- Tajikistan – Pastor fined after police raid church
- Nigeria – Muslim Fulani spread violence to community in Cross River State
- Pakistan – Five Christian families flee after fake news “blasphemy” allegation
- Russia – Majority of those charged under religion law Christians
- China – Christians told to believe in the Party, instead of Jesus
Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
Tajikistan – Pastor fined after police raid church
Secret police raided a church service in Tajikistan on Sunday 29 October. “They behaved very rudely, took pictures and confiscated 45 copies of Christian books. They also took pictures of the Sunday school … [and] a programme of the lesson from one of the teachers,” a source told Barnabas Fund. Police are examining the confiscated materials to see if they are “extremist.” The pastor of the church faced the prospect of imprisonment – Barnabas Fund’s contact explained, “If they will find some things in the books it will be a criminal case and several years of jail. At best it will be an administrative case and they will fine the pastor or church.”
On 22 November, Barnabas received the “good news” that the pastor – who we are unable to name for security reasons – had been fined, but would not face prison. The government uses anti-extremism laws to crack down on Christian and other religious groups; in 2011 laws were introduced banning children from taking part in religious activity – a cause of great concern for Christian parents.
Give thanks that the pastor of the church raided in October was not imprisoned. Continue to uphold Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov (see September PFU) who earlier this year was jailed for three years after police confiscated “subversive” hymnbooks from his church; pray that God will give him a hymn of praise that will inspire those he encounters in prison to put their trust in the Lord (Psalm 40:3).
Nigeria – Muslim Fulani spread violence to community in Cross River Stat
Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked the Ugaga community in Cross River State on 6 November, killing one and injuring several. The Governor of the overwhelmingly Christian state reported that there has been a mass movement of Fulani herdsmen crossing into Cross River from neighbouring Benue State, where there is a history of Fulanis attacking Christian communities.
Over 55 people were killed in October alone by Fulani attacks on Christian communities, in some cases with alleged collusion from soldiers in the Nigerian Army. This includes the 29 people – mainly children –who were locked in a classroom and slaughtered on 16 October in Bassa, Plateau State.
Cry out to God for our Christian brothers and sisters in Nigeria who are regularly targeted by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in their attempts to push the predominantly agricultural Christian communities from their land. Ask that the Lord will be a shield around them (Psalm 3:3) to protect them from harm.
Pakistan – Five Christian families flee after fake news “blasphemy” allegation
Five Christian families were forced to leave their village and go into hiding in November after a Christian teenager was accused of “blasphemy” on social media. Sonu Arshad, an 18-year-old from the village of Sukheki in the northern Punjab province, was accused of “blasphemy” on a Facebook page designed to mimic a news channel. The post displayed a picture of the teenager and called for local Muslims to “burn his church and give him the death penalty.”
On 10 November, after news of the “blasphemy” accusation spread, a Muslim mob gathered in the village after Friday prayers. Although police intervened, Sonu’s family and four others fled, fearing for their safety.
Intercede for the five Christian families who, because of a false accusation, have had to leave their homes and now live in fear of their lives; pray that they will be comforted by the knowledge that the God who neither slumbers nor sleeps is watching over them (Psalm 121:3). Pray that the deeply unjust “blasphemy” laws in Pakistan – which include no penalty for false allegations – will be revoked so that members of the Christian minority will not be only an accusation away from violence or potential imprisonment.
Russia – Majority of those charged under religion law Christians
The majority of those charged under draconian religion laws introduced in Russia in July last year have been Christians. As of early November 2017, a total of 202 cases had been brought to court since Putin’s government amended anti-terror laws to crack down on “extremism.” Of those, 53% were against Protestant Christians or organisations (Jehovah’s Witnesses – banned earlier this year as “extremist” by the government – were the next most frequently charged group, about 20% of cases). Most were charged with violating restrictions on “missionary activity.” Courts can hand down a fine of up to 50,000 roubles (equivalent to £643) for breaking the law.
Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of the Russian authorities toward Evangelical Christians, who have been the ones primarily targeted under the new laws. Join hands with fellow members of the Body of Christ to call for a change to the law, so that Christians are not penalised for publicly sharing their faith.
China – Christians told to believe in the Party, instead of Jesus
Local party officials in south-east China are “encouraging” Christians to replace Christian posters with portraits of President Xi Jinping in their homes, as part of campaign to secularize the region. At a meeting in October, Communist Party leaders in Yugan county described the presence of religion as a “crisis.”
Qi Yan, the Chairman of the People’s Congress in Huangjinbu township – where there are between 5,000 - 6,000 Christian families – stated, “Many rural people are ignorant. They think God is their saviour. After our cadres’ work, they’ll realize their mistakes and think: we should no longer rely on Jesus, but on the party for help.”
One resident in the county told journalists that poor Christian families who were open about their faith faced cuts in government aid: “Some families put up gospel couplets on their front doors during the Lunar New Year; some also hung paintings of the cross. But they’ve all been torn down,” he said. “They all have their belief and, of course, they didn’t want to take them down. But there is no way out. If they don’t agree to do so, they won’t be given their quota from the poverty-relief fund.”
Seek the Lord on behalf of Chinese Christians, for whom harassment and persecution are a normal part of Christian life. Pray that the believing community in Huangjinbu will have the courage to continue to publicly affirm that Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) even though it may cost them dearly.