Thursday, March 31, 2011

Worship banned in private homes, universities in Kazakhstan

Pray for religious freedom in Kazakhstan!
On March 4, Pastor Andrei Panafidin of Taraz, Kazakhstan, was fined 100 times the minimum monthly wage for leading unregistered religious worship, reported Forum 18 News Service.

This is the seventh time Pastor Panafidin has been fined for this "offense” local Baptists told Forum 18. He is the first Council of Churches Baptist in Kazakhstan known to have been fined since June 2010.

An officer of Jambyl Regional Directorate for the Struggle with Organized Crime—which took part in raids on the congregation—told Forum 18: "It's a violation if they don't register—all religious communities must be registered."

In Shymkent, a judge has banned the local New Life Pentecostal Church from holding worship in the house where the congregation is registered. And a local administration in Almaty has—with KNB secret police and Interior Ministry intervention—banned a university from renting its facilities to religious communities.

You can read the full report here.

Lay minister’s home destroyed

Pray for believers to stand
strong in Bangladesh.
Unni Joyce is homeless today because he preached the gospel, reported Gospel for Asia earlier this week.

Unni lives in Bangladesh, one of the poorest nations on earth, yet he is rich in faith. Every Sunday, Unni can be found leading worship services in his village of 500 people. Initially, his family was one of only three Christian families in the entire village. Now, about 40 people follow Christ. They were set to have a ceremony to testify of their newfound faith, but that triggered animosity from some of the villagers.

Anti-Christian extremists decided to try and stop Unni’s work by destroying his house and physically running him and his family out of the village.

Today, Unni is staying in another village and asking for prayer for the 40 new Christians, that their faith will remain strong in such difficult circumstances. He also asks for prayer that this situation will help their faith to grow.

Unni and his family also need prayer for God’s comfort and protection. Pray also for the attackers, that they will come to know Jesus.

2 prisoners released conditionally in Iran

Karoon Prison of Ahvaz
(photo by Mohabat News)
Two new Iranian Christian believers who spent more than 63 days in Karoon Prison of Ahvaz were conditionally released after posting a combined bail of almost $97,000 CAD, reported Mohabat News.

Sources told the news agency that the temporary release of these prisoners of conscience from custody coincides with the recent conditional freedoms granted to political and security-risk prisoners.

Mostafa Shokrollahi and Khalil Yarali were arrested in January 2011 by security agents. A hearing for these two individuals is planned for April. Because they have been charged with national security crimes, it is possible that Mostafa and Khalil will be sentenced to prison terms between 2 and 5 years.

Both men were taken into custody during the wave of arrests and repressive measures enacted by the Iranian government to crack down on the activities of Christians throughout the country.

Please pray for Mostafa and Khalil as well as other Iranian believers being detained for their faith in Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vietnamese Christian lawyer released!

Nguyen Van Dai
Nguyen Van Dai, a Vietnamese human rights lawyer and religious freedom advocate, was recently released after serving his four-year sentence, said our sister-mission VOM USA.

Van Dai, arrested in March 2007 on accusations relating to his defense of religious freedom, must still fulfill a four-year administrative, or "house arrest," sentence.

Praise the Lord for Van Dai’s release! Ask God to fill him with enduring hope and faith as he serves his house arrest sentence. Pray that the Church in Vietnam will continue to grow and be a light to others. Pray for comfort for the many other Vietnamese Christians in prison.

In mailboxes this week

The April issue of The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter is hitting mailboxes this week.

Inside this issue:
  • China’s [un]changing face – China has invested billions of dollars to develop its trade while boosting its global image, but the nation is still Communist at heart. Stories of persecution continue to affirm this.
  • Are Bibles still needed in China? – Is the government-run press printing more than enough Bibles? Paul Hattaway with Asia Harvest addresses the misinformation and shares what’s really going.
  • All is not as it seems – Behind China’s shiny exterior, Christians are being persecuted. Read updates on several imprisoned Christians and the raiding of house churches and learn ways you can help.
  • Christian Martyrs – After a viceroy in 17th-century China issued an edict cracking down on foreign religions, Christians began to flee. But one Christian encouraged many to stay. His actions condemned him to death but not before impacting others.
  • Update on Egypt – President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation ended a 30-year regime that many considered corrupt. Believers are now wondering what’s in store for the nation’s Christians. Read what VOM sources have to say.
The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter is the flagship publication of The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada. Published monthly, it is available free of charge to anyone in Canada who requests it.
 
You can subscribe online here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Threatened by her own son

In the South Asian village where he serves, Gospel for Asia-supported pastor Tarik Pradhan has witnessed people’s lives change as they chose to follow Jesus, reported ASSIST News. But as people have joined the fellowship of believers, anti-Christian fanatics have begun opposing Pastor Tarik’s ministry and the congregation.

On February 20, Pastor Tarik was leading a prayer meeting in Hemali’s house. During this time of worship and prayer, Hemali’s older son, Kamraj, and a group of villagers approached the house. They intended to beat the believers with rods and other weapons.

When Hemali saw the group of men, she sent Pastor Tarik and the rest of the believers out of the house through another entrance. Kamraj and his companions entered the room but didn’t find the congregation. Angry, they threatened Hemali and the other believing family members, saying that if they continued to go to church, they would kill them.

This threat has put stress on Hemali and her family. Pastor Tarik requested prayer for the family to stand firm in the Lord and for the following needs:
  • Kamraj to open his heart to Jesus and commit to serving God.
  • The believers in the congregation to remain strong in their faith.
  • God to prevent further hindrances from stopping the Sunday worship services.
Please lift these petitions to the Lord, and also ask the Lord to strengthen Pastor Tarik as he ministers in this village.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Want to teach your kids about persecution?

Are you looking for ways to discuss Christian persecution with your children? We can help!

Bold Believers Magazine (BBM) is an exciting quarterly publication of The Voice of the Martyrs for Canadian kids ages 6-12.

Through BBM, your children will learn about the incredible courage of kids who are living in nations where it is dangerous to be a Christian. They’ll learn what it means to trust in and love God in all sorts of circumstances, how to share the love of God with others, and how to pray and reach out to persecuted kids around the world.

Subscribers to BBM also receive, free of charge, a subscription to The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter.

Go here to subscribe today!

PS. You must have a Canadian address to subscribe to BBM or The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thoughts on the meaning of pain

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand
Written by Reese Maguire

I was reading through a July 2006 issue of The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter, when I came across “Little Notes from Pastor Wurmbrand” and his thoughts on pain. I thought you might enjoy hearing them, too.

Pain has meaning

I have known no believer who at some time or other didn’t struggle with his faith because of pain. Why should a good God have ordained pain? “Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind that even death itself,” wrote Albert Schweitzer.

However, we are told that the main function of pain is to signal the body of any harm to its tissues. We need such signals, admittedly, but could we not do with something less traumatic?

