Published: 11:45 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 31 July 2014
Prayer Focus 08/14
- Iraq – Plight of Mosul’s Christians intensifies
- Sudan – Meriam Ibrahim arrives in Italy
- CAR – At least 27 killed in attack on church
- Laos – Five Christians falsely charged with murder
- India – Convert couple killed; Christians made homeless
- Sri Lanka – Believers endure anti-Christian campaign and assaults
- Kazakhstan – Jail for unregistered religious activity dropped from law
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus”
Iraq – Plight of Mosul’s Christians intensifies
Continue to pray for believers from Mosul, Iraq, who have been suffering greatly since their city was seized by ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), an Islamist group. The last remaining Christians in the city fled for their lives after the militants threatened them with death.
The believers were told they would be killed if they did not either convert to Islam or pay the humiliating jizya tax. Christians were given until noon on 19 July either to comply or leave Mosul without taking any belongings with them. Those fleeing were robbed at ISIS checkpoints; the militants stole the believers’ cars, money, food, jewellery, mobile phones and anything else they were carrying, even medicines. More than 85 families reported having all their possessions taken.
A few days before issuing the ultimatum, ISIS started marking properties belonging to Christians in Mosul with the Arabic letter “N” that stands for “Nisrani” (Nazarene i.e. Christian), along with the statement “Property of the Islamic State”. Several Christian-owned farms were taken and seven people kidnapped. Church property in the city, including historic sites, has been seized and destroyed. On 29 June, ISIS kidnapped two nuns and three Christian orphans; give thanks that they were released on 14 July.
Pray that our brothers and sisters, who have endured such terror, will find safe havens where they can recover from what they have experienced, and that the Lord will meet all of their material needs. As many must now deal with the loss of all their possessions, pray that they will find comfort and peace in the knowledge that in Jesus Christ they have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, fade (1 Peter 1:4) or be taken from them.
Sudan – Meriam Ibrahim arrives in Italy
Praise God that Christian mother Meriam Ibrahim has been able to escape Sudan and arrived in Italy with her family on 24 July.
Meriam, whose death sentence for apostasy was overturned on 23 June following an international outcry, flew to Rome with the help of the Italian authorities. The family travelled on a plane belonging to the Italian government and were accompanied by Italy’s deputy minister for foreign affairs. On arrival they travelled to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Meriam and her husband Daniel Wani now hope to travel to the US, where Daniel holds citizenship, with their two young children. Pray that they will be able to build a new life there in safety and in peace.
When Meriam and her family first attempted to leave Sudan, the day after she was released, she was re-arrested at the airport. She was briefly detained and on her release was barred from leaving Sudan; her Muslim relatives also pursued legal action to try to keep her in the country. Give thanks that despite these efforts she has now been able to leave. Continue to pray for other Christians who remain in Sudanese prisons, where many believers are being punished for violating sharia law.
Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) as the violence there rages on. In a recent incident condemned by the United Nations as “brutal”, 27 believers were killed in a siege on a church compound.
Thousands of people fleeing unrest, most of them Christians, had taken refuge in St Joseph’s Cathedral in Bambari. On 7 July, fighters from the Islamist Seleka movement and Muslim civilians entered the grounds. The armed attackers began shooting indiscriminately; women and children were among those killed, and more than 20 people were injured. The fighters also burned down 20 buildings within the compound and set fire to three cars; they stole two others along with a number of motorbikes.
UN officials said that violence in Bambari has “escalated at an alarming rate” and that civilians are increasingly at risk. Because the town is home to Seleka’s military headquarters, Christians there are especially vulnerable.
Pray for the grieving relatives and friends of the 27 Christians who were so ruthlessly shot down in their place of refuge. Ask the Lord to comfort them and enable them to forgive and love the killers. Pray that He will surround Christians in Bambari and throughout CAR with His protection as their country remains engulfed in violence.
Five believers from Saisomboon in Savannakhet province, Laos, have been charged with murder after a sick woman died following her conversion to Christianity.
Mrs Chan, who had been ill with an unknown condition for two years, sought prayer at her local church. Her condition improved and, along with her eight children, she came to faith in Christ. Mrs Chan passed away on 21 June.
The sons and daughters wanted a Christian burial for their mother and gained permission for this from the village chief. They were going to bury her on their own property, as Christians are denied burial rights in the local cemetery. But the village authorities then reversed their original decision, saying the funeral could only take place if Mrs Chan’s children recanted their Christian faith, which they refused to do.
