“They were going round houses targeting Christians, NGO workers and those educated in Western schools,” said a resident of Geidam in Yobe State, north-east Nigeria. Two Christians and two Muslim school-teachers were selected to be killed in this way by militants from Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) who took control of the town on 23 April. The ISWAP militants dropped leaflets saying, “We are fighting unbelievers; Christians and any other person or group going against the teaching of Islam even if they are Muslims.” Pray that Nigerian Christians may have grace to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44).
Kaduna State, Nigeria, has seen a spate of anti-Christian violence. Eight Christians on an evangelistic mission on 26 March were abducted by bandits, who stopped their minibus, which had “The Redeemed Christian Church of God” painted on its side. They were later released, as were all 39 students, mainly Christians, abducted from a College of Forestry earlier in March. But in April, when a group of Anglican Christians in their church bus were attacked, the Christian driver was shot dead, and four passengers were injured. Another Christian died when a Baptist church was attacked during the Sunday morning service on 25 April. “Glory be to Jesus. We pray for lasting peace in all troubled regions of the country, in Jesus’ Name,” said the pastor of the eight from the Redeemed Christian Church of God after their release. Add your prayers to his.
An early morning service had just finished on 30 March in Aye-Tuwar village, Benue State, Nigeria, when gunmen entered and enquired where the senior minister could be found. Within seconds they had shot him dead, along with three of the congregation. They also set fire to houses in the village. Pray for those who will go to church tomorrow uncertain whether they will return home afterwards or whether they will go straight to their heavenly Home.
Lord Jesus Christ, we bring before You our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and ask You to fill them with courage. We pray that You will guide them into all truth by the power of Your Spirit in the face of that country’s harsh “blasphemy” laws. We ask that legislators and judges will apply fairness when cases of “blasphemy” are set before them. Help Your people to communicate the truth respectfully but boldly when You call on them to do so and empower them to be Your messengers in showing their friends and neighbours Your uniqueness and deity. (Matthew 10:19-20)
Pakistani Christian Samina and her 13-year-old daughter Shakina both worked as domestic servants but in two different homes. They would travel to and from work together. After work on 19 February, Samina called at Shakina’s workplace to collect her but found her daughter was not there. A Muslim man had abducted Shakina and the next day he married her, after forcing her to convert to Islam and change her name to Shazia. Pray that the police will find and rescue Shakina, that she will remain true in her heart to Christ’s Name, and that the only new name she is given will be what the Lord Himself gives to those who overcome (Revelation 2:13,17).
Nabeel Masih was only 16 when he was charged with “blasphemy”. He was the youngest person ever to be accused under Pakistan’s notorious law. Nabeel, a Christian who has always maintained his innocence of the charges, spent over four years in prison until he was released on bail in March. Pray that the Lord
who sustains the humble and binds up our wounds will heal Nabeel of all the trauma he has endured (Psalm 147:3,6). Pray that he will be acquitted when he finally faces trial.
Maryam and Newish, two Christian nurses in Faisalabad, Pakistan, were accused in early April of “blasphemy” by a Muslim colleague who had a grudge against them. While cleaning a cupboard, one of them had removed a sticker with Quranic verses on it and given it to the head nurse for safekeeping. It was the head nurse who accused them of desecrating the Quran, for which there is a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment according to the Pakistan Penal Code. An angry mob of Muslims gathered, and one stabbed Maryam with a knife. The two nurses were arrested. Pray that the accusations against them will be rejected and they will be set free.
Later in April a further three Pakistani Christian nurses were accused of “blasphemy” by Muslim colleagues, this time at a psychiatric hospital in Lahore. The accusation was to do with a non-blasphemous social media post about the Pakistani government, which Sakina shared and Jessica and Tressa “liked”. All three are now in hiding, in fear for their lives. Pray for their protection, remembering also nurse Tabitha, who has been in hiding since January when she was falsely accused of “blasphemy” by colleagues at the maternity hospital in Karachi where she worked. Ask for all four women that the Lord
will be their hiding-place, protecting them from trouble and surrounding them with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7).