Experience has shown that what is not painful does not work. We do harm to our bodies with our smoking, excessive drinking, poor eating habits and promiscuity. Our soft choices may lead us to cancer and heart disease, but because we feel no pain before it is too late, we continue these suicidal practices. Pain is a sign of the intense desire of God to do us good.

Muslims attribute pain to fate, kismet; Hindus to karma; other Middle Easterners to the evil eye. Pain has meaning.

If God permits suffering, we can be sure it is more painful for Him who permits it than for us who bear it. If we had His wisdom and sought our salvation as passionately as He seeks it for us, we would choose to embrace or walk through the very sufferings that afflict us. Therefore, believers bear with understanding the suffering imposed upon them.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Being strong in Jesus Christ

Excerpted from Stories from China: Fried Rice for the Soul, a compilation of meditations by Luke Wesley, a missionary to China

Meditation #19
An Invisible Army


You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s Word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory (2 Tim. 2:1-4, 8-10).
We do not fear strong wind and rain
For the one with us is Jehovah
We do not fear strong wind and rain
For the one with us is greater than ten thousand
We will not cast our nets in the narrow, shallow stream
Nor will we cast our nets in the tranquil lake
Small trees survive violent winds and savage rain
They grow into tall trees that reach to heaven.*


We are an Invisible ArWe are an invisible army
We are evangelists without names
If God helps us, who can stand against us?
‘Charge forward’ is our battle cry
The blood of martyrs spilled over thousands of years,
Cries out to those of us who follow
The throng of saints over thousands of years,
In ragged clothes, drifting, yet not discouraged
On the battlefield these soldiers were tested
In strong winds and waves these helmsmen were tried
In these last days we will face even greater trials
So we constantly ask the Lord for His guidance.**
Lord, I thank you and praise you because you have called me to be a part of your vast, invisible army. I rejoice because I stand side by side with countless Chinese believers and other Christians from every nation. I ask for your guidance and strength, because I know the task is great. Enable me to exhibit a bit of the courage and stamina that animate the Chinese church. Lord, I do not want to simply cast my net in shallow streams or peaceful waters, but I want to be obedient to your calling and be willing to face challenges. Help me live in a manner worthy of your calling.

*Lu Xiaomin, Sounds of the Heart, 455 (Song #404)
**Lu Xiaomin, Sounds of the Heart, 585 (Song #524)

Join VOM in Mississauga tomorrow!

Looking for Saturday plans? Join VOM for an incredible day of raising awareness for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world!

Saturday, March 26
City Centre Baptist Church
Mississauga, Ontario
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


This year, our special guest is Russell Stendal.

Russell Stendal was raised on the mission field in Colombia. He became a missionary jungle pilot at age 19. In 1983, Marxist rebels kidnapped him and held him hostage for five months. His book, Rescue the Captors, relates his experience, including how God worked in the hearts of the rebels.

Today, Russell heads up the work of Colombia Para Cristo, which operates 12 radio stations that cover much of Latin America with the gospel. Tens of thousands of people listen to radio broadcasts, as terrorists have banned church buildings, meetings and many ministries in the past 30 years.

You’ll also hear from VOM staff who travel the world, implementing projects to help believers physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually. They return with stories of faith, determination, perseverance and an unconditional love of Christ.

No RSVP necessary. Just show up and find out how Jesus is changing lives in hostile nations around the world!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Police ransack church and arrest pastors in India

Two pastors were recently arrested for conducting a worship service in a home in Karnataka state, India, reported the Global Council of Indian Christians.

On March 6, Pastor Mathew and Pastor Jose were holding a worship service in a house church when a police officer disrupted the meeting. The officer asked the pastors to stop the service, and then ransacked the building and confiscated Bibles and other Christian literature.

Both men were arrested and taken to the local police station. They were told that a leader of a local Hindu militant group lodged a complaint against them for engaging in "forceful conversion activity." That evening, the pastors stood before the magistrate, who freed them on temporary bail.

Thank the Lord that these pastors were released on bail. Pray all charges against them will be dropped. Ask the Lord to continue to strengthen His Church in India so believers will continue to lovingly and boldly proclaim the gospel despite opposition (Ephesians 6:18-20).

Wondering what YOU can pray about?

Pray for our brothers and sisters
suffering worldwide for Jesus!
Wondering what you can do to help our brothers and sisters suffering around the world for their faith in Jesus Christ?

Consider praying.

With no special technique required, prayer opens doors. Not sure what to pray about? The Bible is an excellent place to start.

Pray:
  • That believers will stand firm in their faith (1 Peter 5:8-10)
  • That they will not be fearful but trust God (Revelations 2:10)
  • That they will not seek to retaliate, but entrust themselves to Him who judges justly and seek to live in peace with everyone (Romans 12:17-21, 1 Peter 2:23).
  • That they will be enabled to rejoice, even in suffering (1 Peter 4:12-13).
  • That they will be able to actually love and forgive those who persecute them (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 23:34, Colossians 3:13).
  • That they will bless those who have persecuted them (Romans 12:14, 21).
  • That they will rely on the Lord’s strength and not on their own (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
  • For the provision of Bibles and other Christian literature to reach the most remote and needy areas where they are in the shortest supply (Psalm 119:42-43).
  • That those who suffer tremendous physical pain and trials will be delivered by the Lord from their agony (2 Corinthians 1:9-11).
  • That those of us who have religious freedom will understand what it means to suffer with other members of the worldwide Church (1 Corinthians 12:26).
  • That we in Canada would have the boldness and courage to speak out and seek to make changes in the name of the Lord, on behalf of persecuted believers (Proverbs 31:8-9).
  • That we in Canada would faithfully remember and pray for our Christian family worldwide who are in prison and suffering for their faith (Hebrews 13:5).
 Thank you for standing with us!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Our good physician

The following true tale of two martyrs is excerpted from Jesus Freaks Vol. II, a collaboration of The Voice of the Martyrs and dc Talk.

Hugh Laverick and John Aprice
England 1556

The two men, having refused to recant their faith, were led forward to the stakes. Hugh Laverick was a 68-year-old painter who had to walk with the aid of a crutch due to a crippled foot. The other, though spiritually enlightened by the truth of God’s Word, was physically blind. The lord of London had sentenced them both to death during little more than an interruption to his dessert.

Laverick, in realizing that he would no longer need his crutch as the chains bound him to his stake, threw it away and turned to Aprice to rejoice together with him in their deliverance.

“Be of good cheer, my brother; for my lord of London is our good physician; he will heal us both shortly—thee of thy blindness, and me of my lameness.”

Both died in the flames to rise eternally healed in heaven.

“You have this faith and love because of your hope, and
What you hope for is kept safe for you in heaven.”
Colossians 1:5 (NCV)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Prayer Conference in Mississauga this weekend!

Join us and find out how YOU can get
involved serving the persecuted Church!
Make plans to join us for this incredible day of raising awareness for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world!

Saturday, March 26
City Centre Baptist Church
Mississauga, Ontario
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This year, our special guest is Russell Stendal.

