The current military government of Myanmar (Burma) has now been in power for a year during which time it has repeatedly cracked down on mass protests and on the mainly Christian ethnic minorities. Recently it has also been putting pressure on telecoms companies to activate spyware on the phones of 18 million citizens. This would allow the dreaded Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) to eavesdrop on private communications. The Tatmadaw has been responsible for many violent attacks on Christian communities over the last six decades. Pray that the telecoms companies will not yield to the pressure.
When the Myanmar military shelled the town of Thantlang in mainly Christian Chin state on 30 October, more than 160 homes and three church buildings were damaged or destroyed, but there were no casualties because most of the residents had already fled after earlier artillery strikes. Thank the Lord that no lives were lost and pray that our brothers and sisters who have lost their homes may be comforted by remembering that “here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
Praise God for answering prayers regarding three ethnic-Kachin pastors in Myanmar who had been arrested for leading prayers for peace. They were released on 18 October 2021 after nearly four months in prison awaiting trial. They were part of a group of 1,136 prisoners released “out of respect for the humanitarian cause” three days after the chief of Myanmar’s military government had been banned from attending a summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations. Rejoice that our God can work through many different ways to bless His people.
A politician from PAS, an Islamic political party in Malaysia, has called on his party to provide more funds for dawa (Islamic mission) in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. Sarawak is the only Malaysian state where Christianity is the largest religious group. Pray that the Christians of Sarawak, many of whom are very poor, will stand firm in their faith and cling to Jesus, their Lord and Saviour.
Muhammad Kace, an Indonesian Christian who used to be a Muslim cleric, produces many YouTube videos that are critical of Islam and its teachings. In August 2021 he was arrested for allegedly insulting Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. While in prison he was brutally beaten by another prisoner named Napoleon Bonaparte (sic), formerly a senior police officer who is serving a sentence for corruption. According to Mr Kace’s lawyer, the attack was facilitated by prison officials. The lawyer also says that Mr Kace’s comments were in response to a Muslim commentator who made insulting remarks about Christianity and was not arrested for it. Pray that the Lord will protect Muhammad and keep him safe and bless his faithful Christian witness.
Lord God, the righteous Judge of all the world, we pray today for Christians facing hostile questioning by earthly authorities, whether in law courts or under torture, and for those who expect to experience this in the future. Please keep them from all worry about what to say. May the Holy Spirit give them the right words, and may our brothers and sisters have the assurance that it is He who is speaking. May their witness and testimony work powerfully in the hearts of their accusers and all who hear. We ask in the Name of the Christ. (Mark 13:11)
At the time of writing, Stephen Masih is still in prison in Pakistan, accused under the “blasphemy law” of having made derogatory remarks about the Islamic prophet Muhammad in March 2019. This carries a mandatory death penalty according to the Pakistan Penal Code. Stephen, a Christian, suffered permanent brain damage when he had typhoid at the age of ten. In jail, he has been attacked by Muslim prisoners so was moved to a cell on his own. On 21 October international human rights experts called for all charges to be dropped and for his urgent release, saying that they were “seriously concerned by the persecution and ongoing detention of Mr Masih on blasphemy grounds, and by his treatment at the hands of the judicial and prison authorities who are aware of his psychosocial disability and health condition”. While experts call on the Pakistani authorities, let us call on the Name of the LORD to save our brother’s life. (Psalm 116:4)
Since the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan in August 2021, the TTP, a very similar Islamist extremist organisation in neighbouring Pakistan, has increased its violent activities near the Afghan border, apparently emboldened by the success of the Afghan Taliban. The TTP’s first goal seems to be to re-take control of the rugged tribal regions along the border. Pray for the protection of Christians in these north-western border areas of Pakistan, who would be a main target of the TTP (sometimes called the Pakistan Taliban) and pray that the Pakistani armed forces will be able to prevent the extremists from gaining control of territory.
Nine Pakistani Christians were injured, three of them critically, when a group of Muslims opened fire on 29 October as the Christians were watering their fields in Trikhani village, Punjab province. It was apparently part of an ongoing effort to force the Christians to sell their land to the Muslims and at a very cheap price. Trikhani village was founded by missionaries and the farmland was donated to the poorest families, who handed it down through the generations. In Okara, another Punjab village, two Christian brothers were killed earlier in the month and several others suffered gunshot wounds in a dispute over irrigation. Pray that the Lord will comfort those who mourn and restore the wounded to full health. Violent attacks against Christians are becoming more common in Pakistan despite the affirmation of Christians by senior government figures. Pray that the trend towards greater violence will be reversed.
“I prayed all the time and sought God’s help. My prayers got answered when one day I happened to meet the team of Barnabas Fund,” said Yasroon Hanif, a Pakistani Christian who had had to give up school and try to find work to support his family when his father lost his job due to the Covid lockdown in 2020. But it is very difficult for unskilled Christians to get work in Pakistan because of the discrimination they face. Barnabas Fund enabled Yasroon to get apprenticed to a barber. He is now so skilled that he is earning a regular wage and able to help his family. Barnabas is currently supporting over 500 young Christians in apprenticeship schemes in Pakistan. Pray that each one will flourish in their chosen profession and be a great witness to colleagues and customers.
