The UN International Day of Older Persons is observed on 1 October each year. Pray today for the particular needs of older Christians in places of persecution. It is hard for them to run and escape violence, or to earn their living if the younger breadwinner they depended on has been killed. When persecution leads to poverty, they are more likely than younger people to suffer for lack of medical treatment they cannot afford. Remembering how Jesus arranged for the care of his mother, as He hung on the cross, pray that He will care for older Christians suffering for His Name’s sake. (John 19:26-27)
At the age of 60, Nawab does not have the strength to earn her living. She has no children and her husband Zafar has been in prison for the last eight years, falsely accused under Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy law”. Nawab lives on her own and depends on Barnabas Fund’s food parcels and help from other Pakistani Christians. With only herself to feed at home, Nawab takes some of the food to jail for Zafar. She prays constantly for his release, her hopes raised every time a date is set for his appeal hearing and then dashed when the hearing is adjourned (which has happened more than 20 times). Please add your prayers to Nawab’s that her husband may be set free.
Kyrgyzstan will hold elections for its single-chamber parliament tomorrow. The method is proportional representation with a single nationwide constituency. Seats are allocated to every party that wins at least 9% of the vote and has candidate lists that meet the complex requirements regarding gender, ethnicity and disability but with no requirements for religious minorities to be represented. Pray that the Lord’s hand will guide these elections and that the new parliament will work to reverse the deterioration in religious liberty that has made life so much harder for Kyrgyz Christians in recent years.
O Everlasting Father, for whom a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day, we praise You that You are on Your throne, reigning in majesty. Thank you that through all the turmoil of coronavirus, and the devastating toll it has taken across the world, You are faithful and unchanging. We pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, for whom Covid-19 came as yet one more way they might die. Thank you for their faith that keeps them trusting in You no matter what afflictions and hardships they endure. Please meet their needs and enable them to survive. We ask in Jesus’ Name.
When a second wave of Covid began in Kyrgyzstan, the government did not re-impose a full lockdown, for fear of a social revolt. The lesser measures they introduced do not seem to have been effective and the Covid-19 situation became very serious again in early July, with many deaths among medical staff and the general population. Hospitals were unable to cope and the government’s main response was to try to suppress reports of how bad the situation had become. They began arresting bloggers who reported accurately on coronavirus-related events, and set to work to create a new Manipulation of Information law to enable censorship of media such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Instagram. Christians have been very active in trying to help the needy with food, transport and medical equipment, but they are concerned that the Manipulation of Information law could be applied against churches in the future. Thank the Lord that churches have been so active in showing the love of Christ and pray that the proposed new law will not be passed.
A pastor in Kazakhstan sent a prayer request to Barnabas Fund on 8 July about the sudden outbreak of Covid-19 in his country after two months of lockdown. The hospitals were unable to cope and many people were dying, including doctors and also Christians known to the pastor. There was fear and panic in society at large. The pastor asked for prayer for wisdom for the Kazakh government and an end to the corruption that had resulted in the misuse of a lot of the money intended to combat the virus. He also asked prayer that the Church would be preserved and would be effective in preaching the Gospel at this time. Barnabas has sent funds through the churches (not the government) to help with the medical needs of Christians sick with Covid-19 or pneumonia. Most people are ill at home as the hospitals only accept the very worst cases.
For a long time, the authorities of Turkmenistan did not acknowledge that there was any Covid-19 crisis in their closed and secretive country. But by mid-July rumours were surging about the numbers infected, and church leaders contacted Barnabas Fund to ask for prayer. Thank the Lord with us that Barnabas had already been able to provide rice, flour, potatoes, tinned meat and tea for very poor Christian families affected by the Covid situation. “Your assistance was not just food. For some it was like a medicine to cure their despair,” wrote Zarif from Turkmenistan. Pray that Turkmen Christians (mostly converts from Islam) will be strong and take heart as they continue to hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).
