When local authorities in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, began demolishing a church building on 5 August the church members gathered to protest. One of the protesters, 29-year-old Ezekiel Bitrus, son of the pastor, died, reportedly at the hands of the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF), which opened fire on the crowd. Five others were injured. It is also alleged that the CJTF confiscated the phones of the church members so that they could not film the demolition and shooting. The following Sunday the church members gathered as usual and held their Sunday worship service in the demolished church, singing, dancing and praising God. Thank the Lord for the courage of our brothers and sisters who are determined that a Christian presence will continue even if the building has gone. Pray that their bold witness will bear fruit.
Twelve people were killed in a raid on a village in the mainly Christian Atyap Chiefdom of Kaduna State, Nigeria on 12 September. Please ask the Lord to comfort those who mourn for Philbia, Suzanna, Rahib, Ishaku, Deborah, Tinat, Zichat, Sunday, Hauwa, Fidelia, Sadia and Goodness. The previous day, in another attack in the Atyap Chiefdom, Pastor Silas Ali was hacked to death by machete; his community and his church had been attacked twice in the weeks before his murder. Pray for their protection from further attack.
Lebanon is still struggling to recover, more than a year after the devastating Beirut Port explosion in August 2020, said to be one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. Many Christians lived close to the explosion. The aftermath of the explosion, the country’s economic crisis and hyperinflation, together with Covid-19 and a severe shortage of medicines, mean that Lebanon is still ravaged by hunger and sickness. Many people cannot pay their rent and would be homeless were it not for Law 194, passed in October 2020, banning evictions from properties in the three neighbourhoods worst affected by the blast. Pray that Lebanese Christians will be comforted by the knowledge that God knows what they are experiencing and pray that they will come forth as gold from this time of testing (Job 23:10).
“History is repeating itself,” said a Syrian Christian leader when the Turkish air force bombed the Christian village of Tel Hawil in north-east Syria on 30 August. Many of its houses are now uninhabitable but, praise God, the villagers were unharmed as they escaped just before the attack. The bombing raid was ostensibly part of a Turkish campaign against Kurdish militants, but the local Christians are Assyrians, not Kurds. Syrian Christians are being horribly reminded of the Ottoman-era genocide of 1915 and the attacks of Islamic State militants a century later. Pray that the Lord will be their shield and fortress at this time (Psalm 18:2).
Lord Jesus, we remember the rich Christian heritage of Turkey and recall the spread of Your Word in that country as the early Church was established there, after which came so much terrible persecution. We cry out to You for our brothers and sisters in Turkey today, a tiny minority now, as they adjust to growing pressures and abuses. We ask You to protect them in a climate of increasing repression and hostility. We pray that Your living and active Word will leave its mark and fortify Your people as they seek to serve You. (Hebrews 4:12)
An Armenian Christian cemetery in Kalecik, eastern Turkey was destroyed by bulldozers in August, leaving bones scattered across the ground. The area (then called Lezk) had been an Armenian neighbourhood until its inhabitants were forced out in 1915 at the height of the Ottoman genocide. The old cemetery was often visited by the modern-day descendants of those buried there. Pray that the Lord will comfort Armenians in their distress over this latest outrage.
God willing, by the time you read this, Barnabas Fund’s petition calling for recognition of the Armenian Genocide will have been delivered to the governments of the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Please pray that it will have impact in all three countries and that their governments will formally recognise as genocide the atrocities of a century ago, in which 3.75 million Armenian, Assyrian, Greek and Syriac Christians were killed within Ottoman territories. Pray also that such recognition will help prevent any future repetition.
