Please thank the Lord with us for His grace and the generosity of our supporters, which have enabled Barnabas Fund, in just two months, to feed more than 500,000 hungry Christians suffering from Covid lockdown or locusts or both. Ask for His continued provision, not just for physical hunger but also for the pastoral needs of all Christians isolated by the virus and cut off from their normal sources of spiritual nourishment.
Father in heaven, we rejoice at the faithfulness of persecuted Christians in a time of lockdown, who would rather starve than deny Your Son. Thank you for the example they set us of a faith that will not fail. As life looks set to grow harder for Your people in many ways and in many parts of the world, may our faith grow in response, as we remember our Saviour who laid down His life for our sins on the cross. Whatever happens, keep us steadfast and unswerving as we follow Him, in Whose Name we pray.
About five years ago Fulmoni (now aged 67) and her husband left another religion to follow Christ. Her husband died in 2019 and now she lives alone in a small hut. Her two sons have rejected her because of her Christian faith, so she gets no help from her family. Before the coronavirus crisis, Fulmoni sustained herself on a meagre income from daily-wage work as a maid. When lockdown came, she lost her job and was soon struggling to buy food. When Barnabas gave her help, she said, “This is a heavenly gift for me … I can smile now because I will not die without food. Jesus’ people are loving people.” Thank the Lord with us that we could help Fulmoni and many other needy believers in Bangladesh.
In certain parts of India, where the Hindu extremist BJP party is in power, pastors and even ordinary Christians have been excluded from government food distribution for the poor and needy during coronavirus lockdown. Praise God for their faithfulness in clinging to Christ, even at such cost. Pray that those of us in more comfortable situations may be as willing to sacrifice even our basic needs for the sake of the Lord Jesus.
Many Sri Lankan Christians work as “daily pay labourers” in the tea plantations. As such, they earn 700 rupees (£3; $3.75; €3.40) a day, but only if they manage to pick 17 or 18 kg of leaves. Their housing and hygiene facilities are inadequate, 30% of plantation workers are underweight and 32% have stunted growth. That was the situation before coronavirus. When lockdown came, the tea factories closed for a month so the workers had no income at all. When they opened again, people were only allowed to work half-time. “These poorest of the poor are struggling to survive,” said Pastor Peter, whose congregation is mostly tea plantation workers. Pray that whatever troubles they face, they will never stop trusting in the Lord, their eternal Rock (Isaiah 26:4).
An Uzbek pastor contacted Barnabas Fund in late May to request prayer for members of Uzbekistan’s parliament as they started to debate a draft law on freedom of religion. Pastor Z asked for prayer that the law will be changed to simplify the process of obtaining church registration and to eliminate the possibility of being fined for possessing Christian literature. At the moment, fines are not being imposed, but nor are churches being registered (though some had been registered in 2019). Until the law is changed, such decisions are at the whim of local officials. “Everything is possible for God!” added Pastor Z.
During Covid lockdown in Kyrgyzstan, when congregations could not gather on Sundays, the authorities asked one pastor if his church could be used for quarantining, including the homeless. He was delighted that the building would continue to serve people and his church members got busy feeding those quarantined. Seeing their zeal, the authorities then gave him lists of isolated elderly people to feed as well, and passes so his church members could move around the city to do this work. Praise God that the Kyrgyz authorities have seen Christians as loving, caring and trustworthy.
A pastor in Turkmenistan wrote to Barnabas Fund about coronavirus: “I think that this crisis has prompted many believers to cope with spiritual problems, such as fears. Due to the uncertain future, many people experienced fear, which even without this attacked many believers. Of course, there are cases when the brothers fell into despair in the face of the situation with the virus, but we do not stop encouraging and supporting each other.” Praise God that the virus has increased the courage of Christians in a country where severe restrictions and persecution are the norm.
O Jesus, Prince of Peace, in a world of turmoil, where hostility and hatred towards Your people are increasing, where nobody knows what will happen next on a planet infected with coronavirus, we want to thank You for Your promise to give us Your peace, a peace that the world cannot give. Please bless us with that peace, and enable us to keep our hearts untroubled and unafraid. May our peace-filled lives in an anxious world bring glory and praise to Your Name. (John 14:27)
Elijah, a young Kenyan pastor, wept with joy when Barnabas’ aid reached his community – nearly everyone he knew had lost their income because of the lockdown. “My peers, many of them slum dwellers and young parents working in the hotel industry, were sent on compulsory unpaid leave and so have no way to fend for their families,” he explained. “Covid-19 has reduced us to helpless individuals even though we are mature men with strength to work.” Pray that these Christian men, distraught because they cannot provide for their families during lockdown, may know the peace that transcends understanding as they commit their anxieties to the Lord, with thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Mozambique looked set for a good harvest, until Covid-19 brought a lockdown which eventually got so strict that most people were cut off from going to the land where they grew their vegetables, leading to hunger. The government encouraged hand-washing and urged each family to have a bucket of water and soap for this purpose, but many Christians were too poor even to do this. Pastors lost their income as congregations could no longer meet and give offerings. There are similar situations in many other African countries. Pray that the Lord will protect and provide for His faithful people.