Russell Stendal was raised on the mission field in Colombia. He became a missionary jungle pilot at age 19. In 1983, Marxist rebels kidnapped him and held him hostage for five months. His book, Rescue the Captors, relates his experience, including how God worked in the hearts of the rebels.
 
Today, Russell heads up the work of Colombia Para Cristo, which operates 12 radio stations that cover much of Latin America with the gospel. Tens of thousands of people listen to radio broadcasts, as terrorists have banned church buildings, meetings and many ministries in the past 30 years. A thriving underground church continues to develop in remote jungle areas of Colombia.

In addition to our special guest, you will hear from the following individuals:
  • Klaas Brobbel, VOM’s Co-founder and Finance Administrator
  • Corey Odden, VOM’s CEO
  • Floyd Brobbel, VOM’s VP of Operations
  • Greg Musselman, VOM’s VP of Outreach
No RSVP necessary. Just show up and find out how Jesus is changing lives in hostile nations around the world!

Sending letters to prisoners

Send letters to prisoners today!
Throughout VOM’s history, our office has received many, many letters in which believers expressed their thanks for letters sent to them in prison.

From a Soviet in prison for Christ:
I have just been released from prison and am at home with my family according to the flesh, and with that through the blood of Christ. Thanks for your prayers. I felt them and have always been full of peace and consolation.
From another Soviet believer:
I finished my term of 4 ½ years of prison and now live in deportation in the Siberian taiga. I will never be able to describe the torture of having spent those years together with criminals. I hungered and suffered from cold, bugs and lice. I saw misery and violence. Now I have been sent to a desolate area, but all things work together for good.
From Pastor Nguyen Lap Ma, a Vietnamese who refused to relinquish his church:
I read every letter with prayers and tears. I devour every letter and meditate on the Scriptures shared in them. I then share these words of encouragement and the Scriptures in Vietnamese with my family. We are glad and encouraged by the messages in them.
From a young Pakistani Christian woman:
I am thankful to God He released me from prison. I am thankful to The Voice of the Martyrs for helping my family, and I thank my brothers and sisters who wrote me letters in prison. May God bless all of you.
From an imprisoned Chinese bookstore owner:
I thank you for the love and the help you offered for my family. My heart is filled with peace and light from the Holy Spirit. Let us, in Christ, continue to focus on the Father’s kingdom and righteousness. Let us thank, praise and worship the great, almighty and loving God.
Christians facing persecution often struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation. At times, separated from their loved ones, they wonder if anyone cares about them.

Writing letters is a simple way you can stand with them at their time of need, encouraging them in their walk with Christ and reminding them of the prayer support from their extended Christian family.

Please take some time to compose and send a letter today. You can download our letter-writing guide and prisoners list, “Doing Time for God,” here. You can also visit http://www.prisoneralert.com/ to write a letter to a prisoner in his/her own language.

“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who
are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.”
Hebrews 13:3

Monday, March 21, 2011

Leaving the past for the present

The following is excerpted from 100 Prison Meditations by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, VOM’s founder. The book recalls contemplations from his time in solitary confinement while held in a Communist prison.

Scarcity of Biographical Data

No scrupulous modern biographer would attempt to write a biography of Jesus on the basis of the scarce data the Bible gives about Him. Even about Jesus’ earthly life we know next to nothing. Thirty years are passed over with silence. This is to show us that God keeps files on no one.

Job says, “What is man...that You should test him every moment?” (Job 7:17, 18). What a man is in the present moment is what counts. What he has been before can be erased by the grace of God. Never hold past sins against a man, rather hold a man against his past sins.

George Muller, the British philanthropist, founder of many orphanages and renowned as a man of prayer, was in prison for theft in his youth. So was Skrefsrud, the renowned Norwegian missionary to the Santals in India.

St. Vincent de Paul was ordained at the age of 19 although the Council of Trent had fixed 30 as the minimum age. He was silent all his mature life about his invalid ordination and about an adventurous escape from slavery that had occurred only in his imagination. He was also silent about the fact that in his youth he had sought parishes with the fattest incomes.

What does an ugly past count, when God sees a beautiful present?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pakistani Christian freed from her captors

Shaheen Bibi and her father Manna Masih
(photo by Compass Direct)
A Christian mother of seven in Lahore, Pakistan, was recently freed from her Muslim captors after being kidnapped last August, reported Compass Direct News.

Forty-year old Shaheen Bibi was taken from her place of employment to a nearby city, drugged and raped. When she awoke, her kidnappers told her that she had been sold into marriage to one of them. She told them she was a Christian, and they gave her a prayer rug and tried to get her to convert to Islam by reciting a Muslim prayer.

The kidnappers demanded a ransom ($1,170 CAD) from Shaheen's father, Manna Masih, by March 5. Local police refused to help Masih rescue his daughter, claiming that the area she was being held in was too dangerous. Masih then sought help from a human rights organization.

On March 6, a team managed to rescue Shaheen from her captors, who handed her over on the condition that they not be the targets of further legal action.

After her release, Shaheen reported that there were at least 10 other women in captivity with her. Some of the women had their hands and legs broken because they refused to be forced into marriage.

You can read the full report here.

Thank the Lord for Shaheen's release. Pray for God's comfort and peace to govern her as she recovers from her brutal assault. Pray the other women will also be freed from their captors. Pray for the hope of Christ to radiate in their hearts and minds, even as they suffer. Ask God to bring their captors to repentance and lead them to salvation in Christ.

Everyone has a gift

Excerpted from Victorious Faith by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, VOM’s founder.

Let your life be one of service.

Do not say that you have no spiritual power or qualifications. A boy gave to Jesus five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus multiplied them. But what if the boy had had nothing? Such a possibility does not exist.

In the Bible, the word “zero” or its mathematical symbol “0” never occurs. The Bible is constructed mathematically. Every letter of the Hebrew and Greek alphabets correspond with a figure. Every word has a numerical value.

My son has written his thesis at the Lutheran University of Paris on the subject of mathematics in the Bible. But the Bible contains neither the word “zero” nor the size for it “0,” which is especially significant when you realize that the Chaldean ancestors of the Jews already had the zero written as a circle. The very word “zero” comes from the Chaldean zer.

Nobody is a zero before God. Nobody is without some gift. Your gift is sometimes the humility to believe that you have none.

Victorious Faith is a collection of stories, anecdotes and insights that sustained Pastor Wurmbrand while he was imprisoned in a Romanian Communist prison. You can order your own copy here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Join VOM in Edmonton tomorrow!

Looking for Saturday plans? Join VOM for an incredible day of raising awareness for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world!

Saturday, March 19
West Meadows Baptist Church
Edmonton, Alberta
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


This year, our special guest is Russell Stendal.

Russell Stendal was raised on the mission field in Colombia. He became a missionary jungle pilot at age 19. In 1983, Marxist rebels kidnapped him and held him hostage for five months. His book, Rescue the Captors, relates his experience, including how God worked in the hearts of the rebels.