Africa has become the new “centre of gravity” of Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh), the Islamist militant group which used to be focused in the Middle East. Many violent Islamist groups are active in West Africa and East Africa. A Russian paramilitary group called Wagner is operating in several African nations, creating a further threat to peace and security. Five of the world’s ten “extreme hunger hotspots” are in Africa, partly because of repeated natural disasters. China has provided badly needed infrastructure, but is likely to reduce its lending to Africa and thus trigger a new economic shock. There are, however, hundreds of millions of vibrant Christians in Africa. Pray with them for God’s hand to be over this vast continent, and for continued Church growth.
“Citizens are being killed like chickens with only press statements as consolation,” said Pastor Joseph Hayab, chairman of the Kaduna branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria, after bandits attacked the Sunday service at a church in Kaduna State on 31 October, killing one man, injuring another and abducting a number of the worshippers. On 26 September, gunmen had killed 35 people in attacks on two other churches in the same state. Pray that the authorities in Nigeria will be able to bring an end to the ongoing violence in the northern part of the country, in which Christians are often targeted.
Lord Jesus Christ, we thank You that we serve a God who has authority over the wind and the waves, whose arm is endowed with power and whose hand is strong. We bring before You our brothers and sisters and others experiencing famine conditions in southern Madagascar because of long-term drought and we ask that You provide for them. Please direct the food aid that is sent to the hungry, and provide the rain that is needed to make the land fruitful again. May Your people never give way to despair but continue to trust and rejoice in You. (Matthew 8:26-27; Psalm 89:13)
In November 2021 it was estimated that 2.5 billion people (nearly a third of the world’s population) lacked an adequate supply of food. Of these, one billion were facing malnutrition, and of these 45 million were on the brink of famine. Globally, 22% of children under the age of five were stunted due to lack of nourishment. Ask the Lord’s help for all trying to tackle this enormous problem, in both the short term and the long term. Barnabas Fund’s food.gives initiative ships food to some of the hungriest Christians in Africa and Asia. Praise God for all the Barnabas supporters who are donating dry foodstuffs and pray for their speedy and smooth delivery and distribution.
Thank the Lord that another 141 churches and church-affiliated buildings were licensed on 14 January by an Egyptian Cabinet committee. This, the 22nd batch of registrations brings the total number of newly licensed churches to 2,162 out of the 3,730 which applied following the 2016 repeal of Ottoman-era restrictions on church buildings. Congregations are allowed to worship in unlicensed church buildings pending completion of the official paperwork. This process has completely changed the position of Christians in Egypt, so many of whom were previously worshipping in unlicensed churches and therefore acting illegally.
Pray that these changes of attitude “at the top” will be embraced by the grassroots of Egyptian society, which still includes some Muslim extremists who are opposed to Christians having many places of worship.
Praise God for further positive news from Egypt. The country’s Administrative Court has agreed to refer the case for removing the religion box from national identity cards to the State Commissioner’s Authority for expert legal advice. This box is often used as a way of discriminating against Christians. It also causes major problems for converts from Islam to Christianity, who find it virtually impossible to change their ID cards to show their new faith, which in turn makes it difficult for them even to go to church
Two brothers in Alexandria, Egypt, have been jailed for life for killing a 47-year-old Christian shopkeeper called Ramsis Hermina. The brothers, famous locally as fanatical Muslims who often harassed Christians in their neighbourhood, stabbed three Christian shopkeepers on 10 December 2020, a few hours after the brothers’ sick mother had died. Ramsis succumbed to his wounds in hospital, but the other Christians survived. Nasser and Ali al-Sambo will spend at least 25 years behind bars. Pray that during this time of suffering the Prince of Peace will reveal Himself to these men of violence. Pray too that their punishment will be a deterrent to other radical Muslims in Egypt, causing them to refrain from attacking Christians.
The Australian Egyptian Forum Council has become the latest organisation to urge the Australian government to recognise the Armenian Genocide of a century ago. Its president said, “Accurate characterisation of the events as genocide will ensure the healing of open wounds for current and future generations of Armenian-Australians living with this trauma.” Continue to pray that the Australian government will agree to recognise as genocide the terrible atrocities in which 3.75 million Armenian, Assyrian, Syriac and Greek Christians died. At the time of writing, Barnabas Fund’s petition on this issue is with the Foreign Minister, Sen. Marise Payne.
A Christian software company has been forced to remove its Bible app from the Apple App Store in China after failing to gain permission from the Chinese authorities. The Olive Tree Bible app includes the text of the Bible as well as Bible study tools and reading plans. (A Quran app was removed from the App Store at the same time.) Pray that Christians in China will be able to read the living and active Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) even though it is becoming increasingly difficult to access either digital or printed Bibles there.
