Prayer Focus Update - February 2020
- Nigeria – Boko Haram murders kidnapped Church leader
- Kenya – Al Shabaab murders three Christian teachers in school compound attack
- Norway – Muslims beat, rob and try to forcibly convert street preacher
- Russia – Security agencies target Christians under new “anti-extremism” law
- Myanmar – Prayers answered as more than 50 churches reopen in Shan State
”I can do all this through him who gives me strength”
Nigeria – Boko Haram murders kidnapped Church leader
On 20 January, Boko Haram announced that it killed Pastor Lawan Andimi, a leading Church figure, who was kidnapped in north-east Nigeria by the Islamist terrorist group on January 2. Pastor Andimi, chairman of the local Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), leaves a wife and seven children. He was abducted in Adamawa State on January 2 during a series of Boko Haram attacks in the region.
In a video released by his captors on January 5, the pastor had called on senior CAN colleagues to ask the State governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, to intercede for his release. It is thought that the church was involved in negotiations with the captors when Pastor Andimi was killed on 20 January.
In his poignant statement, Pastor Andimi had told his family and colleagues not to cry or worry about him but to “thank God for everything”.
“I have never been discouraged because all conditions that one finds himself is in the hands of God. By the grace of God, I will be together with my wife, my children and my colleagues. If the opportunity has not been granted, maybe it is the will of God,” he said.
A regional analyst in contact with Barnabas has warned that there are indications that Boko Haram is extending its territory in north-east Nigeria. At least four murderous Islamist attacks have taken place in the region in less than a month, including the murder of a bride-to-be and her friends as they travelled by road to her wedding, and the beheading of ten Christian men and the shooting of an eleventh by Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).
The past year has also seen a significant increase in Boko Haram activity in neighbouring Far North Cameroon. The expert raised concerns that the group may be progressively combining forces with other terrorist militia including ISWAP, Fulani herdsmen and Al Shabaab. (Barnabas Fund is assisting Pastor Andimi’s family, especially during the traditional mourning period when his wife, Auwa, must, according to local custom, temporarily halt her small business selling honey and fish.)
Pray that the God of all comfort will be with Pastor Andimi’s wife, Auwa, and his seven children, the oldest of whom, a son, is training with the Methodist Church and the youngest, Rachael, is only 13 years old. Ask that God is their stronghold, refuge and Saviour from violent people (2 Samuel 22:3-4). Give thanks for the pastor’s life, his courage and his service. Ask that the Christian community stay strong in their faith and remain courageous (1 Corinthians 16:13). Beseech the Lord for an end to the terrible violence in the region and for the protection of Christians living there.
Kenya – Al Shabaab murders three Christian teachers in school compound attack
“The eye of the storm is on us,” said a Barnabas Fund contact after three Christian teachers were murdered in an attack by Al Shabaab jihadists on a primary school compound in Kenya on January 13.
The dead teachers were Samwel Mutua, 29, Caleb Mushimbi, 28, and Caleb’s cousin, 29-year-old Titus Mushimbi.
Another teacher was shot twice in the leg, and a fifth managed to escape when the militants struck the school’s staff quarters at 2 a.m. in Kamuthe, about 30km from Garissa town, on the Somali border.
The terrorists spared a female Christian teacher and a nurse with an infant child. However, they forced the nurse to recite the shahada (Islamic creed), before marching her to the dispensary where they looted medicine and other items. Muslims believe that anyone who recites the creed has become a Muslim, even if the person does not understand what they have said and does not believe it.
The gang then burned down the nearby police post, abandoned by its officers when the gunfire started, and bombed a telecommunications mast in the market place.
The murderous Al Shabaab raid was the fourth in the area in less than two weeks, claiming a total of ten lives, including four children. “The intensity of the attacks is terrifying,” said our contact. “It is not the first time Christian teachers are killed by Al Shabaab in the area, the increased frequency and the plain helplessness of stopping the attacks is concerning. Apart from God, we are on our own.”
He added, “We appeal to the security agents to double their efforts to protect Christians and local Somalis in the region.”
One of those killed, Titus, was at the school only because the headmaster was away. The previous day, Titus had played keyboard during a Sunday service at his local church. Anxious because of the recent spate of attacks, he had asked for prayers for safety before leaving for the school. At 11 p.m. on Sunday, he spoke on the phone to his wife Ruth, a teacher at Garissa Academy, and his son, Baraka, bidding them good night.