Today, Russell heads up the work of Colombia Para Cristo, which operates 12 radio stations that cover much of Latin America with the gospel. Tens of thousands of people listen to radio broadcasts, as terrorists have banned church buildings, meetings and many ministries in the past 30 years.

You’ll also hear from VOM staff who travel the world, finding and sharing stories of those persecuted as well as implementing projects to help physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually.

No RSVP necessary. Just show up and find out how Jesus is changing lives in hostile nations around the world!

Giving our limitations to Jesus

“God has chosen the weak things of the world.”
1 Corinthians 1:27

Nelson achieved all his triumphs by overcoming great handicaps.

Frail and weak, he fell victim to yellow fever in India. He contracted some other unidentified sickness in the West Indies. He, a navy commander, suffered all his life from seasickness. He lost an eye in Corsica. Later, his right hand was amputated. In another fight, he was heavily wounded in the chest.

But, he had learned to overcome pain. And, it was he who defeated the naval forces of France and Spain at Trafalgar.

The hero Nelson also had a weak point. He became the subject of a huge scandal in London and Naples through his involvement with Lady Hamilton, another man’s wife. It is not the physical handicaps that are apt to wreck a man’s life, but rather his weaknesses of character. “He who rules his spirit [is better] than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).

As a human being, Jesus entered life with many handicaps. His birth was rumoured to have been irregular. He belonged to a poor family in an oppressed nation. He never had a rabbinical education. But, He showed that by faith one can conquer obstacles and be the right kind of person. Jesus is the Son of God. Those who believe in Him become children of God. He said, “Everything is possible to the one who believes.”

Don’t worry about your physical handicaps or any other kind of handicap. They can be the best stimulants to great achievement.

Find out your specific weaknesses, and through Christ strengthen the wall of the fortress that is most exposed to the enemy.

Excerpted from Reaching Toward the Heights by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, VOM’s founder.

Reaching Toward the Heights is 365-day devotional in which Pastor Wurmbrand draws upon his own experience in prison and the testimonies of other persecuted Christians to encourage us to elevate our relationship with the Lord. It’s available through our Online Resource Catalogue.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Who was St. Patrick?

Saint Patrick stained-glass window
from Cathedral of Christ the Light
in Oakland, California.
This story of St. Patrick is from Christianity.com and was written by Dr. Diane Severance and Dan Graves.

When, on this day, March 17, 1737, the Charitable Irish Society of Boston held a St. Patrick's Day celebration, it seems to have been the first in America.

Since then, St. Patrick's Day celebrations have been full of leprechauns, the wearing of the green, and the celebration of all things Irish. In all the fun and frolic, the true Patrick (who probably died between 455 and 493) can easily be forgotten.

Dates and details in Patrick's life are not known with certainty. He was most likely born between 372 and 390, possibly near present day Glasgow, Scotland. His parents, Calpurniun and Conchessa, were leaders of the Christian community in the still unidentified village of Bannavem Taburniae.

Patrick did not take the Christianity of his parents seriously and enjoyed having fun with his friends. One day, when he was 16, he was amusing himself near the sea when Irish pirates captured him. They sold Patrick as a slave to an Irish chieftain named Milchu. His job? To care for the chief's sheep.

Alone in the fields with the sheep, Patrick remembered the Christianity of his parents, and he accepted it as his own. He later wrote,
I was 16 years old and knew not the true God; but in that strange land the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes, and although late I called my sins to mind, and was converted with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my estate, had pity on my youth and ignorance, and consoled me as a father consoles his children...The love of God increased more and more in me with faith and the fear of His name. The Spirit urged me to such a degree that I poured forth as many as a hundred prayers in one day. And even during the night, in the forests and on the mountains where I kept my flock, the rain, and snow, and suffering which I endured, excited me to seek after God...
Six years later, Patrick managed to escape and returned to his family. In a dream, he saw Irish children pleading with him to bring the Gospel to them. "O holy youth, come back to Erin, and walk once more amongst us." His heart longed to return to his former captors and share with them the gospel of Jesus Christ. He trained for the ministry and returned to Ireland where, despite fierce opposition, he spread the story of Jesus among the pagan tribes in the Irish language he had learned while a slave.

From the seventh through ninth century, legends and myths gathered around Patrick's name. The best-known is that he drove the snakes from Ireland. From the start, he was regarded as a saint and has long been venerated as the patron saint of Ireland. His feast is held on this day, March 17.

You can share the true story of St. Patrick with your children through the fully illustrated book, The Story of St. Patrick: More than Shamrocks and Leprechauns found at www.persecution.net/catalog.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Christians in Turkey face harassment

Pray for religious freedom
in Turkey!
A recent report shows harassment continues to be a daily problem for Turkey’s Christians and churches.

Discrimination, slander and attacks against churches were among the examples of ongoing harassment that the Turkish Association of Protestant Churches (TEK) recorded in 2010, reported Compass Direct News.

In an eight-page report published earlier this year, TEK’s Committee for Religious Freedom and Legal Affairs outlined problems Protestants face. Turkish laws and “negative attitudes of civil servants” continue to make it nearly impossible for non-Muslims to establish places of worship. Missionary activities are still considered a national threat despite the existence of Turkish laws guaranteeing citizens the freedom to propagate and teach their faith.

Children, too, are victims of discrimination at school. While non-Muslim students are permitted to stay out of religious classes, parents have reported cases in which they were not able to take their children out of such courses.

Turkey rose to 30th place in Open Doors’ 2011 World Watch List of nations in which persecution against Christians takes place, up from 35th place the previous year. The Christian support organization cited deteriorating conditions as the secular country applied some laws in discriminatory ways against Christians.

Back in 2007, two Turkish Christians and a German Christian were bound, tortured and then murdered at the office of Zirve Publishing Co., a Christian publishing house in Malatya. The four suspects were arrested while trying to escape the scene of the crime, as was the alleged ringleader.

The trial of the five suspects has been prolonged and could be furthered stalled with the loss of Judge Eray Gurtekin, who presided over the case since it began on November 22, 2007, to a Supreme Court of Appeals post in Ankara. The court has been examining links between the killers and alleged masterminds.

Conflict threatens peace in South Sudan

Pray for Christians
in Sudan today!
Conflict has increased within South Sudan since the January 9 referendum.

In February, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) clashed with forces of the southern opposition figure Gen. Akhor, leaving 200 dead. Some 50 were killed when the SPLA clashed also with the forces of Gabriel Tanginya who is backed by Northern Islamic Khartoum.

In the North-South border region of Abyei, 100 Misseriya Arab militiamen and other Khartoum-backed forces massacred police and civilians. On March 2, the same forces—1000-strong—attacked another Abyei village, causing 33 casualties.

This violence has triggered a massive displacement of 45,000 Southern Sudanese—mostly women and children—fleeing south. Both the North and the South are preparing for conflict.

