Prayer Focus Update - November 2019
- Pakistan – Christian man tortured to death while in police custody
- Syria – Two Christians killed and thousands displaced in Turkish military action in north-eastern city
- China – Authorities order churches to replace Ten Commandments with presidential quotes
- Nigeria – Nine abducted in attacks on two Christian schools and a Christian youth among boys and men rescued from “torture chamber” Islamic school
- Bangladesh – The persecuted turn persecutor as Rohingya Christians are violently attacked within refugee camps
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
Pakistan – Christian man tortured to death while in police custody
A Pakistani Christian man died on 3 September as a result of severe torture inflicted while held in police custody in Lahore.
A post-mortem examination found evidence of torture on the hands, back and arms of Amir Masih, a gardener, who went to North Cantonment Police Station voluntarily to give a statement to clear his name following a minor theft from his employer’s home.
Amir was taken to an undisclosed location where he was tortured in an attempt to force a confession. His brother claimed that police had urinated on him while cursing him for being a Christian.
On 8 September, the Governor of Lahore, Mohammad Sarwar, visited Amir Masih’s home and offered condolences to his bereaved family. He said the policemen involved in the torture were criminals and would be treated accordingly. Six police officers are under investigation over the allegations. It is a great encouragement for Pakistani Christians that this crime is being taken seriously; all too often violence and injustice against poor Christians has gone unpunished in Pakistan.
Ask for comfort for the family of Christian Amir Masih, knowing that God will wipe every tear from their eyes (Revelation 21:4). Pray that Amir’s loved ones will forgive his abusers, just as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). Give thanks for the visit by the Governor of Lahore, Mohammad Sarwar, and pray that his intervention sends a powerful message to others who harbour hostility towards Christians and that justice will prevail.
Syria – Two Christians killed and thousands displaced in Turkish military action in north-eastern city
Two Christians were killed and others wounded within hours of Turkey launching a military offensive in north-east Syria on 9 October.
The two died in the shelling of a Christian neighbourhood in the border city of Qamishli. Elsewhere in the city a mother was critically wounded, and her husband and two children were injured, when a shell hit the Christian family’s shop and home.
The United Nations said tens of thousands of civilians have fled the fighting, including more than 70,000 displaced people from the northern towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abiad. The region has a substantial Christian population, who are often considered a peacekeeping “buffer” between the Arab and Kurdish communities.
The opening days of the Turkish operation focused on the north-eastern region of Syria, which remained relatively secure and stable during the civil war. Many of those displaced during the eight-year conflict had sought refuge in the region.
Lift up our brothers and sisters in north-east Syria as they are once again forced to flee violence and conflict. Pray that they are not dismayed, but know that the LORD is with them wherever they go (Joshua 1:9). Ask that families who have lost loved ones will be comforted (Matthew 5:4) and that all those made homeless will find safe refuge. Pray for wisdom among world leaders so that peace will come swiftly to this troubled land.
China – Authorities order churches to replace Ten Commandments with presidential quotes
Churches in China’s central province of Henan have been forced by the authorities to take down the Ten Commandments and replace them with quotes of President Xi Jinping.
Every state-registered “three-self” church and meeting venue in a city in the county of Luoyang received an order to remove the Ten Biblical Commandments from display as part of the authorities’ on-going campaign to “sinicise” (make Chinese) Christianity.
Some churches that refused to obey have been shut down and other congregations have been told their members will be “blacklisted”, meaning the travel, education and employment options of Christians will be restricted by the authorities.
In other evidence of sinicisation, the words Bible, God and Christ were removed from Robinson Crusoe and other classic novels that feature in a new Chinese school textbook.
Pray for our brothers and sisters in China who are anxious and distraught at the order to remove God’s Word from display in their churches. Ask that they will stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27). Give thanks that the number of followers of Jesus Christ is growing in China, despite all attempts by the authorities to suppress Christianity.
Nigeria – Nine abducted in attacks on two Christian schools and a Christian youth among boys and men rescued from “torture chamber” Islamic school
Nine Christians were abducted in two separate armed attacks on Christian boarding schools in Kaduna State, Nigeria in early October.
