Published: 10:00 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 01 October 2014
Prayer Focus 10/14
- Iraq – Christian women raped in prison by ISIS militants
- Nigeria – Christians suffer under Boko Haram caliphate
- South Sudan – Christians suffer hunger, violence and sickness
- Saudi Arabia – 27 Christians detained by religious police
- India – Court moves to overturn ban on Christian evangelists
- Bhutan – Pastors given prison sentences
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him”
Iraq – Christian women raped in prison by ISIS militants
Please continue to lift up Iraqi Christians in prayer, including those who are being held captive at Mosul’s Badush prison. News has emerged that women and girls, including Christians, who are being held captive at the prison by ISIS (the Sunni militant group that is now calling itself Islamic State) have been given the choice either to convert to the group's brand of Islam or to suffer daily rape.
Badush prison currently holds hundreds of Christian, Yazidi and Turkmen (Shia Muslim) women and children who are suffering sexual violence at the hands of ISIS. Many women are being gang-raped for refusing to convert to ISIS’s version of Sunni Islam, while others are being sold to ISIS fighters as sexual slaves. With victims reportedly as young as 14 years old, the selling prices of these women and young girls range from US$25 (£15; €20) to US$150 (£93; €119).
Sharia law allows Muslims to take human beings as part of their war booty in the context of jihad. Such female captives are called sabiyah (singular) or sabiyat (plural), which comes from the Arabic root meaning prisoner. Recently, United Nations officials in Iraq estimated that 1,500 Yazidis and Christians – both women and children – may have been forced into sexual slavery.
ISIS have proclaimed a caliphate, an Islamic state under the rule of a single ruler or caliph. They appear to see this as a part in the fulfilment of Islamic End-Times prophecies.
Pray for those who are currently living under ISIS’s rule, that they will take refuge in the Lord, who is their fortress and deliverer (Psalm 18:2). Ask Him to draw to near to the captive women and children, both Christians and others, in their unimaginable distress and comfort them, and pray that they will be freed.
Nigeria – Christians suffer under Boko Haram caliphate
Continue to pray for Christians in Nigeria who are suffering at the hands of Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Boko Haram recently attacked the Christian-majority communities of Shaffa and Shindiffu in Borno state, killing at least 20 people. A pastor was among those killed, and ten churches were burned down.
This attack followed the capture by Boko Haram of a mainly Christian town in Adamawa state, which the group seized in an attempt to increase the territory it holds in the country’s North. It is unclear how many people were killed when the militants raided Michika, and nearby Bazza, on 8 September.
A month earlier, at least 100 Christians were slaughtered, and two churches destroyed, by Boko Haram in an attack on the predominantly Christian city of Gwoza in Borno state. After Gwoza was seized on 6 August, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, declared that it was now “part of the Islamic caliphate”.
Other towns in the north-east of the state have also been seized. Men over the age of 18 in the territory are being shot, and Christian women have been forced to convert on pain of death. Sharia law has been imposed on the seized territory.
Islamist violence in border areas is also spilling over into Cameroon, where Nigerian Christian refugees and others are being affected.
Pray for those Christians in Nigeria who are living under the oppression of Boko Haram; that the God of all comfort will give them peace in this time of affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3). Ask that He will protect His people and provide for the material needs of those who have been forced to flee their homes.
South Sudan – Christians suffer hunger, violence and sickness
Lift up in prayer the nearly four million people in Christian-majority South Sudan who are facing dangerous levels of hunger as violence, crop failure and disease rack their nation.
These vulnerable believers are enduring the worst food crisis in the world. Extreme drought and violent civil conflicts have prevented farmers from planting crops or tending their livestock; for the second year in a row, there will be no harvest in affected areas.
South Sudan became an independent nation in 2011 after decades of civil war, during which the predominantly Christian South Sudanese people struggled to prevent the Islamic government of North Sudan from imposing sharia law on them. This war destroyed South Sudan’s infrastructure and agriculture; it also left a whole generation uneducated.
This devastating legacy, coupled with subsequent internal armed conflicts and adverse weather conditions, has contributed to a situation that is fast approaching catastrophe. Acute malnutrition has doubled since last year, and an official declaration of famine is expected for the end of 2014 or early 2015.
There have also been cholera outbreaks or alerts in nine of South Sudan’s ten states. There have been at least 5,561 cases documented so far, and a number of people have died.