Please pray for the long-suffering, war-ravaged, predominantly Christian masses of South Sudan.

Pray specifically that:
  • God will have mercy on the impoverished, long-suffering, war-ravaged masses of South Sudan, especially those who faithfully love, worship, walk with and trust in the Lord.
  • the Holy Spirit will encourage and embolden Christian leaders, pastors and evangelists to preach and demonstrate radical faith despite the circumstances. May this radical faith witness effectively to multitudes.
  • God will grasp Sudan's leaders by their right hands and, for the sake of the Church, call them by name to do God's bidding, that all the peoples might know that God is the LORD (Isaiah 45:1-7).
This Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin was written for the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (AEA RLC) by Elizabeth Kendal, an international religious liberty analyst and advocate, and a member of the AEA RLC team.

You can read previous prayer bulletins here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tensions persist in Nigeria after armed attack

The inside of a burned
church in Nigeria
Tensions remain high in the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State, Nigeria, following an armed attack on March 10, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) last week.

According to reports, a large group of Fulani men armed with high-powered rifles and other weaponry descended on the area, shooting randomly and torching homes. While news agencies report that three people died in house fires, local churches, who are still collating their losses, say the final death toll is likely to be higher.

The Bauchi Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria said the attackers were part of a group of 2,000 militants who had allegedly planned to “storm the area for 14 days.” In one report received by CSW, local residents, who had been on the alert since receiving threats of an attack scheduled for March 6, eventually managed to chase their attackers away. Police reinforcements are now reported to be stationed in the area.

Tafawa Balewa is predominantly inhabited by non-Muslims from the Tsayawa tribe. The area has experienced numerous sectarian attacks since 1991, when a disagreement between a Fulani man and a Tsayawa meat seller escalated into violence. Villages were burnt, 173 churches were destroyed and 400 people lost their lives.

In 1995, 30 Tsayawa villages were razed and 140 people were killed, including 36 women and children who had taken refuge in a church in Gungu-Zango Village.  In June 2000, following the introduction of “full Shariah,” Muslim youths set fire to homes and a church, and between June and October 2001, approximately 30 people were killed and 18 injured by armed Fulanis.

More recently, in April 2010, the Reverend and Mrs Ishaya Kada of the Church of Christ in Nigeria were dragged from their home, hacked to death and burnt to ashes by Muslim assailants. In January this year, Tafawa Balewa witnessed further sectarian violence following a disagreement between youths that left several dead and churches and mosques destroyed.

Please pray for believers in Nigeria. Pray that increased persecution will result in increased boldness among the believers. Pray that as they suffer, they will find peace in the fact that as they have suffered with Christ, so they will be glorified with Him, being fellow heirs with Him (Romans 8:15-17). Pray, too, that those who oppress God’s children may experience repentance and salvation, just as Paul did (Acts 9:1-19).

Prayer Conference in Edmonton this weekend!

Join us a for a Prayer Conference and find out
how you can get involved in serving the
persecuted Church!
The Voice of the Martyrs annual Prayer Conferences are almost here!

This Saturday, March 19
West Meadows Baptist Church
Edmonton, Alberta
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Next Saturday, March 26
City Centre Baptist Church
Mississauga, Ontario
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This year, our special guest is Russell Stendal.

Russell Stendal was raised on the mission field in Colombia. He became a missionary jungle pilot at age 19. In 1983, Marxist rebels kidnapped him and held him hostage for five months. His book, Rescue the Captors, relates his experience, including how God worked in the hearts of the rebels.

Upon his release, God led Russell into radio ministry as a unique way to reach the fighting factions of the internal conflict in Colombia with the gospel.

Today, Russell heads up the work of Colombia Para Cristo, which operates 12 radio stations that cover much of Latin America with the gospel. Tens of thousands of people listen to radio broadcasts, as terrorists have banned church buildings, meetings and many ministries in the past 30 years. A thriving underground church continues to develop in remote jungle areas of Colombia.

In addition to our special guest, you will hear from the following individuals:
  • Klaas Brobbel, VOM’s Co-founder and Finance Administrator
  • Corey Odden, VOM’s CEO
  • Floyd Brobbel, VOM’s VP of Operations
  • Greg Musselman, VOM’s VP of Outreach
Make plans to join us for this incredible day of raising awareness for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world!
 

Monday, March 14, 2011

'Christians evangelists misleading youth,' says Iranian Ayatollah

Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani
“People have become Christians, and Shiite youth are being misled by Christianity,” said Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani during a March 9 religious class for students in the Islamic Seminary of Qom in Iran.

Mohabat News reported that a government-related website, Ayandeh, released words the Ayatollah shared with the class, criticizing Christian evangelism in Iran.

“The Christian-deviated teachings are being diverted to our nation, if the authorities even assume that something is going to shake their power, they will confront it with full force, but they do nothing against these evangelists who are misleading our Shiite youth population,” said the Ayatollah.

In an October visit to Qom, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (the Supreme Leader of the Islamic republic) warned against the growth of house churches in Iran. He called them enemies of Islam and said, “The enemies are working hard to promote Sufism, Baha’ism and Christianity in Iran.

Mohabat News said the Supreme Leader’s remarks were a green light to arrest Iranian Christians, especially new Christian converts from Islam.

Christians in Iran have faced a wave of arrests since last Christmas, and more than 200 believers have been detained.

House-church leader in Qu County, Sichuan, arrested

On March 10, Ms. Liao Zhongxiu, leader of a house church in Qu County, Sichuan Province, was arrested on so called “suspicion of utilizing a cult organization in undermining the implementation of the state law and regulations.” She is currently detained at Qu County Detention Center.

China Aid is reporting that Zhongxiu’s arrest is the result of her leading church members to hire attorneys to defend the legitimate rights of the church following an attack in September 2010.

On September 26, 2010, the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) raided Youqing Church in Qu County. Police officers smashed items in the church, confiscated books, took people to the local police station and then forced their families to pay money to bail them out. On September 29, some Christians from the church went to the PSB station to negotiate retrieval of confiscated items in accordance with law. Five believers were arrested on the spot and were detained for 15 days.

Please pray for Liao Zhongxiu’s release. Pray for physical, emotional and spiritual strength. Pray the believers who attend Youqing Church and Zhongxiu’s house church will continue to share the love of Christ with those around them while showing Christ’s love to those who seek to oppress them.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Light sentence for attack on Christians in Indonesia condemned

Rev. Luspida Simanjuntak
after the September attack.
A West Java court’s light sentence for Islamic extremists who injured a church pastor and an elder will encourage more violence and religious intolerance, said human rights and Christian leaders.

Those involved in the September 2010 clubbing of Rev. Rev. Luspida Simanjuntak and the stabbing of elder Hasian Lumbantoruan Sihombing of the Batak Christian Protestant Church in Ciketing received sentences of only five to seven months, reported Compass Direct News.

