Bring hope, O Lord, to Thy suffering people. In their anguish and pain, be Thou their hope. Bring hope, O Lord, to Thy persecuted people. In their despair, be Thou their hope. Bring hope, O Lord, to Thy needy people. In their hunger and thirst, be Thou their hope. Bring hope, O Lord, to Thy dying people. In the hour of their death, be Thou their hope. In the Name of Jesus our hope, Amen.
Pakistani Christian Asif Pervaiz was sentenced on 8 September to a fine, three years jail and then hanging. His “crime” was sending “blasphemous” text messages about Muhammad. The former garment factory worker, who has been in custody since 2013, denied the charge and said that his supervisor at work had been trying to convert him to Islam and, when Asif quit his job, made the accusation of blasphemy against him. Asif’s lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook, who successfully defended Aasia Bibi in a similar position, said that Asif would appeal. Pray that the appeal will be heard soon and will be successful.
At the time of writing, there are believed to be approximately 24 Pakistani Christians (including four minors) in prison accused of “blasphemy”; eight of them have been sentenced to death. Pakistan’s “blasphemy law” is framed in such a way that false accusations are easy to make, especially against non-Muslims. Although no one of any religion has yet been executed under the law, anyone accused will be in permanent danger of assassination by zealous Muslims, even if they are found to be not guilty by the courts. Pray for these innocent Christians that they will not give way to despair, but will continue to hope in the Lord and trust Him for their deliverance.
In August, a Christian in Pakistan’s Punjab province was arrested for alleged “blasphemy” in a Facebook post. Sohail Masih was later charged under sections 295-A and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, the latter section carrying a mandatory death sentence. Sohail’s accuser was a local Muslim leader. After Sohail’s arrest and before he was charged, an angry crowd gathered outside the police station where he was held, demanding that a case be registered against him. Pray that the Pakistani authorities will have courage to do what is right and not give in to mob rule when Christians are accused.
Shafqat and Shagufta are still appealing against the death sentences issued to them six years ago in Pakistan for allegedly sending “blasphemous” text messages in English. The Christian couple are illiterate and cannot write Urdu, let alone English. Their appeal hearing was postponed twice more in September. Pray that this innocent couple, held in separate jails hundreds of kilometres apart, will be freed. Pray also for their children – sons Zain (20), Danish (18), Joshua (16) and daughter Sara (14) – who now live with Shafqat’s sister.
Authorities in China are closing the net on persecuted Christians by offering cash rewards to anyone who provides information on “illegal religious activity venues”. The Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau of Gushi county, in Henan province, urged citizens in August to submit photos, videos and recordings of unapproved meeting places in exchange for around 500 yuan (£55; $70; €60). Chinese authorities are also stepping up a policy of withdrawing government welfare benefits from vulnerable Christians who refuse to renounce their faith. In Xinyu city, Jiangxi province, officials took away a disabled Christian’s monthly allowance of 100 yuan (£11; $14; €12). “Officials told me that we would be treated as anti-party elements if my husband and I continued attending worship services,” said his wife. Pray that Chinese Christians will stand firm in their faith.
A general election will take place tomorrow in Myanmar (Burma). The long-awaited election in 2015 brought Aung San Suu Kyi and her party to power, but was not followed by the establishing of real democracy and full human rights. Buddhism dominates the country, with ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Rohingya Muslims and Christians of many different non-Burman ethnic groups suffering greatly. Ask that the Lord’s hand will be over Myanmar tomorrow and in the coming days, so that righteousness and justice will be established.
Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for Your people in Syria, as their country continues to suffer terribly, cut off by sanctions from all help. Encourage the congregations whose ministers have died from Covid-19. Bring hope to believers in Aleppo, the largest Syrian city, who are reported to be struggling with depression, many of them unable to pay for medical care for the sick or even buy food. Have mercy on this country, where You Yourself walked during Your life on earth, and especially on our brothers and sisters, that they may rejoice in You despite all that they are enduring.
A general election is due to be held tomorrow in Jordan. Pray that the newly elected legislators will preserve the measure of religious liberty that already exists in Jordan and will work towards full equality of all citizens. At present the law favours Muslims in many ways. An exception to this is the fact that nine of the 130 seats of the House of Representatives are reserved for the Christian minority, which is equivalent to 7%, a considerably higher percentage than their presence in the population. Pray that Christians may be salt and light in their society, especially those who have the opportunity of public office.
“Your prayers … give us a lot of strength so we can absorb the shock and do our best to pass on this spirit to others around us,” wrote a Lebanese Christian leader soon after the massive explosion in Beirut in August. “People here are so sad and angry and it is difficult for them to just add on a big catastrophe of this size on top of all the previous ones accumulating over the years!!! Worst of all were the events in 2019 and 2020 starting with the revolution, the economic crisis and bank collapse, Covid-19 and now the explosion…” Pray that Christians in Lebanon may be a source of peace, joy and hope for those around them.