The cultural heritage of Armenian Christians is being systematically erased by Muslim-majority Azerbaijan wherever Armenians are living within Azerbaijan’s boundaries, for example in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh). This process has continued for decades whether the two countries are at war or at peace. Not content with mere demolition, the Azerbaijanis removed every stone, so there is no trace that a church building ever existed. They have also destroyed thousands of tombstones and traditional Armenian cross-stones (khachkars). Recently they “flattened to dust” the Museum of History, which was one of twelve museums in the parts of Artsakh seized by Azerbaijan in the 44-day war last year. It is as if they want to destroy all evidence of Armenian history and presence in a “cultural genocide”. Pray that the international authorities will not stand by and let this happen.
Eighteen Christian books are banned in the Luhansk (Lugansk) People’s Republic, a Russian-speaking region in eastern Ukraine, which declared itself independent in 2014. The latest four to be added (in July) included works by C.H. Spurgeon and Billy Graham. One that had already been banned was the Gospel of John in Russian, published by the Council of Baptist Churches. The Luhansk Prosecutor’s Office has ruled that the books “incite religious discord” and that the ban was necessary for “defending the interests of the younger generation and securing the safety of the Republic”. Pray that God will soften the hearts of those who make such decisions and cause them to allow these Christian books to circulate and be read in Luhansk.
A survey by the Pew Research Center in 2018 found that Romania was the most religious country in Europe. Last year the Romanian government initiated an annual “National Day of Remembrance of the Brâncoveanu Martyrs* and Awareness of Violence Against Christians”. The second such day was held this year on 16 August, with buildings illuminated in red. The day is intended to advocate for religious freedom and raise awareness of contemporary violence against Christians. Pray that the day will succeed in its aim. Pray also that other European governments will give greater priority to persecuted Christians around the world.
*The Brâncoveanu Martyrs were members of the Romanian royal family killed in 1714 for refusing to convert to Islam.
A federal appeals court in the USA ruled in July that the University of Iowa had violated the free-speech rights of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). The Christian organisation had been de-registered by the university because the IVCF required its leaders to be professing Christians. The judge ruled that the university had discriminated against IVCF because they allowed several other (non-Christian) student societies to require their members to hold particular views or opinions. Praise God for the ruling. A similar one was given at a university in Detroit in April. Pray that the two rulings will set a precedent for other universities.
Our loving Lord, we cry out to You for Christians in Myanmar who have experienced an escalation in persecution since the military coup in February. Please protect those forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in the jungle. We pray that You will direct those providing aid to locate our brothers and sisters in need. We pray for those in authority in Myanmar that they will govern with justice and righteousness, enabling refugees to return to their homes and lead peaceful lives. We ask in the Name of the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
The entire population (160 people) of Taal village in Chin State, Myanmar were forced to flee into the forests and mountains after Myanmar army ransacked homes, killed livestock and destroyed valuables in a series of raids. The soldiers also occupied a church in Taal, and threw away Bibles and hymn books, leaving the building full of their rubbish when they departed. In Chathat village they attacked two church buildings destroying Bibles and damaging equipment including a generator. The Chin population of Myanmar is at least 90% Christian and Chin State is one of the poorest in the nation. Pray that our brothers and sisters, who have lost so much, may be strengthened 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).
Pastor Cung Biak Hum (31) was shot dead by the Myanmar armed forces in Chin State, Myanmar on 18 September. The pastor was on his way to help put out a fire caused by an artillery attack, which destroyed at least 19 houses. Soldiers cut off one of his fingers in order to steal his wedding ring. Chin believers were “deeply hurt and frightened” by news of the pastor’s death. Ten Chin children are amongst those who have been killed by the Myanmar armed forces since the military coup on 1 February. Pray that Chin Christians will not give way to fear but will remember that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39).
When Gulzar Masih, a Christian rickshaw driver in Faisalabad, Pakistan, went to collect his 14-year-old daughter Chashman from school on 28 July, he found she had disappeared. A few days later her kidnappers sent a video and documents claiming that she had converted of her own free will to Islam and married a Muslim man. This is one of many cases in Pakistan in which a non-Muslim girl or young woman is abducted, forced to sign conversion papers and then forced into marriage, even if she is legally too young. Pray that the police will exert themselves to find Chashman and restore her to her family.
