Barnabas prayer focus Update

June 5, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, Persecution

  • Syria – Christian families continue to suffer in conflict
  • India – Hindu nationalists lose power in state election
  • Central African Republic – Rebels’ “reign of terror” targets Christians
  • Egypt – One believer killed as anti-Christian violence continues
  • Kazakhstan – Christians endure increasing repression
  • Tanzania – Five killed in attack on church
  • Pakistan – Third Christian community in 50 days attacked
  • Sudan – No new church licenses to be issued

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” Mark 10:27, NIV

Syria – Christian families continue to suffer in conflict

Syrian ChristiansPlease continue to pray for vulnerable Christian families in Syria. As the civil conflict in the country rages on, Christian women and children are particularly at risk. Because Islamist rebel fighters believe they have the right to rape non-Sunni, non-Muslim women, some Christian women are unable to leave their homes because the danger they are in is so acute. One Christian woman told Barnabas Fund that she had left her good job in Aleppo to return to her family home. She explained her decision by saying that if she had to die, she did not want to die alone. The woman also said, “During these two years we have felt more repressed and marginalised… It is becoming worse and worse for women.”

Christian children in Syria also desperately need our prayers. Many have been traumatised by the violence and destruction they have witnessed and that continues to surround them; some parents have no choice but to keep their children home from school for their own safety.

As prices of essentials continue to escalate, Christian families, many of whom have been displaced from their homes, are also living in poverty. One group of Christians is staying in crowded conditions in school classrooms after all the houses and shops in their area were looted and burned. And church buildings in Syria continue to be destroyed and damaged. One church was desecrated by fighters, who urinated inside it.

At the time of writing there has been no news on the whereabouts of the two senior church leaders who were kidnapped on 22 April, and concern about their safety is growing. No group has claimed responsibility for their kidnap, and no demands for a ransom have been made. Pray for the release of the two church leaders, and ask the Lord to keep them safe and to sustain them throughout their ordeal.

Lift up our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria and ask the Lord to meet all their material needs. Ask Him to be their strength every morning, and their salvation at times of distress (Isaiah 33:2). Pray particularly for Christian women and children, who are so vulnerable, and ask the Lord to send His angels to guard them in all their ways (Psalm 91:11).

India – Hindu nationalists lose power in state election

Hindutva MovementGive thanks for some good news for Christians in Karnataka State. The Hindu nationalist political party that was in power there, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), lost its majority in a crushing defeat on 5 May. The BJP is the political wing of the Hindutva movement, which seeks to make India a religiously “pure” Hindu nation. Christians in Karnataka, where the BJP had held power since 2008, are greatly at risk of attack by Hindu extremist groups, who are emboldened by the political backing and legal immunity they have enjoyed.

Praise God that those whose influence endangers Christians have lost control of Karnataka. Pray that the BJP’s loss of 13.9% of the vote will indeed lead to a safer life for Christians in the state. The party’s vote was split by two breakaway parties, which suggests that enduring support for its values remains in the state. Pray that the Lord will change the hearts of those in India who are intolerant to Christians and ask Him to protect His people in Karnataka, and throughout the country, from attack.

Central African Republic – Rebels’ “reign of terror” targets Christians

Central African RepublicThe Islamist Seleka rebels in the Central African Republic (CAR) are carrying out a violent campaign against Christians in the country. Our brothers and sisters are being tied up, beaten and forced to hand over money to save their lives. A pastor in CAR said that the Islamist militants are conducting a “reign of terror” against Christians.

The church leader also said that the rebels, who seized power in a bloody coup in March, have a hit list of pastors and other Christian workers. Another church leader was killed in an attack on a funeral procession in Bangui, the capital, on 13 April. When rebel forces opened fire on the crowd, the church leader walked towards them, raising a Bible in his hand, and appealed for calm. He was shot dead by two fighters.

Church buildings have been attacked and Christian property looted. In one incident, Seleka forces seized all the collection money given at a meeting of church leaders. The threat of violence against Christians and their property has forced many believers to flee their homes and to take refuge in the countryside.

Pray that the turmoil in CAR will be calmed and that the Lord will protect Christians who are at risk of attack. Pray for the family and community of the church leader who was killed, and ask the Lord to comfort them in their grief. Ask that our brothers and sisters will know the peace of the Lord, which transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7), at this time of violence, danger and upheaval.

Egypt – One believer killed as anti-Christian violence continues

anti Christian violence in EgyptThe recent spate of attacks on churches and Christian property in Egypt shows no sign of abating. Sedky Sherif, a Christian father of three, was killed in an attack on a church building in Alexandria on 17 May. Muslims began throwing Molotov cocktails and bricks at the building after an accusation was made against a local Christian man. When Christians tried to defend the site, the Muslims began firing birdshot and throwing bricks at them.

The cause of Sedky’s death has not been officially confirmed. Although the security report on the incident said that he suffered a heart attack after hearing gunfire, witnesses said that his body was covered in physical wounds. Christian teenager Mina Milad Saber, who sustained serious injuries in the violence, needed brain surgery and was left in a coma following the incident.