The European Parliament has called for the abolition of Pakistan’s “blasphemy” law. With mandatory life imprisonment or death sentences, and no penalty for false accusation, the law is easily abused. Christians are especially vulnerable because the lower courts tend to give more weight to the word of a Muslim accuser than the words of a Christian accused. So strongly do some Pakistani Muslims feel about anything they perceive as disrespectful to their prophet that they will attack whole Christian communities if an individual Christian is accused of “blasphemy” and threaten anyone who suggests the law should be amended. All this has developed in barely a generation. Lift up to God a situation that seems impossible for humans to resolve and ask Him to act in power (Luke 18:27).
Praise God for an increasing openness to the Gospel amongst Afghan Muslims. But Afghan believers active in outreach continue to face hostility, including curses and death threats. Some results are anxiety, fear and problems sleeping. One Afghan evangelist commented: “Many of the shaming techniques aim to undermine our identity and exclude us from the community, from being Afghan. That really stings.” But hardest of all are the calls they receive from devout and peaceable Muslims, earnestly and lovingly trying to win the evangelists back to Islam. “Pray for courage when we are discouraged and for strength to persevere in this hard calling,” said one evangelist. Another asked: “Join us in praying God’s blessing over those who curse us and ask that those who are presently enemies of the Gospel will encounter Jesus’ love and become His followers.”
Our loving Lord Jesus, we stand with our brothers and sisters in Iran, asking that You will sustain them in the trials they face. We praise You for the growth of Your Church in that land despite the restraints placed on believers by a repressive regime. Thank You for those who continue to serve You in their homeland although being repeatedly pressed to leave. For those subject to a harsh cycle of being released and re-arrested, we ask You to strengthen their faith and that they may know in their hearts that You cause all things to work together for good for those who love You. (Romans 8:28)
Four Christian converts from Islam were arrested by Iranian intelligence agents who raided their individual homes or business premises in Dezful, south-west Iran, on 19 April. Two days later they were released. The following day another 10 to 15 Dezful converts were arrested and released the same day, after being forced to sign agreements that they would not associate with other Christians. Such arrests and such agreements (often with hidden wording that renounces the Christian faith) are a common method of harassment by the authorities and appear to be part of a government strategy to wear down converts psychologically so that they either emigrate or return to Islam. Pray that the Lord
will keep our brothers in perfect peace, their minds steadfast, as they trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3).
Homayoun (62), who has Parkinson’s Disease, is currently serving a two-year jail sentence in Iran for being a member of a house church (Farsi-speaking churches composed mainly of converts from Islam). His wife Sara (42) is serving an eight-year sentence because she was not only a member but also active in organising the house church. Pray that the Lord will sustain them, remembering especially Homayoun’s health. When they come out of prison various other punishments await them, including a two-year ban on membership of any social group. They have appealed for a re-trial; pray that this appeal will be successful and the re-trial will acquit them of any wrongdoing.
Three Iranian Christian men, all converts from Islam, were found guilty on various charges related to their Christian activities last year and given prison sentences. In Iran, prison does not start immediately, but one is summoned later, perhaps many months after the sentence was announced, to come to prison and start serving the sentence. Sasan, Habib and Pooriya, however, did not wait to be summoned but presented themselves at prison and asked if they could start their sentences. All three are now out of prison; the two with one-year sentences were given furlough and the third was let off the last 39 days of his much shorter sentence. Thank the Lord that their time in prison was shortened, and pray that they may rejoice to have suffered for the Name of Christ, as the apostles did after they had been jailed and flogged (Acts 5:41).
