Today new laws come into effect in China to establish a database listing all those authorised by the communist state to engage in religious activities, whether leading worship, teaching or studying religion. The law, which applies to all religions, states that religious organisations must conduct formal assessments of their leaders and apply “rewards and punishments” which will also be recorded in the database. The authorities can insist that a religious organisation cancels the religious qualifications of an individual, thus depriving that person of the right to engage in religious activities. Pray that Chinese Christians will have wisdom from above as they learn to live with these new regulations and that the message of the Gospel will continue to be proclaimed.
Heavenly Father, we praise You for the growing Church in China and rejoice to know that we have so many new brothers and sisters, even though we may never meet them until we are in heaven. Thank you for their courage and faith, as they made their decision to follow Your Son knowing that it was likely to bring down persecution on them from the authorities, whether local or national. May they be encouraged and strengthened to stand firm by knowing that He Himself was hated and persecuted by the authorities of His day. We ask it in Jesus’ mighty Name.
Thousands of Christian villagers fled military bombardment in Karen state, Myanmar (Burma), on 1 February, the same day that the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted in a military coup. This incident followed many similar ones from December 2020 onwards, as the army tried to clear land for new roads and military installations. Pray for our brothers and sisters, trying to survive in the mountainous jungle after the army shelled their homes in Papun and Nyaunglebin districts, that they will not be downcast or disturbed but will put their hope in God their Saviour and praise Him. (Psalm 42:11)
The military government ruling Myanmar (Burma) from 1962 to 2011 frequently attacked the villages of ethnic minorities, including the mainly Christian Chin and Kachin as well as the Karen. Those who did not escape were killed or captured. At least 100,000 displaced Kachin still live in camps. Even during Myanmar’s ten years of “democracy”, the military retained 25% of parliamentary seats and some key government positions. Their ruthless and deadly response to popular protests after the February coup suggests that anti-Christian violence (which never completely stopped under Aung San Suu Ki) will probably rise again. Ask King Jesus, who came gentle and riding on a donkey, to proclaim peace to Myanmar (Zechariah 9:9-10)
On Sunday 7
March the OLF Shene, a fringe group of the Oromo Liberation Front, attacked a church service in Horo Guduru Welega zone, western Ethiopia. Armed men surrounded the church building, gathered the worshippers together and removed their mobile phones so they could not call the authorities for help. They killed two church ministers on the spot, then took the 22 members of the congregation to a nearby forest and killed them. “Christians are living in utter fear day in and day out,” said a Barnabas fund contact. Pray that the God of all comfort will console and strengthen the grieving loved ones of these martyrs.
Since November 2020, hundreds of Christian civilians have been killed in Tigray region, northern Ethiopia, by troops from the massive army of Marxist Eritrea, a country with a long track record of persecuting Christians. “Torture, killing, atrocities and overall deteriorating situation in Tigray region became day-to-day events. Forced removals and displacements, rape, human rights violations and abuses are another face of the situation,” emailed a church leader from Tigray to Barnabas Fund, after four months of the Eritrean violence. According to Amnesty International, it could amount to a crime against humanity. The survivors of the slaughter and scorched-earth policy were in desperate need of food. Pray for an end to the terrible violence and for practical aid to reach all those in need.
Praise God! Seventy Christians (43 men and 27 women) were released from three prisons in Eritrea in late January and early February. Some had been in prison a few months, others for up to twelve years. Several hundred more believers remain in prison, mostly without trial or sentencing. Pray to the Lord Jesus, sent to proclaim freedom to the prisoners, that those released will recover from their ordeal and those still held will be released at the time He chooses (Luke 4:18-21).
A Christian couple with their new-born baby and two other Christian women (one from Ethiopia) were arrested in Somaliland on suspicion of “spreading Christianity”. The arrests came four months after another Christian couple were arrested in Somaliland for being “apostates and evangelists spreading Christianity”; they were later released and deported. Local Christians requested prayers for those arrested that they will experience God’s closeness and strength and will soon be released, for the whole of the tiny Christian community in Somaliland, who are feeling very vulnerable, and for the church leadership to have wisdom to know how to respond.