Pakistani Christians were greatly encouraged by the discovery of a huge stone cross, at least a thousand years old, in the foothills of the Karakoram mountain range, in the Himalayas. The cross, which is more than 2 metres in length, is evidence of the early presence of Christianity in Pakistan, brought by Christians from the Middle East. Pakistani Christians are often accused by the Muslim majority of following a newly introduced, Western religion. Pray that the fact of the ancient presence of followers of Jesus may become common knowledge in Pakistan, giving His modern followers more acceptability and less harassment.
Barnabas Fund supports 33 simple Christian schools for 1,986 children of Pakistani Christian brick-kiln workers. Most of these children have no other opportunity for education. A few have studied at government schools, where they usually suffer because of being Christians. Danish (9) compares his new Christian school with his old government school: “The teachers over here treat us politely and educate us nicely. We are also taught Bible studies over here which is very important for our spiritual growth. We are all Christian students here and we discuss about different characters of the Bible. My parents also do not get worried while sending me here …” Pray that each child will be happy and fulfilled at school, and, on leaving, will be able to get skilled work so that they can set their families free from the cycle of illiteracy and grinding poverty.
Covid lockdown caused believers in Bangladesh to seek the Lord more fervently. “Pastor, before that time, I did not read the Bible, but in this situation I am reading the Bible every day,” said a Bangladeshi Baptist. Aid provided by Barnabas Fund has also increased their faith, as believers see their prayers answered. Some also decided to give away a tenth of what they received from Barnabas to others in need. Pray that Christians in Bangladesh will continue with the same zeal even if life returns to some kind of normality.
Loving Lord, we lift to You the Middle East, where You Yourself were born and lived Your earthly life, and where Your followers today experience increasing pressures. As You wept over Jerusalem two thousand years ago, we believe You must weep now at the seething regional conflicts, always ready to boil over into violence, and at the injustice and the terrible sufferings of the poor. We pray that Your people in the Middle East will be salt and light, bringing wisdom and discernment, patience and love. We ask too that they may have grace to bear patiently, even joyfully, the suffering they endure for Your Name’s sake.
Iraqi Christians who fled their homes in the plains of Nineveh when Islamic State (IS) militants seized power in 2014 are trying to return, now that a few years have passed since IS was ousted. There are huge challenges for all returning, whatever their religion, e.g. in restoring buildings and livelihoods. But for Christians there are extra challenges, including the lasting damage done by IS’s brief presence to social cohesion, for non-Muslims no longer trust their Muslim compatriots. Islam is becoming more dominant both in legislation and in practice. There appears to be a programmed demographic change occurring in which Muslims are settling in particular towns and districts that used to be mainly Christian. Whether in local politics, academia, security or business, Christians are being gradually edged out. Pray that the Muslim majority in Iraq will embrace, affirm and protect Christians.
A Christian ministry in one strongly Muslim country of the Middle East report that the Covid-19 lockdown has resulted in far more people attending their internet worship services, many questions about Christianity being emailed in from viewers, hundreds of requests for New Testaments, and several people turning to Christ. Muslims who would have been fearful to be seen entering a church building can participate in worship and discuss with Christians safely online. Praise God for this positive outcome from Covid lockdown and pray that those who have made commitments to follow Christ in the last months will grow in their new faith.
Although Saudi Arabia is gradually liberalising in certain ways, nothing has yet happened to ease the situation of Christians, who are still forbidden by law to show publicly in any way that they love and follow the Lord Jesus. Ask the Lord to open a way for them to meet with each other, that they may know the encouragement of fellowship with other believers and have opportunity to learn and grow in their faith. Pray that He will keep them from fear and protect them from danger. Many are working in harsh conditions to earn money for families left behind in their homeland. Ask that God’s presence will comfort them in their loneliness and strengthen them to endure.
For many months Lebanon has been tumbling inexorably into economic catastrophe, creating terrible suffering for the general population. Hyperinflation has caused people to abandon money and barter their spare clothes for food, baby milk or nappies. Even bread became unaffordable for some when the government cut its bread subsidies and prices shot up overnight. Pray for all affected by this disaster, especially our Christian brothers and sisters, such as Tony, a disabled teenager who needs regular medicine and therapy. Tony’s father has lost his job and now the family do not know how to pay for food or rent, let alone the extra needs of their beloved son.
