Praise God the Church is growing in Central Asia, as Muslims turn to Christ. But they often face severe persecution from their Muslim relatives. A young woman who decided to follow Jesus started going to church. When her husband discovered, he began to beat her severely. Then he threw her out of the home with their two small children, not even letting her take spare clothes. She went to her parents, but her father threw her out and sent her back to her husband. The husband kept the children and threw his wife out again. Pray that the Son of Man, who had nowhere to lay His head, will protect and keep our sister. (Matthew 8:20)
Lift up in prayer the Christians of Kazakhstan, where a law passed a decade ago – apparently intended to prevent religious extremism – has made life very difficult for Christians but does not seem to have stopped radical Muslims from taking control of most businesses and a process of “soft Islamisation” from developing. Pray that Christians will not be discouraged even though evangelism is illegal, meeting for worship is illegal (except in large churches who have been able to get registration) and Christian literature is censored.
During Uzbekistan’s strict Covid-19 lockdown last year, four pastors organized the Christians into 24 groups for a round-the-clock prayer chain, everyone praying for an hour in their own home. Through these prayers God revealed to the pastors who was in greatest need. When a grant from Barnabas for food aid arrived, the pastors were able to ensure that it went to the neediest Christians. Many people who did not even have bread in the house prayed and soon afterwards fellow-Christians brought them food parcels. In one family, only the wife was a Christian. Her Muslim husband asked her to pray to her God for bread, and food arrived that very day. As a result, the husband and all the rest of family believed in Christ. Praise God for the way in which He has glorified Himself.
An elderly Uzbek Christian woman died during lockdown last year. After a few days, the pastor and his wife tried to visit the bereaved family, who were all Muslims except for one Christian daughter. The roads were blocked, and no one was allowed out, but the pastor knew he had to go. They prayed and drove off. God miraculously enabled them to travel without being stopped anywhere. They drank tea with the relatives and spoke of Christ our Saviour. All her children and grandchildren gave their lives to Christ. When lockdown was lifted, there were three or four new home churches and 21 converts to be baptised. The pastor continues to be invited every day to Muslim families where one or two family members have become Christians. By the end of each visit, several more have come to the Lord. Pray for continued fruitfulness of the pastor’s ministry and for the new believers to grow in faith.
According to its constitution, Kyrgyzstan is a secular state, but the authorities have announced plans for Islam to have a more influential role. They want to introduce the study of both Islam and Orthodox Christianity in schools with an emphasis on teaching children “Islamic values” as this is considered the national tradition. The new president is keen to tackle what he calls “sects” particularly Baptist Christians and the extreme Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. Pray that the new constitution being prepared will retain the secular status of the nation, and that the peaceful teachings of Christ will not be linked with the violent views of Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Dear Lord Jesus, be with our brothers and sisters in Turkmenistan today, where registered churches are so few that most Christians are breaking the law when they gather for worship, even in a private home, and Bibles are hardly ever allowed to be imported. We praise and thank You for the great joy of the Christians, for their burning desire for Your Word and their deep longing to grow in faith. Comfort those who have been rejected by their family or lost their job because they decided to follow You, and guide them by Your Holy Spirit.
Since early this year, Christians in China have noticed that it has become almost impossible to buy Bibles and Christian books via Taobao.com, China’s largest online retailer. Most had already been removed from sale on Amazon and JD.com since the Chinese authorities first began blocking online sales of Bibles in April 2018. Now independent merchants using Taobao are being forced to withdraw Christian books from sale. In those physical bookshops that are still selling Bibles, customers are now required to give their names and contact details. Anyone buying more than one Bible is considered to be acting very suspiciously. Praise God that His Word will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it, no matter what earthly powers may try to do (Isaiah 55:11).
Pastor Alimujiang Yimiti, a Uyghur convert from Islam, has now served exactly twelve years of his 15-year prison sentence in China, which began on 8 June 2009. He is being held in Xinjiang No. 3 prison, where inmates are reported to be made to wear headphones playing communist propaganda all day every day, which they must memorise and repeat. But Alimujiang is thankful to God for sending him to that prison, so he can share the Gospel and live it out. Pray for physical, mental and spiritual strength and that Alimujiang’s life and words will impact prisoners and prison guards alike.
Xinjiang No. 3 prison in China (see previous) is known for frequently preventing relatives visiting the prisoners. A time came when Alimujiang’s wife Gulinuer and their two sons, Nijat and Ynam, were forbidden to visit Alimujiang because they were “uncooperative”, meaning they refused to deny Christ. Gulinuer discovered that she herself was being followed and monitored by security officials. Meanwhile, during her husband’s long imprisonment, she has been encouraged by her mother committing her life to Christ and in her older son doing well in his studies. Pray for this bereft family that the joy of the Lord will be their strength and He will grant them a faith that does not fail.