“Ousmane” was born into a fanatical Muslim family in Senegal. His father’s four wives quarrelled constantly and so did all their children. At the age of four, he was sent to Quranic school, hundreds of miles away where the students were beaten, deprived of food, forced to beg and sometimes chained. He did not see his parents for years on end. Ousmane ran away when he was ten, and lived a life of crime on the streets. One day, a man told Ousmane about the love of Jesus and led the unloved boy to the Lord. With Barnabas’ support Ousmane has been discipled in his new faith and trained to mend shoes, so that he can earn his living. Pray that Ousmane’s business will thrive and he will grow in his faith.
At least 18 Christians were murdered when Boko Haram militants, armed with rifles and machetes, attacked a camp for internally displaced people in Nguetchewe village, Far North Cameroon, on the night of Sunday 2 August. Some of the bodies were found dismembered. Pray for the survivors, many of them injured in the attack, that the Lord Jesus will comfort, heal and provide for them. Ask Him to touch the hearts of the men of violence who attacked them, and lead them to a personal encounter with Himself.
“Every day we witness looting, fires, kidnappings, killings and massive displacement of populations,” said a church leader from Cameroon. Then he spoke of the joy that was felt because of the millet, soap, clothes, blankets and sleeping mats that Barnabas had provided for the homeless survivors of the persecution. “God is good, God is good, God is good forever,” sang widowed Madeleine when she received her package of aid. Marie burst into tears when given her allocation and affirmed again and again, “The God of Jesus Christ has visited me.” Ask the Lord to intervene to stop the violence against His people in Far North Cameroon.
Pastor Alubara Audu heard voices outside his home at 2 a.m. on Sunday 6 September. Realising it was Fulani militants about to attack, he tried to warn the other residents of his mainly Christian village in Kaduna State, Nigeria. But the gunmen shot Alubara as he ran out shouting to warn the sleeping villagers. He stumbled on a little way and then fell to the ground but continued to yell his warning. Soon the gunmen were on him and shot him multiple times at close range until he was dead. Two other Christian men died in the attack and two Christians were abducted. Pray for the release of those kidnapped and for the Lord’s consolation and provision for the widows and children of the martyred men.
O God we pray for the 1,200 Christians of Kukawa town, in Borno State, Nigeria, who were ordered by the Nigerian authorities to return to their homes after two years displaced in a camp. Soon a convoy of 22 trucks carrying Islamist militants thundered into town, and hundreds of the newly returned Christians were taken hostage. O Lord, you understand how our brothers and sisters had hoped to restart their lives and cultivate their farms again, only to find themselves under attack once more. In your mercy, set free those who have been abducted. Be a rock, a fortress, a shield and a stronghold for Your people in Nigeria.
“Poor Christians in Chad are presently worried about food, health, housing, education of children, the survival of their faith,” wrote a pastor to Barnabas Fund in August. Chad was then staggering under multiple disasters, including floods in one part, drought in another, Covid-19, and malnutrition amongst children. Christians were particularly affected, and Islamic missionaries, with support from Turkey and other Muslim-majority nations, were taking advantage of the Covid-19 crisis to be more active in seeking to make converts. Christians also faced violent persecution from both Muslims and followers of traditional African religions. Ask the Lord to have mercy on Chad and that His followers there will cling faithfully to Him as they are buffeted by all these trials.
Just a month after President Erdogan of Turkey decreed that Hagia Sophia in Istanbul should become a mosque again, he ordered that the same should be done for a nearby church. Like Hagia Sophia, St Saviour’s Church was originally a Christian place of worship in ancient times, had become a mosque and then a museum. President Erdogan seems intent on bringing an end to Turkey’s secularism, established almost a century ago by Kemal Atatürk. Even under the auspices of a secular state, Christians in Turkey have suffered much discrimination, harassment and persecution. Humanly speaking it looks as if things will only get worse for them, as long as President Erdogan continues his policies. Pray that they will not give way to fear but will shine for Christ now and in whatever situation awaits them in the coming days.
Moldova is an overwhelmingly Christian country, whose people were well used to persecution when it was part of the Soviet Union. After nearly 30 years of freedom, Christianity is under attack again, this time from Turkey. Turkish flags are appearing and Turkish private schools are opening, whose graduates can attend Turkish universities free of charge, where they are pressured to convert to Islam. Pupils at Turkish high schools report that they are being pressured to attend Muslim meetings and Islamic celebrations. Pray that Christians in Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, will be faithful to the Lord.
Belarus, the last dictatorship in Europe and the last former-Soviet country still to have collective farms, is also noteworthy for the large number of skilled IT workers. This is because its capital Minsk had been designated as a tech hub when Belarus was still part of the Soviet Union. At the time of writing, the country is in turmoil as protesters denounce the re-election of President Lukashenko, who has been president since the office was created in 1994. More than half the population identifies as Christian and the law guarantees freedom of religion. In practice, however, the government enforces a host of restrictive regulations against churches and other religious groups, and encourages intolerance of them. At this time of transition in a country that has scarcely changed in decades, pray that the Lord will be in control and His Kingdom will be advanced.