The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace released a statement asserting that the judges’ panel was acting under pressure from Muslim extremists. “The public will think that violence, intolerance and obstruction of worship are part of their religious worship and duties,” the institute stated regarding the February 24 sentences.

Saor Siagian, attorney for the church, told Compass that the alleged planner of the attack, Murhali Barda, head of the Bekasi chapter of the Islamic Defenders Front, received a sentence of only five months and 15 days for “disorderly conduct” even though he should have been prosecuted for incitement and joint assault.

Judges of the State Court in Bekasi, West Java, handed down a seven-month sentence to Adji Ahmad Faisal, who stabbed church elder Sihombing. Ade Firman, who clubbed Pastor Simanjuntak hard enough to send her to the hospital for treatment, was given a six-month sentence.

Pastor Simanjuntak said the light sentences showed that the state was unable to fully enforce the law. “This country is more afraid of the masses than standing for justice,” she said. “That’s what happened in the state court in Bekasi. With heavy hearts we accept the verdict.”

Friday, March 11, 2011

Write letters to Iranian prisoners!

Back in December, we shared with you that nine Iranian Christians had been arrested in Hamadan on charges of evangelistic activities.

Four of these individuals remain in prison. PrisonerAlert.com has added them to its Prisoner List. Please consider writing to these individuals today. They need our support and prayers!

Pastor Vahik Abrahamian and his wife, Sonia Keshish-Avanesian
Arash Kermanjani and his wife, Arezo Teymouri


Prison Address:
Tehran/Hamadan road
5th km to Hamadan
Voroudi Bahram Abad
Islamic Republic of Iran


The four individuals were detained on September 4, 2010. The two couples, who are close friends, were arrested at the Abrahamians' home in Hamadan and taken initially to the Ministry of Islamic Guidance prison.

For the first 40 days, they were held in solitary confinement and reportedly suffered physical abuse and psychological pressure. Pastor Vahik's wife Sonia, who was pregnant when she was arrested, is said to have suffered a miscarriage—her fourth.

The couples, who are now being held in Hamadan prison, have been accused of various offenses, including propagating Christianity, opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran, and having contact with exiled opposition figures.

Contacts have expressed concern about the couples' well-being and about their prospects for justice.

In addition to sending a letter, you can also visit PrisonerAlert.com and write a letter to these individuals in their own language. Want to know more about writing letters to prisoners and government officials? Download our Prisoners List here.

Please pray for their release!

5 Iranian believers convicted of ‘crimes against the order’

The Islamic Republic of Iran is continuing its campaign of persecution against evangelical and non-denominational house churches, reported ASSIST News Service on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz held a trial for the following individuals for actions against the Islamic order: Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, Mehdi Furutan, Mohammad Beliad, Parviz Khalaj and Nazly Beliad.

Jason DeMars of www.presmettruthmn.com reported, “They have been sentenced to one year in prison and have 20 days to appeal the sentencing. I ask that you pray for their safety and for wisdom to know the direction that God is leading them in their lives.”

DeMars said that when an individual in Iran becomes a Christian, there is the immediate understanding of the suffering that goes along with that decision.

There is pressure from their Muslim family as their conversion causes the family shame. There is the pressure that the government will find out about their conversion, arrest them, torture them and put them in prison. Currently, the political situation in Iran forces them to either meet completely secretly in extremely small groups, or not to meet at all.

Additionally, when Iranians apply for a job, they must disclose what religion they are a part of. Christians are not typically hired, said DeMars. Therefore their financial situations tend to be quite difficult.

You can read the full report here.

Please pray for the five imprisoned believers as well as other Christians in Iran who are suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ. Pray God will provide each with strength and safety and that their imprisonment will only increase their faith in Him. Pray for the leaders of Iran, that God would open their eyes and lead them to repentance.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Asia Bibi fears she's next, after Pakistani minister’s slaying

Asia Bibi fears death following
assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti,
a supporter.
Agenzia Fides posted a story on Tuesday about Asia Bibi and her fears following the March 2 assassination of Pakistani Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, one of her supporters. Her lawyer recently spoke with the news agency.

From her jail cell in Sheikhupura, Punjab province, Asia expressed her “pain and concern for the death of Minister Shahbaz Bhatti.” She is also saddened by the death of a person who “like Governor Taseer, defended her publicly, and paid with his life.”

The lawyer said, “Asia says that part of her hope died with Bhatti, but there are other things that give her hope: the support of all Christians in Pakistan and around the world; the visit of her children, made possible recently after bureaucratic problems.”

Asia is still afraid, given that she could be the next target of radical Islamic groups. Inside the jail in Sheikhupura, posters have appeared with images of Taseer and Bhatti with a large question mark and the phrase, “Who will be next?”

You can read the full report here.

Please continue to lift up Asia and her family in your prayers. Pray for physical protection and strength as well as spiritual strength.

Christians persecuted in Henan and Jiangsu

Pray for house-church leaders and believers in China!
On March 1, agents from the Domestic Security Protection Squad (DSPS) of Xiayi County, Henan Province, came to a house church in Hanzhen Town and took away three Christians, two of whom were women, reported China Aid Association.

The agents seized copies of the Bible; more than 1,000 Yuan of cash; and copies of a book titled A Stormy Life by Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance.

After the DSPS agents conducted an interrogation that lasted over three hours, they released the three Christians and warned them not to associate with Pastor Zhang Mingxuan. The agents also accused them of believing in a cult.

On March 4, Public Security Bureau agents from Suqian, Jiangsu Province, went to Nanyang, Henan Province, and took Pastor Shi Enhao, vice-president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, back to Jiangsu for detention. The latest update is that he was released on March 6.

At this time of crises and unrest in China, we encourage churches and individual Christians worldwide to pray that Christ will bless His people and bring about peaceful change in China, making it a society of justice and love where people are full of knowledge of the Lord.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Court upholds 15-year sentence of Chinese Christian

Pray for Alimujiang Yimiti's release
from prison.
Alimujiang Yimiti will not be released from prison anytime soon.

ChinaAid has learned that the Higher People’s Court of Xinjiang ruled to uphold the original sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment. A notice was sent mid-February to Alim, who is serving his sentence in Xinjiang’s No. 3 Prison.

Alim, a Uyghur house-church leader, was arrested in January 2008. He was sentenced in 2009 to 15 years’ imprisonment for “providing state secrets to overseas organizations.” The charge was based on two private conversations between Alim and an American friend, even though there was no evidence to suggest that sensitive information was discussed.

In November 2010, a high court accepted Alim’s appeal to have his case reviewed. In December 2010, Alim’s wife and two lawyers prepared an appeal. The judge, however, informed them that the collegiate bench had already studied the case and made a decision.

We’ll have more information about Alim in our upcoming April newsletter, along with other China updates. Want to subscribe? Go here.

You can also visit http://www.freealim.com/ to sign a petition to free Alim. Or visit http://www.prisoneralert.com/ to write a letter to Alim in his own language.