Please continue to pray for Shafqat Emmanuel and his wife Shagufta, who spent seven years on death row in Pakistan accused of “blasphemy” even though they are illiterate so could not have sent the text messages they were blamed for. After being acquitted earlier this year, they have been given asylum in a European country, along with their four children. In Pakistan they would have been in permanent danger from zealous Muslims. Pray for the family as they adjust to a different culture, language and climate, as well as being together again after so long apart.
Five Christian women (one of them pregnant) and a Christian man were injured when Muslims opened fire on their homes in Shera Kot district of Lahore, Pakistan, on 6 September. A church building was also shot at. Three of the injured Christians were left in a critical condition; pray for their full recovery. Pray also that the trend of growing anti-Christian violence in Pakistan will be reversed.
Many Muslims in Iran are coming to Christ, but the typical lifespan of a house church in Iran – a group of Muslim-background believers – is only six months to a year. New converts are quickly put under pressure by the authorities, often being arrested and imprisoned, whether for days, months or even years. Sometimes they are released only if they sign a document promising not to meet with other Christians. Worn down by all this, many converts leave Iran, which may indeed be the aim of the harassment applied to them. Humanly speaking the situation of Christians is likely to deteriorate still further, given that President Ibrahim Raisi, who assumed office on 3 August, is an extremist. Pray that each new believer subjected to this pressure will be strong in the Lord and will hear His voice of guidance clearly.
Gracious Lord, we thank You for the measure of freedom we have to worship You. We ask You to encourage our brothers and sisters living in countries where following You publicly is discouraged, even forbidden. Please enable them to testify faithfully by word and life to those who feel trapped in a religious culture that they have inherited and is not of their choosing. May the light of the Gospel draw many to You despite harsh laws against conversion and apostasy in many countries. Cause Your people to respond not to external compulsion, but only to the wonderful inner conviction that Jesus Christ died for all, in whose Name we pray. (2 Corinthians 5:14)
There is much controversy and debate in Egypt about the national ID cards which, since 1956, have shown the religion of the individual. Some public figures are calling for this information to be removed from the cards but the suggestion is opposed by certain hardline Muslims. Removing the information on religion would be a great help to Egyptian Christians, reducing the amount of discrimination they face, and would also make life much easier for converts from Islam to Christianity. Pray that the calls for its removal will be heeded and acted on.
Another 76 church licences were issued in Egypt on 25 July. This twentieth batch of licences means that 1,958 licences have been granted out of the 3,730 applications sent in after Ottoman-era restrictions on church buildings were repealed in 2016. It is a legal requirement for churches to have these licences but until the law changed it was very difficult to obtain them, so churches were forced to operate illegally. Thank the Lord for the progress to date and continue to pray that the remaining 1,772 applications will be processed quickly and licences given. Pray also that the general feeling among some sections of general Egyptian society that the Christian minority should not have places of worship will vanish.
Egypt’s President al-Sisi launched a National Human Rights Strategy on 11 September, and said that freedom of belief is a God-given right. Pray that this commitment will be followed through, allowing people to choose and change their religion freely and without punishment. The president has already greatly improved the situation of the historic Christian minority in Egypt. But Christians from a Muslim background are still in grave danger from zealous Muslims and from the authorities. (The same dangers face the growing number of atheists in Egypt.) Praise God for President al-Sisi’s pledge and pray that his courageous words will bear fruit.
Tomorrow is the day scheduled (at the time of writing) for landmark presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya. After nine years of internal conflict, with rival authorities ruling different parts of the country, a ceasefire agreement was reached in October 2020 and a transitional Government of National Unity was established earlier this year. Pray that the twice-postponed elections will go ahead peacefully and that the newly elected leaders of Libya will usher in an age of stability, justice and freedom including religious liberty for the small Christian minority – mainly foreign migrant workers but also some Libyan converts from Islam.