Northern Mozambique is mainly Muslim and has become a site of Islamist violence. On Maundy Thursday (9 April) jihadi militants attacked a church building in Muambula village, Muidumbe district, destroyed homes of church workers and vandalised a school. Five people were reported killed. The previous day, at least 52 people had been massacred in Xitaxi, a mainly Christian village, in Muidumbe district. Relationships between the Muslim majority and Christian minority in this part of Mozambique are generally good, and many Muslims reject the idea that such violence can be done in the name of Islam.
In many countries, Covid-19 came as yet one more affliction to add to many other troubles. A Zambian pastor working in a shanty township of Lusaka wrote to Barnabas Fund about a trio of hardships: lockdown, floods and toxic chemical spray. “Amid the flood in the compound, there came a fierce problem of ‘gassing’ which is a spray of poisonous chemicals into people’s homes mainly at night with a view of killing them! Before the finish of these two problems, we have the issue of corona virus …” Furthermore, the closing of Zambia’s borders brought extra economic problems. “Join us in prayer…” the pastor begged.
Zimbabwe has stumbled from one crisis to another for many years, but 2019 saw the most severe drought for decades, leading to one of the country’s worst ever food insecurity situations. Families had to miss meals, take their children out of school, sell their precious livestock – and then came coronavirus. There was already hyperinflation, shortage of currency and fuel, and long power outages, but when lockdown came it brought an end to most possibilities of earning. Ask the Lord to have mercy on Zimbabwe, a country where an estimated 60% of the population regularly attended church services before lockdown. In rural areas, some people are too poor to have phones or radio, and so, cut off from church and pastor, they have no idea what is happening.
Pastors in Rwanda are expected to help the needy. Generally they do, and play a vital role in helping the poorest families get education and become self-sufficient. But during the Covid-19 lockdown, the pastors themselves became needy, as congregations could no longer meet so no offerings were given, offerings on which the pastors used to live. Because pastors are seen as those who give to others, they were excluded from the government support available to ordinary people. Barnabas stepped in to provide 250 of the most vulnerable pastors and their families with food and essential hygiene supplies. Pray that each one may be effective in helping his congregation spiritually in this time of uncertainty and anxiety, even if he cannot at present help them practically.
O Lord God, hear the prayers of Your people around the world in the midst of intense suffering, whether from violent attacks of terrorists, coronavirus lockdown, locusts, extreme weather or other causes. For many their trials seem almost too great to bear. We pray you will remind them that, although weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning, whether in this life or the next. We ask this in the Name of Your Son our Savoiur Jesus Christ. (Psalm 30:5)
Eleven church buildings were damaged or destroyed by members of the Gan tribe during a three-day attack in the town of Loropeni, southern Burkina Faso, that began on 18 April. Christians are a small minority in Loropeni and the attacks are thought to be have been revenge after police arrested eight local Gan people, including a chief, for their desecration of a Christian grave on 9 April. The group had attempted to exhume a recently deceased local Gan Christian, the wife of a church deacon, in order to impose a “traditional funeral ceremony” (i.e. a non-Christian funeral). Gan Christians are often persecuted by the wider Gan community, most of whom follow traditional African religions. Pray that Christians, just 6% of the Gan tribe, may be encouraged by remembering that “neither death nor life … neither the present nor the future, nor any powers … will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Two Boko Haram suicide bombers blew themselves up in Cameroon’s Far North province on Sunday 5 April. Seven people died in the blast, including a village chief and two teenage boys. This part of Cameroon has many Muslims but the small border-town which was targeted, called Amchide, is majority Christian. It had been attacked by Boko Haram many times previously. Pray for an end to Boko Haram’s violent efforts to remove Christianity from a large part of West Africa.
Islamist terrorist groups such as Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) and Al-Qaeda celebrated coronavirus, describing it as a “small soldier of Allah” sent to attack his enemies. Some are even reported to believe that fighting jihad will guarantee you protection from catching Covid-19. Attacks on Christians in Nigeria’s Middle Belt soared during lockdown, as extremists exploited the fact that the authorities had diverted security resources to combatting the virus. For Christians in such places, the pandemic and the deprivation caused by lockdown were yet more ways they might die, in addition to the ongoing anti-Christian terrorist attacks. Pray that, in the midst of so many dangers, the Lord will keep in perfect peace those whose hearts are steadfast because they trust in Him. (Isaiah 26:3)
Praise God for His miraculous protection of Nigerian pastor Bayo Famonure when Fulani militants broke into the Christian school where he and his family lived and shot him in the head and leg. His wife Naomi was shot in the back and their two sons were shot in the feet. Pastor Bayo texted afterwards that the bullet did not enter his head and the one in his foot missed all the bones. Likewise, the bullet in Naomi’s back missed her spine and vital organs. Pray for God’s continued protection over Bayo and Naomi’s ministry (which Barnabas has supported) educating Christian children displaced by militant violence, many of them orphans.