A pastor in Laos was released from prison on 9 April, three days after being convicted of “creating disorder” and “disrupting unity”. Pastor Sithon had been arrested about 13 months earlier for conducting church services without permission. At the time of his arrest he had refused to sign a document renouncing his Christian faith. He was awarded a one-year sentence on 6 April but, having already been detained for longer than that, he was soon released. Lao Christians had been praying for him throughout. “We’re very excited that he’s still alive … He may have been sick and frail in prison, but he’ll be very happy to be able to serve God again,” said one. Pray that Lao Christians will be encouraged by seeing their faithful prayers answered.
Continue to lift to the Lord our brothers and sisters suffering for His sake in North Korea. Horrifying reports of what they are forced to endure for Christ’s sake emerge from time to time from this secretive communist state with its religion-like ideology of juche
(self-reliance). But North Korean Christians rely on their God, not on themselves, and trust in the Name of the Lord
, fearing only Him. Pray that He will be their light as they walk in the darkness of 21st century North Korea (Isaiah 50:10).
Rural pastors in China face many challenges. Most have no theological training and live on such a low income that educating their children is a struggle and even putting a roof over their heads can be difficult. They face hostility from the majority society and live with the constant possibility of having their church meetings disrupted or being arrested, fined or worse. These pressures cause such stress and exhaustion that some leave their ministries. Pray that these weary pastors will fix their thoughts on Jesus, hold on to the courage and hope with which they started (Hebrews 3:1,6) and remember that “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work” (Hebrews 4:9-10 EHV).
We thank You, Lord, for the growth of Your Church in China. Thank You for the courage and faithfulness of our brothers and sisters in the face of persecution and repressive controls. We lift to You those Christian leaders who refuse to compromise on the supremacy of Your law despite the temptation of gaining relative security this way. As surveillance increases and the monitoring of church activities intensifies, we pray that You will assure Your people that their lives are in Your hands and nothing escapes Your notice. We ask this in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Psalm 139:7)
Covid-19 unexpectedly delayed the timetable for producing a modern translation of the New Testament in the Tajik language, but Christians in Tajikistan saw many blessings arising from the delay. For it allowed them, through respect and perseverance, to develop good relations with government officials. Not only do they now have the necessary permits but also they trust that the relationships they have developed will be helpful in the future when they hope, God willing, to translate the Old Testament and print the whole Bible. Pray that the Tajik government officials will continue to look kindly on the Christians and facilitate the distribution of God’s Word.
Please continue to pray for a young Christian mother in Central Asia, a convert from Islam, who has been thrown out by her husband and also by her father. After a while her husband told her to come back home but, when she did, he mocked her and threw her out again. Now she lives with her father, who constantly presses her to deny Christ but does not beat her as her husband did when he discovered she was going to church. Christians in the capital city invited her to live there but she decided to remain at her father’s house in the village, praying and believing that her husband will change. Pray with our courageous sister that all her family will come to faith in the Lord Jesus.
Muslim-background believers in Turkmenistan rejoiced when the authorities gave them permission to meet again for worship in their five registered church buildings, of course with Covid precautions. They asked believers across the world to thank the Lord with them. Pray that further church buildings will be granted registration, as just five for all the evangelicals in the country is not enough. Praise God for the Christians’ spirit of thankfulness, living as they do in a poor and very strict country where it has now been made illegal to queue outside the shops selling state-subsidised food. The subsidised food is more affordable, but there is not enough for everyone who needs it. Sometimes shoppers are obliged to buy other goods as well, e.g. portraits of the president. Pray that the Christians’ hope, peace and joy in such circumstances will be a powerful witness to the majority society.