In an earlier attack, on December 6, Christians and non-Muslims were singled out and killed when suspected Al Shabaab extremists forced a bus to a halt in Wajir county, northern Kenya, as it travelled from Nairobi to Mandera. The militants allowed Muslims to go free before killing at least eleven non-local passengers, eight of whom were Christians.
Ask the Lord to be with the bereaved families of those murdered, knowing that God will remove every tear from their eyes (Revelation 21:4). Entreat the Lord for an end to the terrible persecution. Pray for the teacher and nurse and ask that the Lord comfort them after the trauma of their ordeal and that they may know His peace (John 16:33).
Norway – Muslims beat, rob and try to forcibly convert street preacher
Four Muslim men abducted, beat and robbed a Christian street preacher in Trondheim, Norway, finally demanding at knifepoint he convert to Islam or be killed.
Roar Fløttum, who regularly preaches on the streets of the city, was lured away on 28 November by the men to pray for a friend who had “injured his foot”.
After pushing Fløttum down a flight of stairs and beating him about the head, the gang took his bank cards, extracted his passcodes and stole money from his accounts.
They then tried to force him to recite Arabic words, probably the Islamic creed, and demanded he “convert to Islam or die,” while threatening him with a knife.
Fløttum plans to continue his evangelism work in Trondheim. “I only want to tell others about God’s love,” he said.
Police say the incident is the first of its kind in the city. It was estimated in 2016 that 5.7% of the Norwegian population are Muslim, mostly Sunni Muslims living in the Oslo area.
Thank the Lord for Roar’s courageous faith in refusing to give in to the demands of his attackers to recite the Islamic creed. Pray that he recovers fully from the pain of his ordeal and that he will find comfort in the unfailing love of the Lord (Psalm 119:76). Ask that the Lord protect him as he continues in his ministry (Hebrews 13:6) and that Islamist extremism will not take hold in Norway.
Russia – Security agencies target Christians under new “anti-extremism” law
Russian security agencies are using the sweeping surveillance powers of the “Yarovaya Law”, introduced in 2016, to impose harsh restrictions on evangelical Christian groups in the name of tackling vaguely defined “extremist” activities.
The law, which imposes tough fines and even potential expulsion from Russia, places restrictions on religious groups including requiring a permit to meet outside registered religious buildings. This, in effect, outlaws prayer meetings held in Christians’ homes as well as criminalising house churches.
The law also gives security agencies access to private communications held by telecom companies including 'phone conversations and text messages.
“There are practically no Protestants that haven’t been impacted by the law,” said a pastor of a Protestant church in Moscow. “I lead a congregation of 50 people, and almost every Sunday a police squad interrupts our services … Sometimes, local authorities dress up like civilians and knock on our door, asking to be let in so they can ‘pray’.
“If we don’t let them in, they film us turning them away and then use the footage against us. And if we do let them in, then they take pictures inside the church to identify ways that we are violating the ‘Yarovaya Law’. We have had to pay several fines for ‘illegal missionary activity’.”
In the city of Noyabrsk, pastors from a Baptist denomination were fined for building a children’s playground near a church. Police claimed that the children could be subjected to “illegal missionary activity” by reading the religious literature found when they searched the building.
Pray for a repeal of the punitive “Yarovaya Law” which brings such harsh restrictions, invasions of Christians’ privacy, and criminalises house churches. Ask that the Lord protect Christians from unfounded charges and that they will remain strong, keeping their trust in the Lord.
Myanmar – Prayers answered as more than 50 churches reopen in Shan State
The United Wa State Army (UWSA) in control of the Wa Special Region in Myanmar (Burma), bordering China’s Yunnan province, has allowed at least 50 churches to reopen.
Local church leaders issued a plea for prayer when the China-backed, communist influenced separatist group closed more than 100 churches in northern Shan State in 2018, demolishing some and banning the construction of new church buildings. At least 200 Christian leaders and workers were “investigated” and detained. All have since been released.
The UWSA order to close the churches included the Chinese term jidujiao, which refers to Protestant and evangelical Christians, indicating the clampdown was aimed at specific denominations. A Bible school was also shut down and 41 students forced into hard labour as military porters.
Local church leaders welcomed the reopenings and reported that most church buildings in the towns of Panghsang, Hopang, Kho Pang and Namphan are now open for worship, leaving only one church and a school still closed.
Praise God for the prayers of local church leaders and Christians which have led to the reopening of at least 50 church buildings (Psalm 146:1-10). Thank the Lord that the Christian leaders were released from detention and that only one church and a school building remain closed. Pray that they too will be reopened soon. Pray for the protection of Christians in a region where persecution is rife.