countries in the world. The country’s constitution states that “no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives”. All non-Muslim worship is forbidden, whether carried out by visitors (most often holiday-makers or migrant workers), or by Maldivian citizens who the constitution assumes will be Muslim. Despite this assumption, there are a few indigenous converts who must live as secret believers or face reprisals both from the state and from their family and former friends. Pray for these Muslim-background believers, asking that the Lord will be especially close to them in their isolation, through His Holy Spirit, the Comforter (John 15:26).
Pray earnestly for the release of Hans-Joachim Lohre, a German church minister, who was abducted by suspected Islamists in Mali’s capital city, Bamako. At the time of writing two people have been arrested, but the minister, who has lived in Mali for around 30 years, has not been found. In recent years several church leaders and other Christians have been abducted by jihadists. Malian Christians report that the government treats them as equals, and that many Muslim leaders teach against Islamist extremism. Jihadi terrorism remains a danger, however, in Mali and in neighbouring countries. Pray that the Lord will restrain those who threaten the safety of His children.
Lord Jesus, we cry out to You for the encouragement and strength needed by those You have called to shepherd Your sheep. Please empower pastors and teachers with wisdom to make the knowledge they have acquired effective in building Your Church, especially those facing persecution and struggling in desperate poverty. Bless and sustain those who share the Good News. Give them fertile fields to sow the Word of God, knowing that You always lead Your servants in triumph in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 2:14)
Christians – and moderate Muslims – in northern Mozambique have suffered for several years ongoing jihadi violence, with almost 6,000 people killed between October 2017 and December 2022. Now Islamists have demanded that Christians and Jews begin to pay a jizya tax as a sign of their dhimmi status – that is, their status as “People of the Book” who are subject to their Islamic conquerors. An announcement from Islamic State Mozambique declared that Christians and Jews must either convert to Islam, pay the tax, or be killed. The announcement also stated that Muslims who refuse to join the jihadi cause will be killed. Pray for our brothers and sisters, and all those who want peace, that the threats of Islamists will come to nothing.
Lift up in prayer Christians in Myanmar who are being denied aid by the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw). In some areas, including Kayah and Shan states, military roadblocks have been used to prevent aid from reaching people – many of them Christians – who have been displaced from their homes by the ongoing violence. It is also alleged that the Myanmar authorities have refused to distribute international aid in Christian-majority Chin State. Ask that the Lord will provide for His people despite the opposition they face. Give thanks that Barnabas-funded aid is reaching displaced Christians, and pray that this will continue.
Pray for the protection of Christians in Muslim-majority Niger who comprise about 0.4% of the population, as the surge in Islamist terrorism in the Sahel region makes them especially vulnerable. The 2022 Global Terrorism Index attributed 588 deaths in Niger to terrorists, the highest in a decade. Tillaberi province, where most churches are situated, suffered the majority of the killings. In the deadliest assault, gunmen from Islamic State West Africa Province stormed into a Tillaberi village on motorbikes, killing 70 civilians. Pray for an end to Islamist violence in Niger and the Lord’s provision for Christians uprooted by the crisis in this already desperately poor country.
In the last seven years more than 10,000 Christians have lost their lives to the perpetual Islamist violence that afflicts communities in northern and Middle Belt Nigeria – and the full total could be much higher than that. Only a few months ago, at least 39 believers were killed in attacks in Kaduna State. It was reported that six entire families were wiped out in the violence. “People are being killed every day and property destroyed,” said a church leader in the region. “We must be consistent in seeking the presence of the Almighty in what is happening in Southern Kaduna. It is only God’s intervention that can turn the ugly situation into a united and peaceful area.” Join with our Nigerian brothers and sisters in praying for peace.
North Korea remains among the worst places in the world to be a Christian, with reports describing the fierce and brutal government repression of Christians. Testimony of former prisoners confirmed that detention periods in labour camps were longer for Christians than other groups. Witnesses reported that Christians are subjected to some of the worst forms of torture to force them to incriminate others during interrogation. Pray that North Korean Christians, officially classified as enemies of the state, will know God’s protection as they face danger daily, especially as they gather in secret. Ask that His strength will sustain those experiencing death, torture and abuse in the labour camps.
