Published: Friday 30 August 2013
Prayer Focus 09/13
- Egypt – Unprecedented anti-Christian violence rages
- Syria – Christians killed in shooting in safe area
- Nigeria – Christians forced to flee from deadly violence
- Iran – Convert from Islam given ten years in jail
- Uzbekistan – Christian children’s camp raided
- Central African Republic – Islamist rebels attack Christian villages
- Kazakhstan –Detained pastor at risk of psychiatric abuse
“The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”Proverbs 15:29, NIV
Barnabas Fund is encouraging believers to pray in particular for Christians in Egypt and Syria, who are at great risk at this time. Please
join us in setting aside time to pray for our brothers and sisters on 1 September.
Egypt – Unprecedented anti-Christian violence rages
Cry out to the Lord on behalf of our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt, who desperately need our prayers. They are suffering an unprecedented wave of violence at the hands of supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Twelve Christians have been confirmed killed, including a ten-year-old girl who was gunned down as she walked home from her Bible study class. More than 60 churches have been destroyed, along with Christian homes, businesses and schools, an orphanage and a hospital. Islamists who broke into one Christian school replaced the cross on its gate with an al-Qaeda-style flag before setting the building on fire.
The anti-Christian attacks began immediately after Morsi’s removal but intensified after the dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood’s sit-in protests by the authorities on 14 August. It has been said that this day was the worst for violence against the Church in Egypt since the 14th century.
Despite the fact that Christians form a small and marginalised minority in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is blaming them for Morsi’s fall. In fact, more than 22 million Egyptians signed the petition calling for his removal, so even if every one of Egypt’s eight to ten million Christians had signed it, they would still have been outnumbered by Muslims. But this absurd scapegoating has put Christians in great danger. Christians in many places have received leaflets telling them to leave or face reprisals, and many churches have had no choice but to stop holding services because of the danger to their congregations.
Christian homes and businesses in Minya have been marked with black “X”s to single them out for attack, while Muslim ones have been distinguished by red “X”s that will keep them safe. But just as the people of Israel in Egypt were distinguished by the lamb’s blood that marked their doorframes during the plague on the firstborn (Exodus 12:7,13), our brothers and sisters in Egypt are covered by the blood of the Lamb who was slain for our sin. Give thanks that although their future is uncertain and they face many grave dangers, they are eternally secure. Ask the Lord to protect them from harm and to bring peace to their troubled country. Pray also that He will give them strength and calm their fears.
Syria – Christians killed in shooting in safe area
As Islamist groups grow in power and take over new territory, the plight of Christians in Syria is worsening. Around 15 Christians were killed in an attack on a predominantly Christian area that had previously been a safe haven for the displaced. Two young volunteers with a Barnabas Fund partner were amongst those killed when opposition fighters attacked Ein al-Ajouz in Wadi al Nasara (“Valley of the Christians”) on 17 August. The volunteers were shot dead in cold blood as they tried to assist a family who had also been targeted.
This is the first anti-Christian attack the Wadi has seen. The community has been plunged into shock and grief by the atrocity, in which armed militants first killed soldiers at a checkpoint and then went on a shooting spree that targeted Christian civilians holding a celebration at a hotel. A Barnabas partner in the area said, “Wadi al Nasara was in deep deep sorrow to lose so many people in one day… I cried a lot seeing the photos of the innocent who were killed in cold blood.”
Elsewhere, the Christian community in the city of al-Thawrah has been driven out since the al-Nusra Front, an Islamist brigade, seized the city in February. The rebels confiscated the Christians’ property, threatened them with death if they did not comply with Islamic laws and destroyed one of the city’s two churches. Recognition is growing of the dangers posed by Islamist rebel groups, with some of the revolution’s original activists saying that they feel their campaign has been hijacked.
Christian leaders continue to be particular targets for Islamic groups. Paolo Dall’Oglio, a prominent Italian church leader, went missing in Raqqa on 29 July. It is feared that he was taken captive by al-Qaeda-linked militants, who control the area.
Please continue to uphold our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria in prayer. Pray that the Lord will enable them to stand strong in their faith despite the constant danger that many of them are in. Pray that they will find comfort at this desperate time in the knowledge that their true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Ask the Lord to provide for all those who are displaced, and to protect Christians in areas that are especially prone to attack.
The actions of Western governments at this crucial time will greatly impact the future of the Church in Syria. Pray for wisdom for all those involved in making decisions on this issue, and ask the Lord to guide believers among them. Pray that any decisions taken will be made with all Syrians and particularly vulnerable minorities in mind, and that the country will not fall into the hands of the Islamist groups that are targeting our brothers and sisters.
Nigeria – Christians forced to flee from deadly violence
Christians in Northern and Middle Belt states in Nigeria continue to be extremely vulnerable to violent attack. Thousands of believers were forced to flee their villages in the central state of Plateau after violence broke out on 27 June. Ten days of raids by suspected Islamist gunmen left more than 30 Christians dead in the villages of Magama, Bolgong and Karkashi, and other villages were also targeted. A Christian source in the country said that the total death toll may be as high as 70.