Many of our brothers and sisters are suffering terribly in North Korea, which remains the worst place in the world to be a Christian. We do not know their names, but God does. Pray for them, especially those enduring beatings, grotesque torture or the brutal prison labour camps in which prisoners often die from the combination of desperately meagre food and heavy physical work. Ask that He will be their rest, their hope, their rock, their salvation, their fortress and their refuge as they depend on Him and pour out their hearts to Him (Psalm 62:5-8).
Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, has appointed a Christian as its new National Police Chief. It is the first time a non-Muslim has held the post for nearly 50 years, and Indonesian Christians have been greatly encouraged by the news. Pray that Listyo Sigit Prabowo will know the Lord’s enabling in his new responsibilities and that Christ will be glorified. Listyo has said that he wants to bring in a “more humane approach” to law enforcement.
The Indonesian government has disbanded the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) by a decree issued in December 2020. The hardline Islamist group began in 1998 as a vigilante group to enforce Islamic moral codes. They opposed the growth of Christianity in Indonesia and forced a number of churches to close. Join Christians in Indonesia in thanking the Lord for this development and pray for a restoration of the harmonious and respectful relations which used to exist between the various religions.
O Lord, we thank You that the Church in Egypt has survived for 2,000 years despite much persecution and many martyrdoms. We thank You, too, for the attitude of senior people in the current Egyptian government and all that they are doing to affirm and help Christians and enable them to worship freely and live their lives in safety. Please cause their example to spread from the top of society down to the grassroots so that all hostility and violence towards Christians will cease. Pray that Christians will be a blessing to Egyptian society as their lives reflect the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose Name we pray.
The Old Testament in Moroccan Arabic (Darija), is due to be completed by the middle of this year. (The New Testament was published in 2012.) Pray that Moroccan Christians will soon be able to read the whole of God’s Word in a familiar and easy language. As converts from Islam, their existence is not officially recognised, but if they keep their gatherings discreet the authorities do not harass them. Give thanks for this measure of freedom in a country which is almost 100% Muslim, and pray that the government will recognise their existence and grant them full religious liberty.
Today is the annual day of commemoration by Syriac Christians of the genocide of Christian minorities under the Ottoman Empire. They call it the Sayfo (meaning “sword”). An estimated quarter of a million Syriac Christians died in the genocide, which peaked in 1915, alongside Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks, making a total of 3.75 Christians who perished for their faith. Pray that Barnabas Fund’s campaign for the wider official recognition by governments of this terrible incident as genocide will help to safeguard Christian minorities in the 21st century.
“I would cut off the heads of 20 Armenians. Yes, and I wouldn’t feel bad about it.” This was the answer given by an Azerbaijani woman in Turkey, in a random street interview conducted by a Turkish YouTube channel. The question had been: “What would you do if you knew you would not be punished for doing it?” Pray that the Lord will take away the hatred of so many Azerbaijani Muslims towards the Armenian Christian people. Azerbaijan won a short war against Armenia last year, by which they gained substantial territory in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, whose inhabitants were Armenian. After this a number of threats were made towards Armenia itself. Pray that Azerbaijani desires and plans to conquer Armenia may not succeed (Psalm 140:8).
Michael Feulner from Germany has been ordered to leave Turkey on the grounds that he is a “threat to national security”. Michael first went to Turkey in 1999 as a relief worker after a devastating earthquake in the north-west, but since 2003 he has been pastoring a church in Yalova. In the last two years approximately 70 foreign Christians have been expelled for the same reason, even a church leader who is married to a Turkish citizen. Praise God that He is in control and pray that those He wants to serve Him in Turkey in 2021 will be allowed to remain.
The Dutch parliament has passed a motion (146 in favour, 3 against) calling on its government to recognise the Armenian Genocide of a century ago. In another motion they called for the release and repatriation of Armenian prisoners of war still being held by Azerbaijan after a short war in September-October last year. Pray that the Netherlands will officially recognise the Armenian Genocide, and that Barnabas Fund’s petition to the governments of UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand to do the same will be effective.
A proposed new law in Denmark would require religious organisations to submit translations of sermons and talks to be given in languages other than Danish so that they can be approved by the government. Apparently aimed at curbing extremist Islamic preaching in Arabic, the law will also apply to churches, including those worshipping in Faroese and Greenlandic, even though the Faroe Islands and Greenland are part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Pray that the Folketing (Danish parliament) will have wisdom to know how to preserve religious liberty while preventing violent extremism.
O God our Saviour, we intercede today for all those in authority in every country of Your world, especially those in power where Your people suffer injustice or violence. We know that, like Pilate, they only have their power because You have allowed it, and we pray that You will move their hearts, whether they know You or not, as you moved the heart of King Cyrus of Persia long ago, so that our persecuted brothers and sisters may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. We ask in Jesus’ Name. (Ezra 1:1; John 19:11; 1 Timothy 2:1-3)
On 11 March the Scottish Parliament passed into law the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, making it a crime to intentionally stir up hatred of certain categories of people. Many Scottish Christians had expressed great concern that the bill threatened free speech (e.g. the freedom to disagree with those who disagree with the Bible) and evangelism (e.g. calling to repentance). They are thankful for last-minute amendments to protect religious debate and the freedom to proclaim Christ as the only Way to salvation. A section that could have criminalised the Bible as “inflammatory material” has been removed. However, private conversations in the home could still be counted as criminal. Pray that the Lord will preserve in Scotland the freedom for Christians to practise and share their faith.