Pray that the Lord will provide for Christians who are suffering from violence, malnutrition and illness in South Sudan. Pray that the covenant keeping Lord who provides for those who fear Him will meet their needs (Psalm 111:5). Pray for wisdom for church leaders in the country as they minister to their flocks at this time of great suffering and need.
Saudi Arabia – 27 Christians detained by religious police
Pray for Christians in Saudi Arabia, who face harassment by the country’s authorities. On 5 September, the Saudi religious police arrested and detained overnight at least 27 people accused of practising Christianity.
The Christians were gathered at a home in the Eastern Province city of Khafji when the house was raided by Saudi religious police from the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. The men and women detained were expatriates from various Asian nationalities, and some reports suggest that children were arrested as well.
After being held in prison overnight, all but one of those arrested were released the following day, according to International Christian Concern. One individual was detained until 7 September, reportedly because of an issue with his visa. The Saudi authorities also confiscated copies of the Bible and musical instruments.
The house had been placed under surveillance immediately after a citizen told the religious police that his Indian neighbour had made his home into a Christian church. After observing a large number of individuals enter the home, officers called for backup and proceeded to raid the house.
Saudi Arabia makes no provision for religious freedom. Its official religion is Sunni Islam, its constitution is the Quran and the traditions about Muhammad, and its legal system is based on the government’s strict Wahhabi interpretation of sharia. No public places of worship for non-Muslims exist. Although expatriate Christians in the country are supposedly permitted to practise their faith in private, they are at risk of harassment and arrest.
Please continually pray for Christians in Saudi Arabia; pray that the Lord of peace will protect them from the oppression of the authorities (2 Thessalonians 3:16). Pray also that all Saudis will be granted freedom of religion, that both expatriate believers and the tiny numbers of Saudi Christians (converts from Islam) will be able openly to worship in peace.
India – Court moves to overturn ban on Christian evangelists
Give thanks to God that Christians in Chhattisgarh state, India, have received some support from the Indian legal system. The High Court in Bilaspur has moved to oppose a ban on non-Hindu evangelists, even those local to the area, imposed by the local authorities in Bastar district.
The ban, which was passed in May 2014, prohibits non-Hindu “religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda”, seeming thereby to prohibit all Christian activities. It was agreed to by more than 50 village councils in the district.
The resolution was immediately opposed by local Christian bodies, who took the matter to the court. On 8 September, the court gave the local authorities three weeks to respond to a petition questioning the constitutionality of the order. Despite this, local Hindu extremists have continued to insist that the ban be fully implemented.
Anti-Christian attacks in the area have increased since the ban was announced. Ten Christians, including three pastors, have recently been assaulted by Hindu radicals.
Religious freedom in Chhattisgarh is already threatened by “anti-conversion” laws, which prohibit conversion by “force, fraud or allurement” but which are often used to restrict legitimate Christian evangelism. Pray that the court will take strong steps to undo this latest unjust action taken by the village authorities in Bastar district, and that true religious freedom will be established in Bastar and throughout India. Ask the Lord to protect Christians in the area, as they live under increased threat of attack, and to heal those who have been targeted.
Two pastors in the tiny, Buddhist-majority nation of Bhutan have been sentenced to jail terms after a court found them guilty of charges related to their Christian ministry.
Pastor Tandin Wangyal was sentenced to three years and eleven months in prison for receiving funds for ministry purposes from a foreign Christian organisation, while Pastor M.B. Thapa received a jail term of two years and four months just for escorting Pastor Wangyal to a Christian meeting for which official permission had not been obtained. Give thanks that Pastor Thapa was able to pay a fine of US$1,678 (£1036; €1,330) instead of serving the custodial sentence.
The pair were arrested on 5 March in Khapdani village, Samtse district, where they had been invited by another Christian to speak at a ground-breaking ceremony for a new house. They were detained while taking a sick child to hospital; police also seized computers, mobile phones and a film projector.
A Barnabas Fund contact said that the church leaders were originally charged with proselytising, but that the court dismissed the case because the pair were planning to meet only with fellow Christians. A higher court then picked up the case after examining the confiscated computers and phones.
Pastor Wangyal has been temporarily released after paying bail charges of around US$750 (£463; €595). Pray that the Lord will enable both pastors to recover from the trauma of the ordeal they have endured, and that He will prepare Pastor Wangyal for the prison sentence he faces. Pray for all Christians in Bhutan, where some believers endure societal discrimination, and ask that these arrests will not be followed by further official harassment and unjust convictions.
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