Pakistani Christian Saleem Masih (22) died on 28 February, three days after he was tortured on the instructions of a Muslim farmer for having washed himself at the farmer’s well. After unloading chaff from a vehicle, Saleem rinsed himself with water pumped from the well, but the enraged farmer accused him of polluting the water-supply by his “unclean” Christian touch. He ordered his men to tie Saleem’s hands and feet, and then beat him with sticks and heated iron rods, which caused multiple fractures and internal injuries. Ask the God of all comfort to abide with Saleem’s family (2 Corinthians 1:3). Christian and Muslim religious leaders met after this incident to call for an end to such intolerance of Christians and to condemn the police for failing to intervene. Pray that their words will be heeded.
Aasia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian mother who spent nearly eight years on death row after being falsely accused of “blasphemy”, declared in an interview that she had forgiven her tormentors. “I am not angry at all, I’ve forgiven everyone from my heart,” she said. “There is patience in me because I learned how to be patient after having to leave my children behind.” Thank the Lord for such a testimony of growth through suffering for Him. Her arrest had followed a dispute with Muslim co-workers in June 2009 which began when she drank water from a cup they also used, thus making it “unclean” in their eyes. Aasia said that while in prison she had been offered her freedom if she would convert to Islam, but she refused.
A new law in Pakistan, approved earlier this year, could make Christians even more vulnerable to false accusation of “blasphemy” which can lead to a death sentence. The law requires social media companies to remove promptly any “unwanted and slanderous” online content. No one has yet been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, but two Muslims have been awarded death sentences for “blasphemy” on social media, and Christians and other non-Muslims are particularly at risk of this type of false accusation. Pray that this law will not be misused to stifle free speech or settle personal grudges.
Two Pakistani Christians were shot and one was injured with an axe in a dispute with some Muslim neighbours about the construction of a church building in a village near Sahiwal, Punjab province. They had rushed to the construction site when they heard that local Muslims were demolishing the boundary wall. The village of about 150 houses has around 40 Christian families but no building in which they can gather for worship. All three of the injured, who are related to each other, spent time in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Sahiwal. Pray in particular for Azeem Masih (32) who was shot in the head. When released from hospital, he was paralysed from the right shoulder down and unable to speak. Ask the Lord Jesus to heal him.
The persecution of Christians in Turkey has fluctuated up and down in nearly a century since the secular Republic of Turkey was established. But under Islamist President Erdogan, things have tended to get worse. Erdogan has made no secret of his desire to re-establish the Ottoman Empire, under which Christians and other non-Muslims suffered discrimination and had to live as minority communities called millets, rather than as full citizens. Humanly speaking, it looks as if Christians in Turkey (whether historic Christian ethnic groups, Turkish converts from Islam, or refugees from further east) will now face steadily growing persecution. Pray that they may rejoice and be glad, remembering that their reward is in heaven (Matthew 5:10-12).
A small but much loved church building on the Greek island of Lesbos (Lesvos) was vandalized yet again on 2 March causing great distress to local people. The situation at the time was tense on Lesbos, where clashes were taking place almost daily between police and asylum-seekers protesting about overcrowding in their camp. The asylum-seekers, mainly from Afghanistan and Syria, arrive by boat from nearby Turkey. Pray that they will not take out their frustration on Christian targets. Thank the Lord that some of the Muslim refugees have come to know the Lord while in Lesbos. They have been persecuted; pray for their protection.
O Triune God, we pray today for isolated Christians who have no opportunity of fellowship, whether they are secret believers converted from another religion, converts whose families will not let them meet with other Christians, those punished by the authorities by a ban on meeting others, or those in lockdown because of coronavirus. We ask that your presence will be very real to them, and that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be with them all to encourage, comfort, console, teach and guide.
Iran’s National Census Bureau has revised the application form for a national ID card; now applicants must choose one of four named religions and there is no longer an option to put “other religion”. The four religions are Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. This means that former Muslims who have become Christians have to reveal their new faith, bringing with it the risk of persecution as an apostate from Islam. The new application forms also marginalize Hindu, Bahai and Yaresan (Ahl-i-Haq) people. An ID card is compulsory for every citizen aged 15+ and must be shown for many everyday activities. Pray that converts who have hitherto been reluctant to declare their allegiance to Christ will find that when they do it is a means to draw others to know and love Him too.
At the time of writing, Afghanistan is inching slowly towards peace talks between the government and the Taliban after nearly two decades of war. America is in the process of withdrawing its troops over a 14-month period. Pray that peace will truly come in Afghanistan, not just between the warring Muslims of different tribes and different theologies, but also that Afghan Christians may be accepted and free to worship the Lord Jesus Christ without fear. At present, both sides in the peace talks would want to execute Afghan Christians as apostates from Islam.
Several Christian villages in Cameroon’s Far North have come under the control of Boko Haram Islamist militants, after a series of violent night-time attacks in January. “Everyone is confused, we don’t know what to do and we don’t understand what is happening. We are asking: is it because 98% of the villages are Christian? Pray for us Christians in this area,” came one message to Barnabas Fund. A local pastor also pleaded for prayer: “We don’t know what to do. Pray for those who lost their beloved. Pray also for little children left without even clothes.”