Local officials in Qushan island, Zhejiang province, China have removed crosses from the masts of fishing boats in a targeted attack on Christians. They also erased the word “Emmanuel” where it had been painted on some of the boats, and warned the Christian fishermen that their fishing permits were in jeopardy if they did not allow the removal of the Christian symbols. The boats are the personal property of the fishermen. About a third of the population of Qushan are Christians. Praise God that although their persecutors may remove the Chinese characters spelling “Emmanuel” from the boats, they cannot remove Emmanuel (“God with us”) from the hearts of these faithful followers of Christ, fishermen like the first disciples He called.
As we remember and celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh and made His dwelling among us, pray that His presence will be very real to Christians suffering today because they bear His Name. Pray also for their protection from violent attack, which often comes at this season of the year. Ask that the good news of great joy, which the angels brought to the shepherds at the first Christmas, will sustain and strengthen them, whatever their situation (Luke 2:10; John 1:14).
Almighty God, we know that many of our brothers and sisters around the world face violence and there are those who want to kill them. Thank You for the example of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. We thank You for the grace he received to explain Your working in history in a gentle yet powerful manner, and for the vision of Your heavenly glory and Your Son our Saviour Jesus that sustained him as he was stoned to death. We ask You, as You did for Stephen, to sustain our brothers and sisters facing persecution and possible martyrdom for their faith in the Lord Jesus, in whose Name we pray. (Acts 7:55-56)
At a time of year when many people are feasting and have food in abundance, pray for those who are going hungry in places where weather has wrecked crops or conflict has forced people to flee or Covid has prevented them from earning a living. Pray particularly for Christians who face hunger on top of daily discrimination and persecution. Pray that they will be filled with peace, love and joy in the Lord and that our heavenly Father, who knows their needs before they ask, will provide for them.
Chhattisgarh has one of the highest concentrations of Hindus (93%) among Indian states. Christians in Chhattisgarh are less than 2%, but they suffered more than 200 violent attacks in the two years to August 2021. Earlier this year there were six incidents of anti-Christian violence in a single week, ending with an attack on Pastor Kawalsingh Paraste at 11.00 on Sunday morning 29 August, as he was leading morning worship for a congregation that meets in his home in Polmi village. A mob of about 100 extremists stormed the house, beat him up and tore Bibles. Pray that God will enable the Christians of Chhattisgarh to persevere in doing His will, despite the constant attacks, and that they will find hope in His promises (Hebrews 10:36).
On 2 September, 25 Christian leaders from various denominations in India’s Chhattisgarh state met with Bhupesh Baghel, chief minister of the state, and presented him with a memorandum about the persecution suffered by Christians. Mr Baghel assured them that their rights would be protected. Pray that this promise will be put into effect. Chhattisgarh is one of the nine Indian states with laws banning conversion by force, fraud or allurement; Christians are often falsely accused of using these unlawful methods in their evangelism. Police in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh were instructed in July to keep a “consistent watch” on the activities of Christians. Pray for an end to the misuse of this law.
A 16-year-old Christian suffered burns over at least 60% of his body when acid was thrown on him while he was on his way to sell vegetables at a village market in Bihar state, India. He and his family converted to Christianity two years ago and hold daily prayer meetings in their home, which he leads. The family believe that the attack was carried out by radical Hindutva nationalists, who had earlier warned him to stop conducting the prayer meetings. Praise God that nothing will deter our brother from praying to the Lord Jesus and add your prayers to those of our Indian brothers and sisters that he will be completely healed from this horrendous attack.
Many people of other religions believe that the Western New Year is a Christian festival. Therefore it is often a time of increased violence against Christian minorities, often by people who sincerely believe that their religion requires them to attack Christians. Pray that vulnerable believers in such situations will hold unswervingly to the Christian hope, remembering that He who promised is faithful, and will continue to spur one another on to love and good deeds, in the knowledge that the Day of the Lord is approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25).