Prayer Focus Update - May 2019
- Pakistan – Christian girl sold to Muslim man in Pakistan returned home; while Pakistani Christian mother-of-three forced to convert to Islam by kidnapper
- Kyrgyzstan – “We are going to lock you in prison and you are going to beg me for your life”
- Algeria – Bouteflika leaves door open for Al Qaeda to grab power in Algeria; while Al Qaeda official calls for Algeria to become Islamic state governed by sharia law
- China – Chinese city offers cash prizes to people who betray their Christian neighbours
- Chad – Violence and persecution against Christians growing in Chad
- Indonesia – Elections on 17 April but official results not due until 22 May
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you,
and you shall be rebuilt
Pakistan – Christian girl sold to Muslim man in Pakistan returned home; while Pakistani Christian mother-of-three forced to convert to Islam by kidnapper
In Pakistan, Christian girls and women are very vulnerable to kidnap, forced conversion to Islam and marriage against their will to a Muslim (often, their abductor). The authorities rarely intervene.
In February 2019, a 14-year-old Christian girl called Shalat was kidnapped in Faisalabad, Pakistan, and sold to a Muslim man, Zafar Iqbal. He renamed her “Ayesha” and forced her to marry him despite the girl being two years under the legal age, which is 16 for women in Pakistan. The underage girl also had to endure a forced conversion to Islam before the illegal marriage to Zafar. Police brought the girl into Lahore High Court on 10 April and Justice Tariq Saleem Shaikh ordered that she be reunited with her parents.
In the same month a Pakistani Christian mother-of-three, Saima Iqbal, was snatched from her home on the evening of 25 February. She was abducted, tortured and forced to convert to Islam by a Muslim man, Muhammad Khalid Sati, who then forced her to marry him.
Saima’s Christian husband, Naveed Iqbal, reported the matter to the police but they initially refused to investigate and sided with the kidnapper. Naveed said the police only acted after he threatened to set himself on fire.
Saima was reunited with her husband and three children (aged four, eight and 13) after her kidnapper was arrested on 5 March. “I have challenged the forced conversion and the forced marriage of my wife in a magistrate’s court,” said Naveed, who is awaiting the court’s judgment.
Intercede for Christian girls and women in Pakistan, asking the LORD to watch over their coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:8). Pray for full restoration for Shalat and Saima after their terrible experiences of kidnapping and forced conversion and marriage. May the truth that they are in Christ Jesus bring comfort not shame and a fragrance of grace and hope not condemnation (Romans 8:1). Ask that the Pakistani authorities will be moved to find the will and the way to stop girls and women being targeted in this way and that the court judgment will recognise that Saima is a Christian and that she is married to Naveed.
Kyrgyzstan – “We are going to lock you in prison and you are going to beg me for your life”
Eldos, a young Kyrgyz convert from Islam, who was almost beaten to death last year by three angry Muslims in the village of Tamchi, Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan, has become a victim again.
The persecution of Eldos began on 17 October 2018 when three Muslim extremists broke into a house in Tamchi looking to beat up his Christian uncle. Instead they found Eldos (25) and asked if he was a Christian too. When he said he was they punched and kicked him to the ground.
They shouted at him that he was a kafir (a derogatory term for a non-Muslim) and had betrayed Islam. They then tried to force him to say the shahada (the Islamic creed), which is considered conversion or re-conversion to Islam, but Eldos bravely refused. They repeatedly kicked him in the head as he lay helpless on the floor, fracturing his jaw and smashing his teeth and leaving him semi-conscious. As they left, they threatened that they would come back to kill him if he did not leave the village by the morning. After this brutal attack, Eldos had a complicated operation on his jaw and needed treatment for his eye and dentures to replace lost teeth.
Friends of the attackers paid menacing visits to Christian homes in three villages, swearing that they would burn down their houses if the three attackers were punished.
On 23 February, Eldos and his lawyer were called to the Internal Affairs office in the capital Bishkek to meet with his attackers as part of the ongoing investigation, which is not unusual in the Central Asian nation. But Eldos and his lawyer were held captive for ten hours in a prosecutor’s office in Bishkek by the lawyer of his attackers who tried to force Eldos to drop the charges against the three men who had attacked him in October.
“We are going to lock you in prison and you are going to beg me for your life,” was just one of the threats made by the lawyer during the latest ordeal. He ripped the phone out of the hand of Eldos’ lawyer, deleted recordings on it and physically assaulted her. A government investigator present did nothing to end the ten-hour ordeal.
Eldos and his uncle and the uncle’s wife, fearing for their lives, fled to another country two days later. Barnabas Fund is helping them to settle permanently in a safe country.
Give thanks that Eldos and his uncle and aunt were able to flee to another country, escaping from the hand of their enemies (Job 6:23). Pray that in their new home they will be able to live a peaceful life and serve the Lord without fear (Luke 1:74). Pray for complete healing of Eldos’ jaw and eye. Lift up all Christian converts from Islam in Kyrgyzstan, praying that they will be strengthened in their faith, like Eldos, to stand against the continual persecution they face, not only from the authorities but also from their local communities. Pray especially for protection over the Christian homes which were threatened in three villages and for peace to be upon all who live in them.