Kwara State, in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt”, is viewed as a Muslim state, although there is a substantial Christian presence. “This means that in appointment, opportunity, amenities and even admission to state educational institutions, Christians and Christian-populated communities are being discriminated against,” explained the provost of a theological college in Kwara, describing the situation before coronavirus. “The advent of the virus accentuated this discrimination, so that when food items are distributed, Christians know they will not get and they do not.” Pray that Christians in Kwara will have grace to love and forgive those who are so unjust to them.
“My prayer is that his killers will get to know this Jesus I know. I do forgive them and will pray that the Lord saves their souls,” said Rose (27) the day after she heard that her husband, Pastor Matthew Tagwi, had been killed by Fulani militants in Nigeria. Rose was pregnant and will by now have given birth. Pray for the baby and Rose’s other children, Esther (6) and Joy (2). Rose, who was away from home for an antenatal check when her village was attacked, said she would continue her husband’s work to which they were both called by God. Ask the Lord to give Rose strength and perseverance to fulfil her calling in the weeks, months and years ahead.
By wisdom You laid the earth’s foundations, O Lord, and by understanding You set the heavens in place. We praise You that nothing in all creation is hidden from Your sight or takes You by surprise. Please pour into our hearts the wisdom and discernment we need to face an uncertain future and growing persecution, where so much is different from what anyone has ever known before. Give us that heavenly wisdom which is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. We ask this in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Proverbs 3:19; James 3:17)
Article 28 of the Russian Constitution states: “Everyone shall be guaranteed freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, including the right to profess individually or together with others any religion or to profess no religion at all, to freely choose, possess and disseminate religious and other views and act according to them.” But in practice many Russian Christians do not experience this level of religious liberty. In the last four years, more than 1,300 cases have been brought and fines totalling almost 15 million roubles (£170,000; $210,000; €190,000) issued. A Russian organisation called the Rule of Law Institute has launched a project to record all violations of freedom of conscience and religion occurring in Russia. Pray for God’s guidance in all they do so that harassment will reduce.
The indigenous Moroccan Church, made of converts from Islam and their children, functions discreetly “under the radar”. Many new believers in Morocco are aged 20-30 and some of them seem to be more willing to make their faith known publicly than those who have been Christians for longer and can remember when more severe harassment and persecution occurred. Pray that all Moroccan Christians will be led by the Holy Spirit in everything they do and that the Lord will continue to add to their number.
Only God knows the number of Libyan Christians, as most are secret believers because of the dangers they face for having left Islam. Social media is a major part of sharing the Gospel there. A student who was very ill felt led to enter a church building, where he was healed. He decided to follow Christ and posted his story online, getting 4,200 responses. Ask the Lord to continue His work of drawing Libyans to Himself.
“The Lord did not leave me alone,” said Jamile, a Christian widow in Lebanon. Her husband, a taxi-driver, died in a car accident two years ago, leaving Jamile to care for their small daughter “Lily”. Jamile got work in a factory but when Covid lockdown came she could no longer manage to provide even food and medicine for herself and Lily. When Barnabas Fund helped her (along with many other needy believers in Lebanon) Jamile overflowed with thankfulness to God. Pray that Christians in Lebanon may remain strong in the Lord as their country passes through a time of hardship that is worse even than the civil war of 1975-1990.
Tomorrow Shia Muslims mark the Day of Ashura, a day of mourning when they remember the death of Hussein, a grandson of Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Some even go as far as self-flagellation to express their grief. Pray that their zealous efforts to please God will lead them to a personal encounter with the Man of Sorrows, Who was wounded for our transgressions and by Whose stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3, 5 KJV)
The Somalia-based terror group Al-Shabaab have declared coronavirus to be punishment sent by Allah on unbelievers. Their spokesman, Ali Dhere, called on Muslims to rejoice in the “painful torment” inflicted on non-Muslims who catch Covid-19. He mocked the Somali government’s lockdown measures, which include closing mosques and Islamic seminaries. Pray that such hate-filled rhetoric will fill Somali people with revulsion and that they may instead be drawn to the God who is love. (1 John 4:16)
Heavenly Father, we lift to you today our Christian brothers and sisters in Somalia, few in number and extremely vulnerable to hostility and violence because of their decision to follow Your Son Jesus Christ. Please make Your loving presence very real to each one in their loneliness, and shelter them under the shadow of Your wing to protect them from those who seek to harm and destroy them. May the joy of the Lord be their strength and may the beauty of their Christ-like characters draw more Somalis to follow Jesus, in whose Name we pray.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom published their annual report on 28 April. It highlighted significant improvements in Sudan and Uzbekistan, but noted that religious liberty in India had taken “a drastic turn downwards” as the Hindu nationalist BJP government increased the pressure on non-Hindus after winning elections in May 2019 with a strengthened majority. Algeria also was noted as a country where religious liberty had been severely violated in 2019 and for the first time it was listed on the Special Watch List. Pray that Christians in all these hard-pressed countries may know that the Lord still loves them with His everlasting love, whether persecution rises or falls. (Jeremiah 31:3)