Anniversary of Dogo Nahauwa massacre in Nigeria comes and goes; no change

Persecution in Dogo Nahauwa
remains unchanged one year
after a massacre.
One year ago this past Monday, armed Fulani men massacred more than 400 Christians in Dogo Nahauwa, Zot and Ratsat villages, in Jos South, Nigeria. Today, women and children continue to be the target of violent attacks, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Despite a heavy security presence in the area, entire families were murdered on March 7, 2010, using tactics that have since become the hallmark of attacks on non-Muslim villages.

Villagers were awaken in the early hours of the morning by gunfire and shouting, as homes were set on fire and victims hacked with machetes. Women and children in particular were targeted, a trend that has only become more widespread in the past year.

On that occasion, the army was slow to respond with assistance, leading some victims to question their commitment to tackling the violence.

Confidence in the security services has continued to plummet as attacks regularly occur in villages within close proximity to military outposts. Concerns of possible collusion in the violence by some parts of the army have grown, following increasing reports of attackers dressed in military uniform or driving military vehicles, and the discovery of military ID, bullet shells and attire at some of the crime scenes. 

This year alone, violent nighttime attacks on villages and university and college campuses in Plateau State, have left more than 50 people dead.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pray for Somali believers

Pray for our Somali brothers and
sisters worldwide!
From time to time, we receive prayer requests from other ministries that share our passion for serving the persecuted Church.

Please take some time to stand with VOM and Somali Christian Ministries in praying for Somali Christians worldwide.

Pray specifically for:
  • A Somali man who wants to know how to have a tangible experience with God. This man has been searching for God for years and has met with our contact many times in the last 5 years.
  • God to continue to draw Somalis to Himself through http://www.somalichristians.org/ and the teaching and preaching found there.
  • Christians who have contacted Somali Christian Ministries because they are witnessing to Somalis. Individuals are provided with prayer, counsel and resources to further their evangelism. This is exciting as several people contacted the ministry in February for this purpose.
  • That the Spirit of God would reap a harvest in light of the many recent martyrs who have been trying to reach Somalis for Christ. Most recently, the four retired people who were travelling around the world by yacht to hand out Bibles and were murdered by Somali pirates. May God’s Spirit bless their surviving family members and may God hear our cries to change the hearts of Somalis worldwide.

 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with
the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Luke 6:38
 

Shahbaz Bhatti in his own words

Pakistan's Minister of Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated on March 2 while on his way to work in Islamabad.

This is the latest attack on a high-profile Pakistani figure who urged reforming harsh blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam.

In this report from Christian World News, hear Bhatti share in his own words how he was prepared to die serving the Christians of Pakistan. (Length 2:05)



To see more videos like this one, visit Persecution.TV today.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spate of attacks on Christians erupts in Orissa, India

Pray for believers in Orissa state!
Hindu extremists have attacked Koya tribal Christians in villages in a remote area of Orissa state at least 15 times since December 8, 2010, reported Compass Direct News.

In the latest incident on February 23, about 60 assailants from the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Murliguda damaged the eardrums of Bhadan Hontal and beat Markari Soma until he fell unconscious, according to a report by the Malkangiri District Christian Manch (MDCM).

Christian women, some pregnant, as well as children were among those injured in the attacks on churches. The spate of attacks began on December 8, in Katanpali village, when about 35 Hindu extremists stormed the house of Pastor Mark Markani and beat him.

On December 25, some 200 extremists barged into a Christmas Day celebration at a church in Koyi Konda village, beat the worshippers and destroyed furniture. About 10 houses belonging to Christians and their crops were destroyed.

The Christians filed a police complaint, but no action was taken.

Christians have suffered midnight raids on prayer meetings in which they have been beaten, resulting in some Christians fleeing their homes and going into hiding. At least four families have left their village and not returned due to extremist warnings, reported the MDCM.

At the same time, Hindu extremists have forced about 25 people to convert to Hinduism in the Mottu area.

Church leaders said increased attacks on Christians are a symptom of fear and envy among Hindu extremists, who perceive that Christianity is spreading in many areas and who mistake Christian social and educational ministries as illegally “luring” people to convert.

The local Christian community has met with various district authorities to address the situation, including the chief minister.

On March 3, area Christian leaders again met with the area district collector, who assured them that immediate action would be taken. Meanwhile, village Christians received rice and some essential items from the administration.

Area Christians fear that Malkangiri may see the same kind of eruption of violence that killed at least 100 people in Kandhamal district. Particularly since the same officials have been transferred from Kandhamal to Malkangiri district.

Nearly 4,000 Muslims attack Christian homes in Egypt

Pray for Egyptian believers!
A mob of nearly 4,000 Muslims attacked Coptic homes on March 5 in the village of Sool, Atfif, in Helwan Governorate, 30 kilometres from Cairo. They also torched the Church of St. Mina and St. George, reported Assyrian International News Agency.

There are conflicting reports about the whereabouts of the Church pastor Father Yosha and three deacons who were at church; some say they died in the fire and some say they are being held captive by the Muslims inside the church.

Witnesses report the mob prevented the fire brigade from entering the village. The army, which was stationed for two days prior in the village of Bromil, 7 kilometres from Sool, initially refused to go into Sool, according to the officer in charge. When the army finally sent three tanks to the village, Muslim elders sent them away, saying that everything was “in order now.”

A curfew was imposed on the 12,000 Christians in the village.

The incident was triggered by a relationship between 40-year-old Copt Ashraf Iskander and a Muslim woman. A "reconciliation" meeting was arranged between the relevant Coptic and Muslim families and together with the Muslim elders it was decided that Ashraf Iskander would have to leave the village because Muslims torched his house.

The father of the Muslim woman was killed by his cousin because he did not kill his daughter to preserve the family's honour, which led the woman's brother to avenge the death of his father by killing the cousin. The village Muslims blamed the Christians.

The Muslim mob attacked the church, exploding five to six gas cylinders inside the church. They pulled down the cross and the domes and burnt everything inside.

The mob reportedly broke into Coptic homes, too.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pakistan Christians bury murdered leader Shahbaz Bhatti

Pray for Christians in
Pakistan today!
An advocate for Christians in Pakistan was laid to rest today, and the government is observing three days of mourning, reported Mission Network News.

Even as Pakistan's clerics and other senior leaders condemned Wednesday's assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, Christians took to the streets in Lahore, expressing their ire.

Bhatti was the federal minister of minority affairs, as well as the only Christian in the cabinet. Anger stirred over the lack of protection for those championing the cause of the oppressed Christians.

By Thursday, demonstrations were held across Punjab, where Governor Salman Taseer was murdered in January. Both were outspoken opponents of the controversial blasphemy law, and both had faced down death threats to keep speaking out about the injustices of the law.

However, other politicians may be afraid of speaking out on the blasphemy law, which is now politically toxic and potentially life-threatening.