The desperation and hunger in Lebanon (see above) caused social unrest and crime to increase. This deteriorating security situation has caused sectarian parties to begin to take law and order into their own hands, an ominous reminder of the terrible days of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Christians were a majority in Lebanon a few generations ago, but now may be only about a third of the population. (No official census has been conducted since 1932, because the relative percentages of the different religions is such a delicate and dangerous subject.) Pray that the country will not descend into civil war again and that Christians will be peacemakers in their society.
Remembering that God is all-knowing, all-present and all-powerful, pray for North Korea, a country that is closed and mysterious to us but fully open to Him. Pray for all its hungry and oppressed people but especially for the Christians, who are greatly persecuted, with three generations of a family often punished for the Christian activities of a single family member. Praise God for the patient endurance of North Korean Christians and ask Him to strengthen them day by day and moment by moment.
O Lord Jesus, whom even the winds and waves obey, have mercy on those whose lives are wrecked by storms or floods, by cyclones or earthquakes, and this year especially by virus or locusts. We pray especially for Christians who suffer discrimination and persecution after such events, who do not receive the relief aid that is handed out to non-Christians. Please provide for Your faithful people, who choose hunger and possible death rather than deny You to receive food for their bodies. Help us to learn from their wonderful example of perseverance, courage, and love for You. (Mark 4: 41)
Coronavirus fears have created a growing nationalism, racism, xenophobia and general intolerance and incivility in many societies. Even before coronavirus, Christian minorities were often seen as strangers, outsiders or aliens in their own countries; it seems likely that the heightened intolerance of “the other” will result in greater persecution for Christians across the globe, probably including more anti-Christian violence. Pray that Christians may be well equipped spiritually to face this, so that “when the day of evil comes” they may be able to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13-14).
In some parts of the world, the surveillance technology that has been rolled out to trace those who may be infected with coronavirus is not likely to be rolled up again and put away when Covid-19 is at last under control. Those tools will be there to be used to monitor anyone and anything. It is not hard to imagine that when the technology is no longer needed in relation to Covid-19, some governments keen to suppress Christians could use it to monitor and control Christians. Pray for wisdom for believers if new levels of surveillance are part of the post-covid “new normal”.
“Please find attached my 19th assignment. From tomorrow I will go to prison. I am in need of your prayers but I go there with a deep joy … unfortunately, this means I will have to take the course exam in a year’s time, once I am released. I am sorry.” A theological student in Iran called Shahrokh sent this email to his tutor in the middle of June. Of course, it was his Christian faith that was the reason for his prison sentence. Praise God that Shahrokh was able to consider his persecution such a joy (James 1:2) and pray that the Lord will use him in a wonderful way during his time behind bars.
The Iranian parliament has approved changes to Article 500 of the country’s Islamic Penal Code that will make it even easier for the government to repress and punish converts from Islam to Christianity and Christians seeking to share their faith. The amendments mean that anyone found guilty of using “mind control methods” or “psychological manipulation” in the “real or virtual sphere” for “deviant educational and or propaganda activities that contradict or interfere with Islamic teachings” can be punished with imprisonment, flogging, fines or even the death penalty. Thus anything that a convert says about why they chose to leave Islam, and most statements about what Christianity teaches, could be considered infringements of the revised Article 500. Pray for believers in Iran, as life becomes still more dangerous for them, that they will take courage from remembering that their Teacher and Master also was falsely accused (Matthew 20:25).
On 21 June the revolutionary court of Bushehr, a city in south-west Iran, awarded sentences to seven Christians convicted of “propaganda against the state”, a conviction based on their possession of Christian literature and other materials suggesting they had been evangelising. All the Christians are from a Muslim background, and charges of acting against the state or against national security are commonly made against converts, especially those who are active in sharing their Christian faith. The varied sentences included prison (for all the men), fines, exile from Bushehr, and bans from practising their professions. Please pray for Pooriya and his wife Fatemeh, Sam and his wife Maryam, Sasan and his wife Marjan, and a fourth man, Habib. They have lodged a legal appeal, which is likely to be reviewed by the court in late September or October; pray that it will be successful.