On 23 June, a church leader, Mrs Kaithong, appealed to the district chief on the family’s behalf. The following day she was arrested along with three other church leaders, Mr Puphet, Mr Muk and Mr Hasadee, and local believer Mr Tiang. Although they were originally detained over the burial dispute, the five were later charged with murder.
The believers were handcuffed and placed in wooden stocks. Shortly after the arrests, the village chief led Buddhist monks and relatives of Mrs Chan into her house, where a Buddhist ceremony was conducted.
Give thanks that Mrs Chan’s family has come to faith and that her children are standing firm despite opposition. Pray that the Lord will enable them to continue to do so even as they endure the additional pain of official harassment along with their grief. Pray for the release of the five Christians who have been unjustly arrested, and ask the Lord to sustain them in their ordeal.
India - Convert couple killed; Christians made homeless
Pray for the two grieving daughters of a Christian couple who were brutally murdered in India on 18 June. Dominic and Christina Bhutia, who converted from Buddhism, were hacked to death in their home in a slum in Darjeeling district, West Bengal. During the attack, their 12-year-old daughter Rinjee’s eye was gouged out.
Give thanks that the couple’s younger daughter escaped unharmed and that Rinjee’s condition following the attack was stable. Pray for a speedy physical recovery for Rinjee, and ask the Lord to heal the emotional trauma caused to the girls by the attack. Ask Him also to comfort them in their grief and provide for all their material needs.
Elsewhere in India, around 250 Christians have been left homeless after the authorities demolished their houses in Behera slum in Bhubaneswar, Orissa state. A church building was also partially destroyed in the action on 11 June.
It is understood that the slum was cleared to make way for a new road. A Barnabas contact in India said that the believers were not given time to vacate the area and were too poor to find alternative places to live. They lost most of their possessions as well as their homes.
The displaced Christians are now living in a makeshift shelter during the monsoon season. Ask the Lord to keep them safe and pray that they soon will be provided with permanent housing. Pray especially for the children of the families, who have not been able to start school for the new academic year because of the authorities’ actions.
Sri Lanka – Believers endure anti-Christian campaign and assaults
Our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka are under mounting pressure and threat. A hardline Buddhist group launched a four-day campaign against “Christian fundamentalism” in mid-July amid continued physical assaults on believers.
The group, Ravana Balaya, began its campaign in Polonnaruwa before visiting other parts of the eastern and north central provinces. In an ominous message, a spokesperson for the group said it would “advise” Christians to halt their activities but, if they failed to take heed, would take firmer action.
As the extremist Buddhist agenda gathers greater support, anti-Christian attacks are becoming more common. A pastor and his family, along with four other Christians, were attacked on 12 May. The believers were gathered for a meeting with police, to report a threat received the previous day, when a group of 150 people surrounded the pastor’s home and around 40 broke in.
By the time the police arrived, the mob had dispersed. The Christians were held for questioning for seven hours, but no attempt was made to apprehend the offenders. The officers were subsequently reprimanded by a magistrate and ordered to arrest the assailants.
In another incident three days later, five Buddhist monks and 20 youths stormed a prayer meeting at the home of a Christian family in Waththegama, Kandy district, and assaulted the believers who were present. A female Christian worker was led to the local Buddhist temple, where the assailants subjected her to verbal and physical assault; one youth began to choke her, threatening to kill her. She was warned not to return to the village and a case was later filed against her for unethical conversions.
Pray that Buddhist extremists will not succeed in their attempts to deny Christianity a place in Sri Lankan society. Give thanks for the magistrate who made sure that justice was pursued, and pray that the Lord will raise up others who will do the same. Ask Him to uphold believers in Sri Lanka with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10) as they face increased pressure, and protect them from further attacks.
Kazakhstan – Jail for unregistered religious activity dropped from law
Give thanks that proposed punishments, which could have seen people jailed for leading or taking part in unregistered religious activity, have been dropped from Kazakhstan’s new criminal code.
An earlier version of the code, which was approved by the lower house of Parliament, included provisions to upgrade certain religious activities from administrative to criminal offences. Under these, those who lead or finance such ministries could have been imprisoned for up to 60 days and participants for up to 45 days.
Thankfully, these punishments did not survive into the final version of the code, which was signed into law on 3 July. The activities do, however, remain punishable by fines under the new Kazakh administrative code.
Religious practice in Kazakhstan is greatly restricted, and Christians regularly suffer harassment, raids on their meetings and fines. Praise God that Kazakh believers have been spared these even more suffocating restrictions, and pray that true religious freedom will be established in their homeland.
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