Christians in Bangladesh are only 1% of the population and many are very poor and needy. Those in rural areas are at risk of violent attack, but probably the most vulnerable of all are the few hundred Rohingya Christians, converts from Islam, who live amongst three-quarters of a million Rohingya Muslims, all of them refugees from Myanmar (Burma). Pray that Bangladeshi Christians will dwell in the shelter of the Most High and find refuge under His wings (Psalm 91:1,4).
Article 14 (1) e of the Sri Lankan constitution states that every citizen is entitled to “the freedom, either by himself or in association with others, and either in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching”. This important aspect of religious liberty is now at risk, as there are calls by Buddhist leaders for Article 14 to be amended “in a way so as to stop unethical conversions”. The phrase “unethical conversions” is often used by Sri Lankan non-Christians who cannot believe that anyone would become a Christian unless they had been coerced or given money, educational opportunities, or other advantages. Pray that this part of Article 14 will not be altered in the new constitution, which is currently being drafted, and that there will be a recognition at all levels of Sri Lankan society that people from any background might choose to follow Christ of their own free will.
A church building in Nepalgunj, Nepal, was demolished by the government after it took mandatory possession of the church’s land and the surrounding area, including a Hindu temple, in order to build a school. The congregation had requested that their church building be saved from destruction, but the demolition went ahead, while the Hindu temple was left intact. The church’s congregation of around 20 families is now holding services in the open air and the pastor requests prayer that they will be able to construct a new building. The church was established in 2006 to minister to a slum area of the city.
The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has made its temporary anti-conversion regulations into a permanent part of its state law. Nine of India’s 29 states have some kind of legislation banning conversion by fraud, force or allurement in place. Laws of this kind are easily misused to make false accusations against Christians engaged in valid evangelism. Thank the Lord that the federal Indian government stated in February that it had no plans for a national anti-conversion law. Pray for full religious liberty in every state of India, so that all Indian citizens will have freedom to choose and change their religion, according to their conscience.
Telangana is one of the Indian states that does not have an anti-conversion law. Yet Pastor Chandra Mouli was accused of carrying out religious conversions and violently attacked while visiting a church member near Hyderabad who had requested prayer for a sick relative. The assault was carried out by two workers for the Hindu nationalist BJP party, which governs Telangana. Rather unusually, the police rescued the pastor and arrested his attackers. This resulted in hundreds of BJP members gathering outside the police station to protest that the police were favouring the pastor. Pray that Indian Christians will not be fearful, as increasingly any kind of visible Christian activity is being seen as suspicious in BJP-ruled states.
O Lord, we thank You for brave Indian evangelists and church-planters, taking the Gospel to remote and hostile parts of the sub-continent, despite much opposition. We ask that they will not be fearful or dismayed, and will know Your presence with them to strengthen and help them as You uphold them with Your righteous right hand. We thank You, too, for all those who hear their message and put their faith in Your Son Jesus as Lord and Saviour. May those who have chosen to follow Christ be strong in Him and able to face any persecution that may come. We ask this in His Name. (Isaiah 41:10)
An Indian pastor and his congregation, including women and children, were severely beaten by a mob of Hindu extremists during the Sunday worship service on 31 January. About eight of the extremists burst into the church meeting room at Harohalli, Karnataka state, while around 30 waited outside to prevent any Christians from escaping. Pastor Subhash Hanok, a convert from Hinduism, was so badly injured that he could not walk, but he said afterwards, “I have dedicated my life to die for the Lord. This doesn’t affect me.” Pray that his words of faith and courage may give strength to his congregation and other Indian Christians suffering similar attacks.
Barnabas has provided packs of Christian books and booklets in Hindi for 250 grassroots pastors, evangelists, church elders and “Bible women” who are ministering in rural and tribal regions of India, in hostile environments, with few resources and little training. “I am very thankful to God who has provided these spiritual books,” said Anil. “I will study them properly and teach my congregations. I believe that these books are the treasures of my life. I could not buy such expensive books but God made this provision for us so that I could receive these books free. These books will be very fruitful for my personal spiritual life as well as to my churches.” Pray for him and all the other recipients that the books will help them and their congregations to grow in knowledge of God and please the Lord in every way (Colossians 1:10).
Recent statistics show that there are over two million untrained church leaders in the global South. Especially in places where the Church is a persecuted minority but growing, many new Christians find themselves in leadership roles as soon as six months after their own salvation. The Shepherd’s Academy has been developed by Barnabas Fund to provide quality, relevant training for grass-roots ministry by distance education. The first students started this month, linked to a variety of Christian institutions in nine countries. Please pray that their studies will equip them to be more effective in the Christian service in which they are already engaged.