The violence in Alexandria was the second anti-Christian attack in Egypt in one week. On 13 May, a church building in Menbal village, Minya, was attacked by rampaging Muslims who vandalised it and assaulted a person inside. The mob then stormed through the streets armed with firearms and knives, looted and destroyed Christian-owned businesses and torched vehicles. Several Christians were injured, and the Muslims threatened to expel them from the village. The violence followed an incident of harassment in a nearby village earlier that day, in which Muslim youths hurled bags of urine at Christian girls.

Pray for comfort and peace for those who mourn Sedky, and ask that the true cause of his death will come to light. Ask for the Lord’s healing for Mina, and pray that he will be brought out of his coma and restored to full health. Pray that the recent surge in anti-Christian attacks in Egypt will be halted and that Christians there, who have also suffered poverty and discrimination for a long time, will be able to live without fear of attack.

Kazakhstan – Christians endure increasing repression

Kazakhstan ChristiansPray for our brothers and sisters in Kazakhstan, who live under an ever-darkening shadow of repression. The country’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, claimed on 17 April that “religious freedom is fully secured” in Kazakhstan. But in fact, already stifling controls on Christian activities are being tightened, and raids on worship services and incidents of Christian literature being censored are continuing.

Human rights defenders and religious groups have concluded that religious free speech does not exist in Kazakhstan. The country’s Agency of Religious Affairs has instructed people to report any individuals who talk about their faith in public to the police. The proposed new penal code, which is due to reach parliament later this year, is set to introduce a maximum penalty of four months’ imprisonment for individuals found to be publicly sharing their faith.

Four church services were raided by police in March and April. Three of the raids targeted unregistered churches, and heavy fines were meted out to pastors and Christians in attendance. One raid, which was carried out on an Easter Sunday service in a private home in Zhaskent, was so distressing that one elderly church member subsequently suffered a heart attack, which she attributes to the stress of the raid and the six-hour interrogation to which the church members were later subjected. The fourth raid was on a legally registered church, and a visiting pastor was told he should have sought prior state permission before preaching there.

Although a court order to destroy some Christian literature confiscated from an evangelist was recently overturned, confiscation of religious books is also increasing, and Christians are amongst those most likely to have their books taken.

Pray that the Lord will strengthen His people in Kazakhstan so they can remain firm in their faith despite the intense opposition they face. Ask that the government’s increasing intolerance to Christian activities will be reduced and that the Lord will be with those who are facing legal penalties simply for living out their faith.

Tanzania – Five killed in attack on church

Church bombed in TanzaniaCry out to the Lord on behalf of Christians in Tanzania, where anti-Christian violence continues to devastate communities. Five people were killed and around 60 injured when the inaugural service of a church in Arusha was bombed on 5 May. Many of the wounded were left in a critical condition.

Eight people have been arrested in connection with the attack. A Barnabas Fund contact in Tanzania, who described the crime as a “well-planned attack”, said that radical camps in the country are teaching young Muslims that Christians must be killed or live as second-class citizens. He said that police had not taken serious action against the camps despite being told about them by church leaders.

This atrocity is the latest in a series of attacks on churches and Christian leaders in Tanzania, where militant Islamism is gaining an increasingly sure foothold. Pray that the Church there will stand firm in the face of the despicable actions being taken against them, and ask the Lord to give church leaders in the country wisdom as to how to respond to them.

Pakistan – Third Christian community in 50 days attacked

Christian community attacked in PakistanAttacks on whole Christian communities in response to the supposed wrongdoing of one of their members are becoming disturbingly common in Pakistan. The Christian inhabitants of Eassa Pur village, in Khanewal district, were attacked by a mob of around 50-60 Muslims on 26 April. The mob opened fire on the believers after beating them and throwing stones at their houses, and also threatened to burn down their property.

A Muslim man was killed in the clashes, and two Christians and one Muslim were injured. The sudden attack followed a dispute earlier that day between a Muslim farmer and a Christian farmer over the rental of some farming equipment. Some local Christians believe Muslims are using any excuse to create hostilities in order to force Christian landowners out of the area and take over their property.

The police evacuated the Christian community to safety, but instead of prosecuting the Muslim instigators of the violence, they registered a case against five Christians. Pray that all legal action against innocent parties will be dropped, and that the police will provide proper protection for Christians both in the local area and nationwide.

Pray that the Christian inhabitants of Eassa Pur will be able to return to live peacefully in their village, and that the Lord will heal the physical and mental injuries caused by the attack. Ask the Holy Spirit to enable them to forgive and love their persecutors, and pray that their response will be a witness to those around them.

Sudan – No new church licenses to be issued

no new church licenses to be issued in SudanPray for the beleaguered Christian minority in Sudan, who are now under even more pressure following a government announcement that no new licenses will be granted for church buildings. The government minister who announced the decision explained it by saying that no new church buildings are needed as existing ones can accommodate worshippers. He claimed that no new churches had been established in Sudan since South Sudan seceded in July 2011, and that this was because of a lack of worshippers and a growth in the number of abandoned church buildings.

This news came as a campaign of arrests and deportations of Christians continues. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Sudan, who are not welcome in their own country, and ask that they will be strengthened in the knowledge that God is for them (Romans 8:31) even when they face so much opposition.

– barnabas team

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