O Lord Jesus, we pray for Christians in Somalia, one of the most dangerous places in the world to follow You. Give courage and endurance to Somali Christians, who face the real possibility of being murdered for their decision to commit their lives to You. Help them to live by faith, not by sight, as they fix their eyes on the eternal. Keep them from fear and fill them with Your peace and with an unwavering faith and hope. Remind them that, although they will have trouble in this world, You have already overcome the world. (John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; 5:7)
Many Muslims stood for election to be mayors or members of parliament at Uganda’s elections earlier this year. Although Muslims are only about 15% of the population, they won five of the ten constituencies in the capital, Kampala, as well as Lord Mayor of Kampala and three of the five Division Mayors of Kampala. They did not do so well, however, in other cities, even though there were many Muslim candidates standing. Pray that Uganda’s Christian majority will be active and alert in governing their country and will guide it according to Biblical principles.
The Rwandan government has ordered that every religious leader in the country must have a bachelor’s degree in theology. This applies not only to pastors of local congregations but also to leaders of faith-based organisations. At present many Christian leaders in Rwanda do not have theological qualifications. Many church leaders have now started to study for degrees. Pray that this rule, emanating from a secular government, will result in blessing for the Rwandan Church as its leaders become better equipped for their spiritual tasks.
At the time of writing, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is scheduled to take place in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, in the week commencing 21 June. The biennial meeting should hav
e been in June 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic, so it is three years since the last CHOGM. The theme will be “Delivering a Common Future”. Please pray that Barnabas Fund’s campaign to end the killing of Christians in northern Nigeria will gain attention at CHOGM and action to bring the slaughter to an end, for unless things change they have no future at all.
Praise God for answered prayer and the safe release of Pastor Bulus Yakuru, who had been abducted by Boko Haram militants from a Christian village in Nigeria on Christmas Eve 2020. Pastor Bulus was freed on 3 March, the day on which Boko Haram had said they would kill him if their demands were not met. Pray for the protection of many Christians and other innocent civilians still held by Boko Haram; the Lord knows each by name, though we do not.
Today is the 18th birthday of Leah Sharibu, who has been held captive by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria since he was kidnapped at the age of 14. Many other girls at her school in Dapchi were seized in the same raid but have been released. It is believed that Leah’s ordeal continues because she refuses to convert to Islam. Leah has had two babies, after being forcibly married to a Boko Haram commander. Pray that she will continue strong in the Lord and be comforted by the love of her children. Pray also for many other Christians and innocent civilians held by Boko Haram; the Lord knows each by name, though we do not.
Nigerian pastor Michael Samson was beaten unconscious by a group of around 20 youths who burst into his home in Kogi State on 1 March as he was sleeping. Earlier that day he had refused to allow them to use his church building to hold a traditional Nigerian animist ceremony called a “Masquerade”. The “Masquerade” rituals can include sexual acts and animal sacrifice or even human sacrifice. Pray for the full recovery of Pastor Michael; at the time of writing he is in hospital in a critical condition.
Heavenly Father, we pray for Tunisia, a country in turmoil as its people protest that the Arab Spring, which began in their country ten years ago, has not brought the good governance they hoped for. We lift to you the small and vulnerable Christian community, remembering especially expatriates from African countries and indigenous Tunisian converts from Islam. As Tunisian Muslims call for more justice and freedom for society in general, we ask that Your children, also, may be given greater rights to follow Your Son freely, that convert churches will be given legal status and that individual converts will no longer be stigmatised and rejected. We pray this in Jesus’ Name.
A 43-year-old Algerian Christian, father of four young children, was sentenced in January to five years in prison for sharing a caricature of Muhammad on social media. It was the maximum sentence possible for blasphemy under Algerian law. Not long before that, two other Algerian Christians were convicted of blasphemy but received shorter prison sentences. All are appealing against the verdicts. Pray that their appeals will be successful and that the Lord Jesus will bless them with peace, joy and hope, for however long He wills that they remain in jail.
