Updates on the persecuted Church – 5 December 2023

5 December 2023

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Answered prayer as church leader in Algeria has his sentence reduced; Four killed at  church service bombing in the Philippines; German church minister released after over a year in captivity; Ten Christian families driven from their homes in Laos

Answer to prayer! Praise God that Algerian church leader Youssef Ourahmane has had his original sentence of two years reduced on appeal [Image credit: CNE/Pastor Youssef Ourahmane] 

  • A senior church leader in Algeria has seen his original sentence reduced on appeal. Pastor Youssef Ourahmane, Vice President of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), was charged with allegedly holding an unauthorised religious meeting in a building not permitted to be used for religious worship. At his appeal hearing on 19 November his original sentence of two years’ imprisonment was reduced to one year, although the accompanying fine £605 ($725; €665) remained the same. Pastor Youssef has issued a second appeal to a higher provincial court and is awaiting a date for a further hearing. Give thanks for the reduction in Pastor Youssef’s sentence and pray for the success of this second appeal, that the sentence will be overturned, and he will be acquitted.  
  • Four people were killed and 50 others injured when a bomb was detonated at a church service in the southern Philippines on Sunday 3 December. Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) militants claimed responsibility for the attack at the service held in a university gymnasium in Marawi. The bombing was condemned by the President, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who said, “Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society.” Marawi on Mindanao island is one of the largest Muslim cities in the Christian-majority Philippines. In 2017, it was besieged by IS militants for five months during which time churches were destroyed and Christians held hostage. Pray for comfort for the bereaved and ask for healing for worshippers injured in Sunday’s attack. Pray that any future plans by the men of violence are thwarted. 
  • Government and church authorities in Mali have announced the release of German church minister Hans-Joachim Lohre, who was kidnapped in November 2022. He was released on Sunday 26 November after just over a year in captivity. Hans-Joachim, 66, had lived in Mali for more than 30 years. He has since been flown back to Germany. Mali’s government confirmed that he was abducted by the Islamist extremist group Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, which has close links to Al Qaeda. There have been several instances of kidnapping of foreign missionaries by such groups in Mali in recent years. Praise God for Hans-Joachim’s release and pray that he will recover from the ordeal of captivity. 
  • Ten Christian families in Salavan Province in southern Laos who were evicted from their villages in September have been given new land to build on but no compensation for their loss of homes. The Christians were driven out of three villages in Samoey District and their homes were destroyed by the local authorities and residents. The authorities have since made new land away from the villages available to the families where they can rebuild their homes. Give thanks for the provision of land for the ten Christian families. Pray that they will be able to rebuild their lives and livelihoods in peace. Ask for an end to evictions of Christians in rural parts of Laos on account of their faith.