Nineteen Christians died when Fulani militants attacked the village of Kwatas, in Plateau State, Nigeria, on 26 January. Villagers were taking part in a social gathering when the militants struck at around 7 p.m. in a relentless assault that continued into the early hours of the following day. This followed several attacks on other villages in the area. Pray that the Lord will deliver His people, and the day will soon come when “they will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid.” (Ezekiel 34:28)
Five million people took part in peaceful demonstrations in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states on Sunday 2 February. Organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria, the demonstrations, which followed three days of fasting, called on President Buhari to act to end the attacks on Christians. Add your prayers to those of Nigerian Christians that their government and armed forces will exert themselves to ensure peace and protection for all Nigerian citizens.
On 21 February Boko Haram militants set fire to a church building at Garkida, Adamawa State, Nigeria. The attack took place during a Women’s Fellowship meeting, and some of the women were kidnapped by the militants, who also burnt down several houses and other property, and killed “many people” said reports. Within days, four of the church elders met for worship in the burnt-out remains of their building. Praise God for their determined and persevering witness.
We pray, O Lord Jesus, for Christians in Tajkistan, facing increasingly restrictive laws. We ask that the authorities will relent from their harassment of Your followers, and we pray especially for Christian children, who have been banned by law for the last nine years from attending any public religious activities, or even being on church premises. We rejoice that no earthly law can stop Your Holy Spirit from moving where He pleases and ask that He will help these growing youngsters to grow in their faith too.
Turkmenistan is a very closed country. Its citizens have little access to the internet, their movements are controlled by the authorities, their spending monitored and they must not be out after 11 pm. It is thought most Turkmens would leave the country if they could. For Christians the pressures are even greater. For example there are just five registered churches in the whole country, which are the only places where it is legal for Christians to meet. Christians are not only isolated from believers outside the country but the various Christian groups inside Turkmenistan have little contact with each other. However, despite serious persecution, the Turkmen Christians (converts from Islam) are energetic, full of joy and have a great thirst for the Word of God. Pray that they will be a blessing to the society in which God has placed them, by their prayers, their witness and their Christ-like lives.
It seemed like a miracle to a congregation in Uzbekistan when the authorities gave them permission to construct an officially registered church building. Such a thing had not occurred for any congregation in the country for the last 20 years, let alone a church of Muslim converts like their own. Astonishingly, the head of the local city administration even visited the church to show his support for the project. The new building, partly financed by Barnabas, together with the older smaller building they already had, now enables twelve unregistered congregations to worship legally in registered church premises, rather than illegally in their homes for which they could be arrested and imprisoned. Praise the Lord that hundreds of our brothers and sisters have been rescued from the hands of their enemies and are now free to serve Him without fear (Luke 1:74).
“James” grew up in a Muslim family where drunkenness and quarrelling were the norm, yet he yearned for something better. His sister told him about some people who did not drink, smoke, lie or swear. James doubted such people could exist but, when his sister took him to church, he found it was true and gave his life to Christ. Persecution began when his mother fell sick and died, because James had nursed her and she had become a Christian. Her relatives threatened to kill James. Matters escalated, and James and his wife were summoned by the police, only to find the mayor, imam and a lot of journalists waiting for them, threatening to show the couple on TV as traitors to Islam. His wife’s relatives forced her to divorce James. All this happened in the strictest part of Uzbekistan, where James got dismissed from jobs because of his faith. He moved to another area but one day the police raided a worship meeting at his house and he was jailed. Praise God that James never denied Christ, that his wife is now back with him, and they support themselves with a small business set up with help from Barnabas.
Three Sri Lankan Christians had to be hospitalised after they were ambushed and attacked by a mob of about 50 people, led by three Buddhist monks. The three were part of a group of Christians driving away from a village where Buddhist extremists had threatened the worship meeting at a house church that morning. The Buddhists claimed it was a Buddhist village and no Christian worship was allowed. The cars of the Christians were forced to stop because felled trees lay across the road. Pray that Sri Lankan Buddhists will accept, even welcome, the presence of Christianity in their land.
Eight Indian Christians have been acquitted of charges of forced conversion and abduction of 60 children. The six men and two women had been arrested in May 2017 while accompanying the children, who were mostly under the age of 14, by train to a Bible camp near Nagpur. The children were the children of Christian parents, but the charge of forced conversion to Christianity arose because their parents had not completed the necessary paperwork when they themselves had converted to Christianity and therefore their children were still officially Hindus. Praise God that justice was done in the end.