Other reports to take a look at:

The Christian Post:
“Pakistan's President, Opposition Leaders Absent at Bhatti's Memorial”

Charisma:
“Uproar follows Assassination of Christian Minister in Pakistan”

Christian Today India:
“Pakistan’s Christians fear for safety after Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination”

BBC News:
“Pakistan Christians bury murdered leader Shahbaz Bhatti”

Murder of Chaldean man in Iraq raises fears

A group of armed men burst into the home of an elderly believer, stabbing him to death in Iraq, reported AsiaNews.

Youssif Isho, a 70-year-old Chaldean Christian, lived alone in Karrad, central Baghdad. According to information obtained by AsiaNews, Youssif Isho's death was a targeted killing by extremist groups.

Sources warned AsiaNews that other attacks against Christians are possible in the capital. "The faithful continue to suffer," a Christian leader said, "and people are scared, moving cautiously out of fear of more violence." Street demonstrations were scheduled in Iraq's main cities in the wake of the attack.

Pray for all those grieving the loss of this Christian man. Pray the Lord will strengthen the faith of believers in Iraq and take away all fear. Pray the Lord will strengthen and grow the Church in spite of the ongoing violence towards Christians.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pakistan’s sole Christian minister assassinated

Shahbaz Bhatti was
murdered today.
VOM sources in Pakistan learned today that Pakistan’s Minister of Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated Wednesday while on his way to work in Islamabad.

This is the latest attack on a high-profile Pakistani figure who had urged reforming harsh blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam.

Bhatti was on his way to work when unknown gunmen riddled his car with bullets. The minister arrived dead at Shifa Hospital.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but private Pakistani TV channels showed pamphlets at the scene of the killing that were attributed to the Pakistani Taliban warning of the same fate for anyone opposing the blasphemy laws.

An eyewitness saw three gunmen open fire on Bhatti’s car as he left his house. The gunmen then sped away in a car. It was not immediately clear why Bhatti, a member of the ruling Pakistani People’s Party, did not have bodyguards with him.

Pakistani government leaders condemned the attack.

“This is concerted campaign to slaughter every liberal, progressive and humanist voice in Pakistan,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, an aide to President Asif Ali Zardari. “The time has come for the federal government and provincial governments to speak out and to take a strong stand against these murderers to save the very essence of Pakistan.”

In recent months, Bhatti boldly defended Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. After the killing of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, whom Islamic fundamentalists blamed for having defended Asia Bibi, Bhatti became the radicals’ “top target.”

Bhatti was in Canada just last month, meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and several cabinet ministers during his visit to Ottawa. According to a spokeman for the prime minister, the men discussed the importance of standing up for the rights of religious minorities.

Thank the Lord for the life of Shahbaz Bhatti and his attempts to change Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Pray the Lord will bring comfort to his family in their time of sorrow. Pray the Lord will not allow Pakistani believers to be discouraged, but to be emboldened in their faith, putting their trust in the everlasting God.

Christian students attacked by Muslim mob in Ethiopia

Pray for Christian college students
attacked in Ethiopia.
A Muslim mob assaulted and wounded 17 Christian college students on a mission trip in Oma village, Ethiopia, on February 26, reported International Christian Concern (ICC).

The mob overwhelmed the government militia who attempted to protect the students. When the Christians fled the village, the mob unsuccessfully attempted to set fire to their car.

The students, who were from Meda Welabu University, went to the Muslim village in Bale province on a short-term mission trip. After the students started to distribute Bibles and speak with the Muslims, one of the villagers angrily argued with them, inciting a mob to attack the students. The Muslims hurled stones at the Christians and beat them with rods.

Speaking with ICC, one of the victims who wanted to remain anonymous said, “We thank God that no one was killed. It’s sad that we suffered the attacks despite the Ethiopian laws which say there is freedom of religion and equality in the country.”

While Ethiopia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, Muslims occasionally attack Christians living in Muslim-majority areas.

Please pray for believers in Ethiopia today!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pray for those imprisoned in Iran

Sam Yeghnazar, director of Elam Ministries, recently shared a letter on how to pray specifically for those currently imprisoned in Iran.

Dear friends,

Last week I had a very strong leading to pray specifically for the prisons in Iran. Prison is a place that people dread. This is where our brothers and sisters are suffering. It is where they win victories or suffer defeat. So it would be good to start from prison. I felt that in our intercession we should gain victory over the prisons and spiritually plunder them.

How should we pray?

Pray for the Christian prisoners:
  • That they put on the whole "Armour of God" and are alert and ready for any attack. 
  • Are mentally prepared that the interrogators will tell them lies, accuse them and their friends of things they have NOT said or done.
  • Put their trust wholly in the Lord. And in no way give room to fear—knowing that God’s promises are true and He will never leave nor forsake them. Pray they will see miracles.
  • That the Lord will give them compassion towards their persecutors.
  • That they will be given the right words to speak and receive words of knowledge.
  • That they will be able to place into the Lord’s hands their families and loved ones, also any church members for whom they have been responsible.
  • That they will witness to other prisoners.
Pray for their persecutors:
  • That God will revive their consciences, so they will be convicted of wrongdoing. That they will not harm the prisoners.
  • That they will be fear stricken and dread will cover them, so they will dread to harm the prisoners.
  • That their reasoning with the prisoners becomes impaired and that they will realize what they are doing is wrong.
  • That they will call upon the Lord to forgive them and like the jailor in Philippi ask, “What shall I do to be saved?”
Pray for other Prisoners:
  • That they will hear the message of salvation clearly.
  • That the Holy Spirit will convict them that they are sinners too.
  • That they will repent and receive salvation.
Thank you for praying.

Sam Yeghnazar
Director
Please pray with us for our brothers and sisters in Iran!

Monk, workers shot in attack on monastery in Egypt

Pray for those attacked at an
Egyptian monastery last week.
One monk and six church workers were shot and wounded last week when the Egyptian Army attacked a Coptic Orthodox monastery in order to destroy a wall monks had built to defend their property from raiders, sources told Compass Direct News.

The attack with small arms, heavy machine guns and armoured personnel carriers happened February 23 at the Anba Bishoy Monastery in Wadi Al-Natroun, 110 kilometres north of Cairo. The soldiers used armoured personnel carriers to bulldoze the wall, sources said, as the monks sang a prayer in unison, declaring, “God is merciful.” A monk who witnessed the attack said on condition of anonymity that the scene resembled “a war zone.”

As of yesterday, seven people remained in the Anglo American Hospital in Cairo, two of them in critical condition.

The attack took place in the wake of the political riots that swept through Egypt beginning January 25, culminating in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak on February 11.

As security diminished, the Anba Bishoy Monastery had come under increasing attacks from raiders and criminals set free from prisons. The military had denied a request for protection from the monks, who then built a brick wall with a metal gate to control access. The army later claimed the monastery had not acquired the proper permits and issued a deadline for the wall to be torn down.

The monks refused to demolish the wall, and the army moved in. The attack followed other anti-Christian incidents throughout Egypt.

You can read the full report here.