Three Middle Eastern Patriarchs and the Middle East Council of Churches have sent a joint letter to US President Joe Biden urging him to lift America’s economic sanctions on Syria, so as to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. The letter, dated 21 January (the day after President Biden’s inauguration), pointed out that ten years ago Syria had been “a breadbasket of the region” but now half the Syrian population were in a situation of hunger. Pray that this Christian intervention on behalf of the whole population of a desperately suffering country will result in change for good. Pray also that Christians will be recognised as bringers of peace, health and wholeness in this fragile and fractured region.
Iraqi Christians and Iraqi Muslims are working together to rebuild two churches and a mosque in Mosul, the city occupied by Islamic State (IS) militants from 2014-2017, parts of which still lie in ruins. Their time in power was a reign of terror for Christians, who fled their homes and mostly have not dared to return because of the anti-Christian hostility which IS created amongst local Mosul Muslims. Pray that this project will help re-build the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Mosul at the same time as the places of worship are re-built.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the foremost leader of Shia Islam in Iraq, issued a statement in March, affirming that Christians should “live like all Iraqis, in security and peace and with full constitutional rights”. The statement also referred to the “role that the religious authority plays in protecting them, and others who have also suffered injustice and harm in the events of past years”. Pray that Iraqi Christians will be treated as equals with the Muslim majority in Iraq, and not relegated to the status of what Islamic law calls dhimmi
, that is, protected but subjugated.
Pray for “A”, an Arab convert from Islam to Christianity who has lived all his life in Saudi Arabia. At the time of writing he was facing court hearings on two charges (1) trying to convert Muslims, and (2) alleged financial misconduct. The first related to a conversation in a restaurant when he allegedly talked about his own conversion. The second related to help he gave his sister, also a convert from Islam to Christianity, to enable her and her children to leave Saudi Arabia. He has already spent time in prison and suffered flogging. If he is imprisoned again, his wife and son will be vulnerable to attack by his sister’s husband, who has threatened them. Pray that the Saudi authorities will lose interest in “A” and allow him to live out his Christian faith without further harassment. Praise God there has been no attempt to have him executed for apostasy, which is possible as sharia (Islamic law)
is the primary source of law in Saudi Arabia.
A church building in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), used to be shared by 67 different Christian congregations, as migrant workers from many countries worshipped the Lord Jesus in their own languages and their own ways. Then the UAE authorities introduced a rule that leaders must have appropriate theological qualifications. The result was that 63 of the congregations are no longer able to meet. Pray that these Christian migrant workers, most of them very poor and vulnerable, living and working in terrible conditions, will be sustained spiritually.
O God, we thank You for giving us Your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, to guide us into all truth, to be our Counsellor and Comforter making us strong, steadfast and bold. Help us to hear His voice and respond to His promptings. We ask this for ourselves and for our persecuted brothers and sisters, especially those who may have no access to Christian teaching or even to Your Word, or who may face enemies deliberately trying to destroy their faith in your Son. May Your Spirit give them all that they need. We pray in the Name of Christ. (John 15:26; 16:13)
Nurgas is one of 400 Pakistani Christian widows whom Barnabas Fund assists with monthly food parcels. She works as a sweeper, a despised and low-paid job, and used to worry greatly how she could pay for the family’s basic needs. Then she heard the Bible verse “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7) and stopped worrying. Once, while cleaning the road, she trod on a nail. Nurgas has diabetes and the wound failed to heal – until her pastor prayed. “I am thankful to God for this miracle in my life,” says Nurgas. Praise God for the shining faith of Nurgas despite so many afflictions. Pray that all the widows in the feeding programme will be filled with the peace of God that transcends understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Last year Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed a Special Assistant on Religious Harmony and Middle East. The holder of the new role is Tahir Ashrafi, a respected Muslim scholar who chairs the council of Pakistan’s ulema (Islamic religious teachers). Given his position, it was very significant when Ashrafi affirmed that the non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan are “not second-class citizens”. According to sharia, non-Muslims living under Islam should not have the same rights and freedoms as the Muslim population and are of less value. Pray that a statement from such a respected person will change the attitudes of many Muslims in Pakistan so that they view Christians as equals instead of despising them.