Tatarstan, now a republic in the Russian Federation, has been dominated by Islam for more than a millennium. Tatarstan’s Christian community find that their main challenges come from Islamist terrorist groups, not from the authorities. The security situation has improved since 2014 when many Islamists left to fight in Syria and the authorities clamped down on those who remained. However, the authorities warn that a second generation of Islamist militants is expected to emerge – the home-schooled children of Wahhabi Muslim parents, who have been taught to separate themselves from mainstream society and follow a strict and intolerant form of Islam. Pray that these Muslim youngsters may not grow up to hate non-Muslims or believe it right to attack them; ask that each will have a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise God for the Christian presence in Chechnya, a strongly Islamic Russian republic with a reputation for Islamist violence. Earlier this year a church in the capital Grozny (which means “terrifying” in Russian) celebrated its 135th anniversary. The Chechen people used to have their own pagan religion, focusing on the worship of trees, especially pear trees, but converted to Islam between the 16th and 19th centuries. Sufism is followed by many, which is a mystical type of Islam focusing on the quest for a personal relationship with Allah. Pray that many Chechen Muslims will find the fulfilment of their desires in Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your prayers for “A”, a Christian convert from Islam who was facing court charges in Saudi Arabia. He has been acquitted of the charge of financial misconduct as no evidence was offered to support the accusation. But A still faces charges of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity and of helping his sister (who has also become a Christian) to flee the country against the wishes of her family. Ask that the Holy Spirit will be A’s advocate to stand with him, help him and bring him justice (John 14:16).
Heavenly Father, we praise You for those turning to You from other religious backgrounds across the world. Thank You that many are experiencing for the first time the joy of sins forgiven and the comfort of knowing You as a loving Father. We pray that they will know Your presence in whatever difficulties they face, particularly those ostracised or even banished from their families as a result of trusting You. Help them to realise that You richly reward those who give up even close family ties to follow Your Son and our Saviour Jesus Christ, in Whose Name we ask. (Matthew 19:29)
Thank the Lord for answered prayer, as two of the four Christians arrested in Somaliland in January have been released (and were then deported). Continue to pray for the other two, now charged with apostasy from Islam, propagating Christianity and other offences, remembering also their baby who was taken into detention with them. Four more Christians, also converts from Islam, were arrested in February and face various charges related to their Christian faith and activities. Somali Christians ask prayer that the detainees will know God’s presence and His strength, that their lawyer will have wisdom and boldness, and that they will be released soon.
Many Ugandan churches refuse to have anything to do with Christians from a Muslim background, presumably because they are fearful of Islamist threats. Often these converts have also been rejected by their Muslim relatives and have no one else. Their lives may be in severe danger. Some have been permanently injured by violent attacks. Pray that more Ugandan churches will be willing to risk their own safety to help their persecuted brothers and sisters.
Ugandan Muslims occupy many strategic positions in security, politics, law and media, despite the country having a large Christian majority. Some Ugandan Christians fear that Christian values are being systematically undermined by some of the Muslims in senior positions. Christian converts from Islam often find themselves facing difficulties because of Muslim officials. They ask prayer that Church leaders will respond with a wise and unified strategy to counteract the Islamists’ agenda.
The Burundian government has been reaching out to many Arab countries, building diplomatic relations with them in the hope of relieving the financial difficulties facing Burundi. As a result, mosques, Islamic health centres, an Islamic university and many Muslim organisations have been established in this country which is about 90% Christian, with Muslims estimated at less than 3%. Please pray that Burundian Christians will be active, wise and loving to ensure that the Christian faith continues to be freely proclaimed in their country.
After launching a major attack on the town of Palma in northern Mozambique on 24 March, Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) boasted on its internet news site of killing at least 55 people including Christians, Mozambican soldiers and “crusaders” (meaning Westerners). The brutal IS-linked terrorist group operating in northern Mozambique leaves horribly mutilated bodies. Pray that these terrorists who think they are pleasing Allah with their violence will meet the living God, the Prince of Peace, and learn to follow Him.
Chad’s President Idriss Déby died on 20 April from wounds sustained in a battle between the Chadian army and Islamist terrorists. He had led Chad for three decades and his armed forces were considered one of the most effective in the region for dealing with militant Islamists. At the time of writing, Chadian Christians are very concerned that Islamist insurgents may seize political power. Pray that the Lord’s hand will be over Chad, and that the new leadership (currently Déby’s son Mahamat) will govern with wisdom and justice, ensuring the protection of the Christian community, who have been suffering at the hands of both Muslims and followers of traditional African religions.