At least 13 Iranian Christians, mainly converts from Islam, were arrested by Revolutionary Guards in a coordinated operation across three cities in Iran. In Tehran it is believed that Guards were led to the home of a recent convert, where about 30 Christians were gathered, by a spy who had infiltrated the Christians’ meetings and gained their trust. Pray that those who were betrayed, arrested and imprisoned may be comforted by the knowledge that the Lord Jesus Himself experienced just the same.
O Son of God, our crucified and risen Saviour, we praise You for the growing number of Muslims who are making decisions to leave Islam and follow You. Keep them faithful to You despite the hostility they will probably face, the pain of rejection by their nearest and dearest, the physical suffering due to loss of home and livelihood, perhaps harsh prison sentences, and the constant danger of death because of Islam’s apostasy law. Thank you for the freedom that has come this year to converts in Sudan, where new legislation has removed the death sentence for apostasy from Islam. We pray that this freedom will be applied right across the Islamic world.
Thank the Lord with us that Aisha, a Ugandan Christian convert from Islam, has been enabled by a kind gift to re-establish her hair salon and buy replacements for some of the items destroyed when her one-room home and one-room salon were set on fire by Muslim relatives. Pray for God’s protection over Aisha, her husband and baby, their home and business. Pray that Aisha’s Muslim relatives will turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Elections are due to be held in Tanzania tomorrow to elect the president and national assembly. Like many Christian-majority countries in Africa, Muslims have gained a strong hold on many political posts (as well as in business), despite being a minority. Pray that the Lord will guide the elections, that they will be fair and peaceful, and that those elected will govern the country wisely and justly, ensuring that followers of all religions can live peaceably together.
At least 22 Christians were killed and more than 2,000 displaced during three days of attacks by Fulani militants on villages in the predominantly-Christian Gora ward of Kaduna state, Nigeria, from 10 to 12 July. In one village ten women, a baby and an elderly man were burnt to death in a house where they had taken refuge. Widowed Christian, Bilkisu James, survived being shot during an attack on another village in which seven people from her household died. Two of her own children were shot dead, while two other mothers and three of their children were hacked to death with machetes. “Before I was shot, I saw the Fulani man who is my neighbour, he even identified me. I surrendered to him on my knees,” Bilkisu explained. Her assailants then shot at her chest and back. Ask that the men of violence will have a personal and life-changing encounter with the Prince of Peace.
Leah Sharibu, a Nigerian Christian, was only 14 when Boko Haram militants abducted her in February 2018. Because she steadfastly refuses to convert to Islam she is still held by them. It is reported that she has had a baby, the result of being raped by the militants. Many other Christians are in the same position. Pray to the Lord who was sent “to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives” that He will cause Leah and all the others to be set free. (Isaiah 61:1)
“We really need prayers in Kagoro. There have been series of attacks killing people since last week up to two nights ago. A total of about 38 people killed from last week to now… the government is not helping matters because of religious biases. We are in serious tension now but pray for our safety and God’s grace to sustain us… Pray for us to be calm tonight and to be able to sleep well and better than last night.” This message from a believer in a Christian-dominated town in Kaduna State, Nigeria, was sent on 26 July. Such situations are replicated over and over again in many parts of Nigeria. We may not know where the attacks are happening today, as you read this, but our heavenly Father does know. Pray for our Nigerian brothers and sisters that He will protect and keep them.
“It is as if the lives of Christians no longer matter in the areas under attack,” said Pastor Stephen Baba Panya, president of the Nigerian denomination, ECWA, after another 32 Christians had been killed in Kaduna by Fulani militants. He lamented that neither the Kaduna state government nor the federal Nigerian government showed concern for the defenceless Christians. Pray that the Nigerian authorities will exert themselves to protect Christians from the violence that has become the norm in parts of the country.