On 3 October, just after midnight, gunmen entered a school in a remote area and seized its vice-principal, the matron and six female pupils. In a second midnight attack on 10 October, 20 gunmen stormed a Government Technical School in the predominantly Christian district of Kajura and abducted the school’s principal, himself a Christian.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) condemned the abductions and urged academic institutions to step up security measures.
In another incident in Kaduna State on 27 September 2019, a young Christian convert was among around 300 severely abused Muslim boys and young men released from captivity at an Islamic boarding school during a police raid.
At least 77 boys under 18 years of age, some as young as five, were led from the compound by police. Visibly malnourished, many boys were manacled around the ankles or chained to car wheel hubs. Others bore deep scars from beatings, and described a “torture chamber” where boys were punished if they attempted to run away.
Yusuf, who had left Islam to follow Christ, was rescued. He said he had been sent to the centre two years ago because of his conversion to Christianity. “The people that brought me here told the people here that I became a Christian because I spent some years out of the country studying. They said my lifestyle has changed. I’ve become a Christian. I’ve left the Islamic way of life. That is all I understand about why I am here,” he said.
Pray that the LORD will be a strong tower of protection (Proverbs 18:10) for the nine Christians abducted from Christian boarding schools in Nigeria. Ask that they will be returned safely to their loved ones soon. Continue to pray for freedom for the 117 “Chibok girls” still held by members of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, who seized 279 mainly-Christian girls in north-east Nigeria in April 2014. Thank the Lord that around 160 girls have either escaped, been rescued or released. Pray the remaining girls find rest in the Lord from the long burden of their captivity (Matthew 11:28). Give thanks for the release of boys and young men from terrible conditions in an Islamic boarding school. Lift up those who have suffered and ask that they find a God of love (Proverbs 8:17). Praise God that Yusuf stood firm in his Christian faith, despite such suffering, and pray that he will continue to be a beacon of Christ’s light to others.
Bangladesh – The persecuted turn persecutor as Rohingya Christians are violently attacked within refugee camps
Several hundred Rohingya Christians live amongst the 750,000 mainly-Muslim Rohingya people, who fled genocide at the hands of the Myanmar Army as refugees. Our brothers and sisters are doubly persecuted as they face discrimination and violence from Muslims within refugee camps in Bangladesh.
A church leader told Barnabas of a recent upsurge in violence against the Rohingya Christians, who are all converts from Islam, and asked for prayers for them.
In May 2019, a group of 17 families (69 people) living next to each other in simple shacks were attacked on at least three consecutive nights by a Muslim mob of several hundred men armed with knives, swords, iron rods, stones and catapults.
A Christian boy was stabbed in the back and needed hospital treatment. A film shared with Barnabas showed large stones flying over the heads of Christians, including young children, fleeing in a small open truck. The mob also looted possessions including the equipment of a Christian barber, before destroying his small shop and forcing him to go to the mosque in an effort to make him reconvert to Islam.
The May attacks culminated with the threat that the Christians would be killed if they did not leave the camp. The Christians tried to flee the next day only to be forced back by police and security guards. No camp security personnel attempted to protect the Christians and there has been no investigation into the attacks.
This rise in violence follows on from calls by Rohingya Muslims in December 2018 for the Bangladeshi government to expel Christians from the camps. One asked for Muslim leaders around the world to “chase them out of this place”. Rohingya Christians were reported to be struggling in May to buy food and other necessities due to the camps’ shopkeepers boycotting them under pressure from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an extremist group active in the camps. Christians are also often completely left out when international aid is distributed by Muslim Rohingya in the camps.
Pray that the LORD will be a rock and fortress to the Rohingya Christians and deliver them from extremists who persecute them (Psalm 18:2). Ask for healing for the injured and safe arrival of essential supplies sent by Barnabas’ supporters. Pray that the authorities in Bangladesh will understand it is their duty to protect these vulnerable converts, who have already suffered so much in their homeland, Myanmar.