India’s BJP (Hindu nationalist) government is in the final stages of creating a database that will track every aspect of the life of every Indian citizen. It will record religion, caste, income, property, education, marital status, family tree, house-moves, job-changes etc. for 1.2 billion people. “We are dangerously close to an Orwellian state and China-like clampdown. Muslims are suffering but major damage will be to the freedom and rights of Christians and Dalits more than anyone else,” commented an Indian pastor who is also an expert on cybersecurity. Pray that Indian Christians may “live such good lives” that those monitoring them to try to find fault may see their good deeds and glorify God. (1 Peter 2:12)
We praise you, heavenly Father, for the courage and steadfastness of Christians in North Korea, standing firm in the faith despite the severe punishment it can bring on them and their loved ones if the authorities discover that they follow Your Son. Give them grace day by day, hour by hour, especially those who are right now in harsh labour camps, starved and tortured. We pray also for those who persecute them, that You will soften their hearts, cause them to question what motivates the endurance of those they are so cruelly ill-treating, and let them hear Your voice calling them. We ask in the Name of Jesus.
Mauritania is strongly Islamic. Conversion from Islam is illegal (punishable by death) and evangelism is also illegal. Nevertheless, there are Mauritanian converts from Islam, who meet discreetly in homes and are gradually growing in numbers and in confidence. Society in general is beginning to resist the Islamic discourse that dominates media and politics. Recently there was a major controversy over apostasy laws, with people arrested for being politically challenging and for atheism. Some protesters demonstrated in front of the main court chanting that they were ready to die under Article 306 (which mandate the death penalty for leaving Islam) in order to claim religious freedom. Christians were not much involved in this although some were arrested in February. Christians ask prayer for the release of jailed believers from prison and that the Islamic Republic of Mauritania should become the Democratic Republic of Mauritania with equality and justice for all.
Jihadists have occupied the northern part of Mali since 2013, and are popular with local people, who find them more honest than the government and better able to provide law and order (through sharia courts which impose punishments such as lashings and amputations). They also provide Quranic schools, which are welcomed in an area where there is very little education available. Christians are about 2% of this mainly Muslim country. Pray that they will not be fearful or dismayed, knowing the God’s presence with them and His strength to help them. (Isaiah 41:10)
In Nigeria’s Kaduna State, Christians are being marginalized by forcible changes to the traditional chiefdom system. The state government has been re-naming some of the chiefdoms in predominantly Christian southern Kaduna as emirates, an Islamic term. The Adara are a large tribe, about two-thirds Christian. In 2017 the title Agom Adara (Chief of the Adara people) was changed to Agom Kachia (Chief of Kachia town) thus reducing his domain from the whole tribe to just one town. Christian protests were ignored and there were violent clashes between the Adara and the mainly Muslim Hausa-Fulani. Then in October 2018 the Agom was kidnapped on his way home from a Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship, and a few days later killed. After a violent incident in February 2019, reportedly started by the Fulanis, when many from both sides were killed, nine Adara tribal elders were arrested and imprisoned for over three months, but no Fulanis were arrested. Pray for justice and protection for the Adara people. At least 166 were killed in eight attacks in 2019, and the pattern has continued into 2020.
Ngulongo Year Batsemire (aged 60), a church leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was walking with his wife to his fields when they were surrounded by members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist militant group that repeatedly targets Christians. They demanded that Ngulongo tell them where they could find other pastors and then tried to force him to convert to Islam. He refused and they killed him. Thank the Lord for His faithful child, who refused to deny Christ. Around the same time at least 30 other people in four villages were killed in night-time attacks by the ADF. Another eleven Christians were killed on 18 February. Pray for the protection of all in north-east DRC, especially Christians and in particular pastors, who seem to be a special target of the ADF.
A militant Islamist organisation called Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama and known locally as Al-Shabaab (not the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab) has effectively gained control of a very poor area of Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province of Mozambique. They burn villages and behead, maim or kidnap the inhabitants. Al-Shabaab started operating in Cabo Delgado in 2015, at the same time as radical Muslims from the Gulf, Kenya and Tanzania established a presence there and began marrying local people and teaching violent and extremist ideology. In 2017 Al-Shabaab carried out their first attack (on a police station) in October 2017, and to date have launched around 370 attacks, killing at least 909 people. In the areas controlled by Al-Shabaab, sharia is imposed and people who try to escape are killed. Locals are encouraged to join their jihad and train for military operations; fighting for Al-Shabaab is one of the few ways of earning an income in Cabo Delgado. Another is to get involved Al-Shabaab’s smuggling of timber, coal, rubies, ivory and heroin. Pray that Mozambican Muslims will resist the violent extremist teaching, and that God will protect the Christian minority.
Continue to pray for Eritrean Christians who suffer great persecution by their government. Many are arrested, after which beatings and torture follow. Some have spent months in solitary confinement in complete darkness, taken out only for interrogation to try to force them to recant their faith. They can spend years in jail without trial. Praise God for their faithfulness and pray that they will be given the patient endurance they need (Revelation 13:10).
Pray for Christian women in places of pressure and persecution, where they are doubly despised - for being female and for being Christians. Ask that our loving Lord will be specially close to Christian girls and young women in Egypt and Pakistan who have been abducted by Muslims and forced or tricked into converting to Islam (a legal formality, not a heart belief) and marrying a Muslim. Pray that they may know His presence with them to comfort and sustain them and, if it is His will, be enabled to escape and return to their own Christian families.