Thank you, heavenly Father, for the faithful endurance of Christians in North Korea, standing firm in the faith despite the severe punishment it can bring on them and their loved ones if the authorities discover that they follow Your Son. Give them grace moment by moment, especially those who are right now in terrible labour camps, tortured and starved. We also pray for those who persecute them, especially as North Korea goes through a time of even greater hunger than normal, that you will soften their hearts and enable them to hear Your voice. We ask in the Name of Jesus.
Ethnic-minority Christians have suffered violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for decades, but in the last year, since the military coup in February 2021, it has got worse. “The coup has affected our ability to safely and freely worship,” said an ethnic-Chin pastor. “People worry that they will be attacked or bombed while they are praying.” Pray for our brothers and sisters in Myanmar that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Ask, in the words of the old hymn, that as they “turn their eyes upon Jesus … the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
Four homes and a church building in Falam township, Chin State, were set on fire by Myanmar’s military (the Tatmadaw) on 13 October. Hundreds of residents fled into the jungle. Many other churches in Chin State had been camped in by soldiers, who distressed the Christians by drinking alcohol in the churches, performing other disrespectful acts and destroying church property. Pray that somehow the soldiers will be moved and changed by their time amongst the Christian Chin, even though they view them as the enemy. The number of Christians among the Chin people grew from 35% in 1966 to 90% in 2010, which was a period of much persecution. Pray that they will continue to consider that their present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed (Romans 8:18).
When the Tatmadaw shelled a church building in Pekhon township, Shan State, Myanmar on 9 November, windows and pews were damaged but, thankfully, there were no casualties. The attack came five months after another attack on the same church, which caused the death of a six-day-old baby. His mother had fled into the forest to escape the attack, and when heavy rains came her new-born son fell sick and died. The November shelling was part of a spate of Tatmadaw attacks on churches and other Christian sites in Shan State, which is about 10% Christian. Pray for Myanmar Christians that after this testing they will come forth as gold (Job 23:10).
Sri Lankans who have left Hinduism to follow Christ face many difficulties, not only while they are alive but even after they have died. When a Christian woman died in the village of Karukkamunai last year, the village committee pressured her two daughters into allowing the funeral to be carried out according to Hindu customs. This is a recurrent problem in the eastern coastal region, especially in rural areas. Sometimes villagers exhume the bodies of Christians from burial grounds controlled by local Hindu temples and simply discard them. While we know that we shall have imperishable, glorious spiritual bodies in heaven (1 Corinthians 15: 42-44), such treatment causes immense distress for the bereaved. Pray that Hindu extremists in Sri Lanka will cease this persecution of converts.
About 200 extremists, armed with iron bars, burst into the morning service at a church in Roorkee town, Uttarakhand state, India, on Sunday 3 October. They first damaged the CCTV cameras, then snatched the phones of the Christians, before the women in the mob attacked the female church members while the men smashed the furniture and musical instruments. Because of Covid regulations the congregation in the building numbered only twelve while other church members were watching by video call. The church had been in existence for over 30 years and had good relations with non-Christians. Since its pastor died of Covid in 2020, church members had kept it running. The police have registered a complaint against six members of the mob and another complaint against ten church members who are accused of trying to convert someone by allurement
Radical extremists in Karnataka state, India, forced their way into a Christian worship service on Sunday 7 November, locked Pastor Lema Cherian and at least 30 members of his congregation into the prayer hall, and then called the police saying that the pastor was conducting illegal conversions. The police sent everyone home and declined to make any arrests. Karnataka does not yet have any anti-conversion legislation but the state’s chief minister has said that it will be introduced. The mere suggestion seems to have emboldened the extremists.
Pray that Karnataka’s legislators and law-enforcement will work to preserve freedom of religion and will not introduce the proposed law.
Lord Jesus, who asked for the little children to come to You, we pray for Christian children around the world who have known trauma and suffering because of their faith in You. We lift up victims of social ostracism, injustice, violence or kidnapping, recognising that many have been compelled to grow up very quickly through adverse circumstances.
We pray that they will never lose their childlike trust in You or their freedom and joy in following You. Though despised by many around them, may they know how precious they are in Your sight. (Matthew 19:14; Luke 18:17)
On March MPs in the UK’s House of Commons will debate a bill to recognise as genocide the mass slaughter of Armenians a century ago in the Ottoman Empire, to establish an annual commemoration of the genocide, and to incorporate teaching about it into the National Curriculum. Please pray that the bill will be passed on 18 March, after which it faces several further stages before it would become law. Humanly speaking, there is unlikely to be enough parliamentary time for the bill to be passed before the next general election. But nothing is impossible for God, so please pray that this long overdue recognition will be given. Thank Him for all the Barnabas Fund supporters who signed a petition on this last year.