Zafar Bhatti has been in prison in Pakistan for nearly 11 years and on death row for 14 months, convicted (without evidence) of “blasphemy”. He is appealing against his conviction. His lawyer, Saiful Malook, has also applied for bail on the grounds of ill-health: Zafar is diabetic and has had a heart attack in prison. At the time of writing no date has been set for either the appeal hearing or the bail hearing. Pray that Zafar’s Christian faith will sustain him in his long ordeal and that he will soon be released and acquitted. Pray also for Saiful Malook, the brave and skilful Muslim lawyer who secured the acquittal of Aasia Bibi and Shagufta and Shafqat; he puts his life in danger by representing falsely accused Christians.
Sovereign Lord, we lift up before You Christian women who are particularly vulnerable in places of persecution. We pray for widows and those whose husbands are in prison, who are left with minimal or no support for themselves and their children. Please enable them to lean on You, their heavenly husband, and know Your gracious provision. We ask that the abduction of Christian girls for forced marriage and forced conversion in Pakistan will cease, and that our sisters will develop and flourish in their relationship with their Saviour, in whose precious Name we pray. (Psalm 68:5; Isaiah 54:5)
Give thanks for the steadfast faith of secret Saudi believers and expatriate Christians who follow the Lord despite the difficulties they endure in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Yet even in one of the strictest Muslim-majority countries and the birthplace of Islam, some reforms are being introduced. They include a reduction in powers of the religious police, an expansion in women’s rights, and the removal of some material in school textbooks which had taught intolerance of non-Muslims. Ask that these small reforms will lead to greater freedom of worship and that Muslims will be able to choose to follow Christ without penalty.
As Sri Lanka grapples with its worst economic crisis for decades with food inflation, fuel and energy shortages, many very impoverished Christians suffer greatly owing to the nation’s economic hardship. Their suffering is compounded by mobs led by Buddhist monks who disrupt church services, sometimes backed by local officials. False allegations insisting erroneously that special permits are required to hold worship services in Christians’ homes are common. Pray for an end to hostility towards Christians, and that they will be able to worship without threat or harassment. Ask that the economic crisis and the consequent suffering of all people will be resolved.
Christians in Sudan face an uncertain future as a military coup of October 2021 now threatens to restore repressive Islamist laws that were abolished just two years previously. This includes the apostasy law, which stipulated the death penalty for those who leave Islam and refuse to return. Four Christian converts from Islam were recently charged under this law, though thankfully the charges were dropped. Call on the Lord to give Sudanese Christians wisdom as they adjust to challenging times. Pray that just and stable government will be established, and that clamour for a return to Islamist governance will be rejected.
Pray for peace and reconstruction in Syria, where Christians, like the rest of the population, experience severe food and medicine shortages and the effects of sanctions. Christians are among those threatened by Turkey’s military operations in north-east Syria. In 2022 Turkey’s fighter planes continued attacks on the Assyrian Christian region of Tel Tamar, claiming to target the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and the US. Yet operations have repeatedly hit Christian communities, including damaging a church and homes in the village of Tel Tawil. Pray for Christians to grow in hope, faith and endurance, as these military operations along with the rise of Islamist militant groups compounds the suffering of over a decade of civil war.
Pray for churches in Tajikistan, where no congregation has been able to gain registration in the last ten years even though many meet the minimum requirement of having ten or more members. The authoritarian government of Tajikistan seems to be keeping a closer eye on religious activity, having sent questionnaires to non-Muslim places of worship in August 2022 seeking information about employees and their families, as well as any foreign sources of funding. The recent national census also included a question about religious identity. There are concerns that the results – not yet published – will be used to target Christians. Ask the Lord to protect His people, and to prepare them if necessary for increased persecution.