More than 100 houses were burned down, and 6,000 people were displaced by the violence and have taken refuge in camps in nearby towns. Although the authorities initially said that the attackers were nomadic Fulani herdsmen, a spokesperson later said that it was not an ethnic conflict and that most of the attackers were foreign.
Then, in the Northern state of Kano, at least 45 people lost their lives in coordinated bomb attacks on two churches in Sabon Gari, a predominantly Christian area. Four bombs exploded within minutes of each other as Bible studies were being held on the evening of 29 July.
Pray that the Lord will comfort all those who have lost loved ones in these atrocities, and ask the Holy Spirit to enable the bereaved to forgive those responsible. Ask the Lord also to meet all the needs of those who have been displaced and to make a way for them to return to their homes in safety. Pray that the violent influence of Islamist elements, both at home and from abroad, will be effectively countered in Nigeria.
Iran – Convert from Islam given ten years in jail
Pray for Mohammad-Hadi Bordbar (known as Mostafa), an Iranian convert from Islam to Christianity who has been sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for his Christian activities. Mostafa, who is from Rasht, was charged with membership of an “anti-security organisation” and with gathering with intent to commit crimes against national security. As is often the case, these charges are pretexts for penalising a believer for his Christian activities.
A breakdown of the charges against Mostafa in court documents refers to his statement in court that he had left Islam to follow Christianity, his involvement in a house church, his work to translate and dub Christian films, and the discovery of 6,000 Gospels and other Christian resources at his home. Mostafa said in court that he considers evangelism his duty and has distributed 12,000 pocket-sized Gospels in Iran.
Mostafa was arrested at a house-church gathering in Tehran in December 2012. This is the second time he has faced legal penalties for his faith; he was arrested in 2009 and found guilty of apostasy. Although he was freed on bail, the apostasy conviction stayed on his record, making it difficult for him to earn a living.
Give thanks for Mostafa’s fearless evangelism in a strictly Islamic country. Ask the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) to draw near to him as he endures being locked up for his faith. Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has made some positive noises about the reform of civil rights in the country and has called on the government to stop meddling in people’s private lives. Pray for genuine moves towards increased freedom for Christians in Iran and that Mostafa’s conviction will be overturned.
Uzbekistan – Christian children’s camp raided
Children at a Christian camp were subjected to questioning, and the homes of the camp’s organisers searched, when it was raided by the authorities. Four bus-loads of officials, including police officers and riot police, descended on the camp in Mironkul, Samarkand region, on 23 July.
Police officers brandishing rubber batons collected statements from all 9 adults and 22 children present, including small children. Although all involved were eventually released, equipment and Christian resources were confiscated, and it is thought that charges will be brought against the camp’s four organisers. The homes of these four were searched, and further items, including Bibles, were seized. Harsh laws exist in Uzbekistan to regulate religious activity, including the unauthorised holding of children’s meetings and the teaching of religious beliefs without official permission.
Pray for the peace of the Lord to come upon all who were present during the raid, particularly the children, who may have been traumatised by what they have experienced. Give thanks for those who conduct children’s ministry in Uzbekistan despite the danger they are putting themselves in, and pray that the children to whom they minister will grow up to be strong men and women of God. Pray that legal proceedings against the leaders of the camp will not continue, and for greater freedom for Christians in Uzbekistan to carry out their ministry in peace.
Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Central African Republic (CAR) continue to suffer at the hands of Islamist rebels who seized control of the country in March. At least 15 Christians were killed, and around 1,000 people displaced, in raids on 14 Christian villages in Bouar in early August. Eye-witnesses reported that the rebels threw the bodies of those killed, who included a five-month-old baby, into a river.
A senior Christian leader, the Rev. Nicolas Guerékoyamé, was arrested in Bangui, the capital, for criticising the new regime during a sermon. The church leader has spoken out against the regime for failing to take action against the militants who are persecuting civilians. Since the military coup, the rebels have been rampaging through the country, killing and raping innocent people and looting their property. In general, they have targeted Christian areas and spared Muslim ones.
Pray that the cruel and merciless activities of the Seleka rebels will be brought to an end, and that stability will soon be brought to CAR. Pray that Mr Guerékoyamé will be released and that the government will allow freedom of speech to all CAR’s citizens. The country’s new leader has said privately that he wants to make CAR, which is around 50% Christian and only 15% Muslim, an Islamic republic. Pray that he will not succeed in making 85% of the country’s population second-class citizens.
Kazakhstan – Detained pastor at risk of psychiatric abuse
Please continue to pray for Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev, a pastor who has been in prison in Kazakhstan since May for “inflicting serious harm to health”, following a complaint made by a church member’s mother. Lyazzat Alamova’s mother claimed her daughter suffered psychological harm after attending the pastor’s church; Lyazzat herself has repeatedly rejected the claim.
Pastor Kashkumbayev has launched a hunger strike and appealed to the UN to protect him from psychiatric abuse by the authorities. A police investigator has ordered that the pastor be transferred to a psychiatric assessment centre, where the church leader fears that “special substances” will be used to make him insane. His concerns are not without grounds; when the allegations were originally made, Lyazzat was given unspecified injections to make her passive.
Pray that the Lord will protect Pastor Kashkumbayev from harm by the authorities and give him the strength to face whatever tactics are used against him.