Some church leaders in Belarus have been actively involved in peaceful protests. Some have gathered at the main cathedral in Minsk to pray, read the Word of God and call for peace. They also pray for the police and for those who have suffered at the hands of the police. A number of these pastors were themselves arrested by the police. Pray that the Prince of Peace will draw many to Himself as people see the way in which His followers conduct themselves in a time of chaos and violence.
A group of Belarussian evangelical leaders issued a statement in August called “Prayer and Hope” which called on Christians in Belarus to unite in prayer at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. every day. The statement finished with the words: “Earthly hopes are not always fulfilled (Luke 24:21), but our hope is the Lord Jesus Christ; whoever believes in Him will not be ashamed (1 Peter 2:6). And if now there is no bright light in the clouds, then the wind will blow and clear them (Job 37:21).” Pray for and with our longsuffering brothers and sisters in Belarus that their hope in the Lord will remain strong and for an end to violence and bloodshed in their country.
O God of peace, we pray that You will guide the negotiations taking place between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgents, that these talks may result in a lasting and just peace. We know that both sides in the negotiations are strongly committed to a death sentence for those who leave Islam so that Afghans who have believed in Your Son Jesus are in great danger in their homeland. Yet we ask that You will work in power, at this time of change and transition, to change this too. In Christ’s Name we pray.
The Afghan government has announced that Afghan mothers will have their names added alongside the fathers’ names on their children’s identity cards. This small step towards recognising women’s rights in this deeply conservative Islamic country was immediately denounced by some as a Western-backed attack on traditional family values. During the years of Taliban rule over most of Afghanistan (1996-2001), women were not allowed to work and girls were not allowed to be educated. Pray that the government’s current peace negotiations with the Taliban will not cause a setback to women’s slowly developing rights. Pray also that the rights of non-Muslims will begin to be recognised.
An Indian Christian missionary called Munshi Dev Tado (aged 28) was shot dead on 10 July, by suspected Maoist Naxalite attackers, who had previously threatened him for sharing the Gospel in Maharashtra State. Munshi had formerly been a Naxalite himself, but then gave his life to Christ, and began ministry, opening a church on his own land. Pray for his widow, their children and his church members.
Several Christian ministries in India have had their permits to receive funds from overseas removed. This appears to be part of a crackdown by the Indian authorities on Christian and Muslim organisations. For Christian ministries that are very dependent on funding from outside the country, this will be a major blow. Ask that God will guide the ministry leaders with His wisdom to know how to sustain their work for Him in the coming days, months and years.
“Jai Shri Ram” literally means “Victory to Lord Ram” (a Hindu deity) but has become a war-cry of Hindu extremist groups in India. Seven tribal Christian men from a village in Jharkhand State are reported to have been beaten by a mob of about 25 stick-wielding extremists and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. The mob accused the Christians of killing a cow (sacred in Hinduism) and showed what seemed to be a fake video as “evidence”. The police took all the Christians to the police station and searched their homes for evidence of cow slaughter. Finding none, they released the Christians and began to arrest the Hindu extremists. Pray for the Christian men who were attacked — Raj, Deepak, Emmanuel, Sugad, Sulin, Soshan and Sem — and thank the Lord that the police are acting to protect the falsely accused Christians.
Sri Lanka’s Buddhist nationalist President Gotabaya Rajapaksa won a landslide victory in Sri Lanka’s the general election in August. If his party can make deals with some of the smaller political parties, they will reach the two-thirds majority needed to make changes to the constitution. This would enable President Rajapaksa to make religious conversion a crime, something his brother had earlier hinted at. Many Christians in Sri Lanka have converted from Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam. Pray that Sri Lankan Christians will be assured that their heavenly Father is in control and that He will strengthen them to endure this new type of persecution if He allows it to happen.
About 40 Hindu extremists burst into a Christian worship service in Chenkalady town, near Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, at 9.a.m. one Sunday morning. Pastor Arjin, his wife, his father and his mother-in-law were amongst those hurt in the attack. Arjin spent four days in hospital due to injury caused when someone smashed a motorbike helmet against his head. The police ordered the church to report to the police station for an enquiry, but no local lawyers were willing to represent them. Ask our Father that the Holy Spirit, who is our Advocate and the Spirit of truth, will be there to help this vulnerable little group of believers. (John 15:26)
O Lord, as we wait in a world of turmoil for an end to sickness and anxiety, facemasks and lockdowns, loneliness and job losses, enable us to keep our eyes fixed on You. Help us to be strong and take heart as we wait for You to deliver us. Give us grace to look beyond ourselves and remember others in far more difficult situations, especially our brothers and sisters in contexts of persecution or great poverty, where coronavirus has been yet one more hardship to add to what they already bear so patiently. Bless them and provide for them, we ask, in Jesus’ Name. (Psalm 27:14)
The Christian victims of Islamist violence in Burkina Faso tend to be the men of the community. But on 1 August it was mainly children who were killed when a cart they were travelling in rolled over an improvised explosive device, killing six people. The children were on their way home from grazing their families’ livestock. Ask the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort to be with the parents of these youngsters in their loss and their distress. (2 Corinthians 1:3)