A Muslim has complained to the police in Lahore, Pakistan, that two Christians approached him and some Muslim friends of his in a park, gave them a Christian booklet called “Water of Life” and talked to them about the Christian faith. He claimed that the Christians made derogatory remarks about the Quran and Muhammad, which are offences under Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code, punishable respectively with life in prison and death by hanging. Pray for the accused Christians, Haroon Ayub Masih and Salamat Mansha Masih, that no charges will be pressed against them and no violence inflicted on them.
Praise God that Pakistani Muslims spoke out in defence of Tabitha Nazir Gill, a Christian nurse who was accused of “blasphemy” and assaulted at the maternity hospital where she has worked for nine years. Tabitha, who is also a Gospel singer, was slapped and then reportedly tied up with ropes, forced to submit a written apology and left in a locked room until police arrived. One of the Muslims condemning the attack was a staff nurse who said Tabitha was a good, kind girl and “We [Muslims] are the majority and should work with others. We leave religion behind in nursing, The Hippocratic Oath is to serve humanity. Christian nurses are witnesses of love.” The police initially dismissed the “blasphemy” accusation as a misunderstanding, but later registered a case against Tabitha under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code. Tabitha is now in hiding, fearing that she will be murdered by zealous Muslims – pray that the Lord will protect her and her family.
On 27 February, Iranian convert to Christianity Ebrahim Firouzi (34) was released from prison on bail but the charges against him were not dropped. He had been jailed on 8 February, accused of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic in favour of hostile groups” and “insulting the sacred” in relation to his claims of harassment by the Iranian intelligence service. He had started a hunger strike in protest against the new charges and the new imprisonment, which followed years in prison and internal exile on other charges related to his Christian faith. The day before appearing in court, Ebrahim had sent a message: “I ask Christians to pray not for my acquittal but for the great name of God to be glorified, for which I will be in the court tomorrow.” Please pray with Ebrahim that the Lord Jesus will be glorified in his situation.
Three Iranian Christian men, who had been found guilty of “organisation of house churches and promotion of Christianity, which are clear examples of propaganda against the state” in June 2020, appealed against the one-year prison sentences they were awarded. These sentences were harsher than those awarded to four other Christians who had been arrested with them in Bushehr in 2019. Earlier this year their appeal was rejected and at the time of writing the men were waiting to be summoned to prison to begin their sentences. One of them is Sam Khosravi, whose adopted toddler Lydia was removed from him and his wife Maryam after they were found guilty by the courts in June 2020 of various “crimes” related to sharing their Christian faith. Pray that Lydia, who has serious health problems, will be restored to Maryam’s loving care and that Sam, Sasan and Habib will be given grace to endure their period in prison.
We lift to You today, O Triune God, all isolated believers who have no opportunity for fellowship, whether they are secret believers who have left another religion to follow Christ, converts whose unbelieving families will not let them meet with other Christians, those punished by the authorities with a ban on meeting other Christians, those in prison for their faith, or those too poor to have the resources to meet digitally with other Christians during coronavirus lockdown. We ask that Your loving presence will be very real to them. In the Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we pray.
“The land of fear.” This is the name given nowadays to the far north of Mozambique, a Muslim-majority area in a Christian-majority country. One of the most savage Islamist terrorist groups in the world is the cause of this fear, targeting Christians, moderate Muslims, the government and anyone else who disagrees with them. Their hallmark is cutting their victims into pieces and their aim is to impose sharia across the whole nation. Pray that our brothers and sisters will rest in God’s perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and that the God of love will melt the hearts of the men of violence.