Algeria – Bouteflika leaves door open for Al Qaeda to grab power in Algeria; while Al Qaeda official calls for Algeria to become Islamic state governed by sharia law
With President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announcing his resignation on 2 April, the worry is that Al Qaeda terrorists will now seize control in Algeria and try to fill the political vacuum left by the 82-year-old’s departure. The president resigned after 20 years at the helm when the military told him to go following long-running street protests. Since 22 February, hundreds of thousands of Algerians across the country have been staging weekly protests, taking up the chant “leave means leave”.
The speaker of the Algerian upper house of parliament, Abdelkader Bensalah, has become the country’s 90-day caretaker president until elections are held. But one protest leader said the street demonstrations will continue because “we do not accept the (caretaker) government”.
Earlier in March, a leading official of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Anabi, urged Algerian Muslims to unite to ensure Algeria is ruled by sharia law. Al-Anabi, designated a “terrorist” by the US State Department in 2015, called on citizens to reject any regional or tribal identities and unite as “sons of Islam” to create an Islamic emirate. He encouraged the Algerian people to take up his religious demands and employ “Islamic morals and sharia ethics” in their street demonstrations.
Al-Anabi’s call to unity in Islam refers to the deep divide between the Arab community (about 70%) and Berber community (about 30%) in Algeria. The Berbers are descendants of the original peoples of the Maghreb region of North Africa. The Arabs are descendants of the invading Muslim conquerors in the seventh century. There has been dramatic church growth amongst Algerian Berbers in the last few decades, as they turn from Islam to follow Christ.
Ask God to raise up leaders of integrity in the Algerian government and society, for “righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34). Pray against Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb establishing an Islamic state governed by sharia law in Algeria. Pray for the Lord’s hand to be on the elections which are set for 4 July and that the new president will ensure religious freedom for all citizens. Intercede for the growing Algerian Church, almost all converts from Islam and their children. They have experienced several ups and downs in their situation under President Bouteflika, sometimes with greater freedom, sometimes with greater pressure. Ask that the Lord will keep them in perfect peace as they await the outcome of the July elections.
China – Chinese city offers cash prizes to people who betray their Christian neighbours
Guangzhou is the first major city in China to offer money to anyone who informs on church activity in their neighbourhood that hasn’t got the authorities’ stamp of approval. Neighbours could pocket up to 10,000 yuan (£1,130; $1,500; €1,320) for tip-offs about “illegal religious activities”.
“This will compress the survival space of house churches [unofficial and therefore illegal churches]. Not only will they have to deal with the official crackdown but now also the threat from their neighbours,” said Ying Fuk Tsang, director of the Divinity School at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The biggest reward of between 5,000 and 10,000 yuan is offered if a foreign pastor is snared. Between 3,000 and 5,000 yuan will be paid if information leads to an unregistered foreign religious group being shut down; and from 100 to 3,000 yuan will be paid to those who inform on local church gatherings and pastors.
Pray that anyone who has knowledge of church activity in Guangzhou will be kept silent and discerning in holding their tongues before the authorities (Proverbs 17:27-28). Ask for the Lord’s hedge of protection around all unofficial churches in Guangzhou. May the eyes and ears of betrayers be blind and deaf to church activity in their neighbourhood, but for those who seek the truth may their ears and eyes be opened to see the Lord Jesus as their Saviour. Pray against the expansion to other parts of China of this harmful policy which encourages neighbours to report on each other.
Chad – Violence and persecution against Christians growing in Chad
Christians in the Muslim-majority nation of Chad are facing increasing levels of persecution from local officials and violence from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram and militant Muslim herdsmen. Boko Haram activities are increasing around Lake Chad in the southwest of the country where many Christian farming communities live.
Another type of anti-Christian persecution comes through the imposition of diya (blood money) on Christians. Diya, a component of sharia law, is compensation given for injury or damage. It is payable to the victim, their family or the Muslim community. It fundamentally disadvantages Christians, because non-Muslims are granted less compensation than Muslims for a similar injury. Also, it is not regulated by the state and is therefore susceptible to misuse.
Pray for Christians living under persecution in Muslim-majority Chad that their night will turn to day and in the face of darkness the light of the Lord Jesus will shine bright and near to them (Job 17:11-12). Ask that the name of the LORD will be their strong tower, keeping them safe from harm when they run and call on Him (Proverbs 18:10). Pray that the land that is their home and livelihood will be free from attack and they will dwell there in peace. Pray that the government of Chad will ensure that every citizen is treated as an equal and that Christians are not subjected to sharia law.
Indonesia – Elections on 17 April but official results not due until 22 May
The elections in Indonesia on 17 April were the first time the world’s largest Muslim nation and third-largest democracy had held simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections, and the process appears to have run smoothly in most areas. According to unofficial “quick counts”, the incumbent President Joko Widodo looks likely to have secured a comfortable win over his rival Prabowo Subianto, the former general of the Indonesian National Armed Forces. Despite this, Prabowo is claiming victory and rallying his Islamist supporters, preparing them to protest if he is not declared the winner on 22 May.
Praise God that peace and security were maintained in Indonesia in the run-up to, and during, the elections – an answer to much prayer. Pray that this situation will continue when the results are announced on 22 May. Pray that the election results will be honoured by all. Give thanks that the unofficial results seem to place comfortably ahead Joko Widodo, who has been good to Christians. Pray that he will continue to be just and generous in his treatment of the Christian minority if re-elected.