Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Attack sparks revival in Nigeria

A wounded Nigerian in one of the many attacks by Boko Haram
Photo: Compass Direct News
Increasing violence in Nigeria has only strengthened local Christians' faith, even sparking a revival at the Deeper Life Bible Church in Gombe, where nine Christians were martyred in a January 5 attack (for more information, click here).

According to our sister mission, VOM-USA, many believers rededicated their lives to Christ and others came to faith in Christ for the first time during a funeral service on January 19 for those killed. Weeping and singing while on their knees, a choir led about 500 attendees and 50 pastors in worship. The martyrs' relatives and other dignitaries – including the deputy governor speaking on behalf of the state's governor – spoke about each murdered Christian. The four-hour service then moved on to intercessory prayer for the Church in Nigeria, the nation at large, Muslims in Nigeria, and the Muslim extremist group Boko Haram.

"The leader of the prayers based most of the prayers from the book of Isaiah 61:1–4, among other scriptures, which strengthen and encourage the Church. He encouraged the Church to be more prayerful than complaining," said a VOM worker. "He said the Lord knows how to fight His own battle in His own way, and we should not revenge whatsoever."

Please join us in praying!
  • Pray that the Lord will continue to comfort and provide for those mourning.
  • Pray that He will sustain the faith of believers in Nigeria during these difficult trials.
  • Pray that Christians in Nigeria will receive a crown of beauty, the oil of joy and the garment of praise from the Lord (Isaiah 61:3).
To learn more about persecution in Nigeria, go to the Nigeria Country Report.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Violent guerrilla group impedes evangelism in Colombia

Pray that God’s Word and other Christian
material will reach all the regions of Colombia.
Members of the notorious guerrilla group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) recently prevented a VOM evangelist, "Rolo," from entering La Macarena region in Colombia with radios, Bibles and Christian books, reports our sister mission, VOM-USA.

The Marxist-Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization has been a significant contributor to violence and volatility in the region. A VOM worker in the area reported that members of FARC are closing the churches and burning the buses of those attempting to enter the area.

Leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups in the country are both acting as lawless gangs raising funds with drug trafficking and ransom kidnapping. Despite the upheaval and political violence, however, the Church is flourishing. While there were about 15,000 evangelical Christians in Colombia in 1933, by last year, they numbered between 3.5 and 5 million with some churches growing 1,000-fold over the last two decades.

Please pray for Colombia.
  • Please pray that Rolo's evangelistic efforts will not be thwarted any longer and that Christians in the region will not be impeded in sharing the gospel message. 
  • Pray that the Church will continue to thrive despite the efforts to keep it from doing so.
Want to learn more about persecution in Colombia? Watch an interview with Celso, a mission worker in Colombia who was kidnapped but continues to share God’s love, or visit our Colombia Country Report for more information and for additional prayer requests. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Christian teenager abducted in Egypt

Amira Gamal Saber, a 16-year-old Egyptian Christian, was abducted in early December 2011 from Saft-el-Khamar village, Minya Province, reports the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission.

The head of security in Minya confirmed her kidnapping but failed to act. A few weeks later, a man phoned Amira's family demanding a ransom. The family travelled to Giza with the ransom money, but once they arrived they were directed to the police station and informed that government prosecutors were handling the case.

In court, a prosecutor backed by 12 lawyers told Amira's parents that their daughter wanted to convert to Islam. He ruled therefore, that Amira be sent to a state-run care facility in Giza until she turns 18 and may legally profess Islam for herself. Her father is appealing to the Attorney General.

Please pray!
  • Please pray the Lord will intervene in Amira's situation. 
  • Ask Him to give her and her family the strength to endure this current hardship. 
  • Pray for all believers in Egypt; may they keep their eyes on Jesus, persevere in their faith, and not grow weary or lose heart (Hebrews 10:32-39; 12:1-3).
To learn more about the suffering of believers in Egypt, go to the Egypt Country Report.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Does your passion have a price?

Thirteen Three is the youth and young adult initiative of The Voice of The Martyrs Canada. Like our sister organization in Australia, Thirteen Three’s mission is to empower and impassion young adults to be bound with their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ through praying, giving, writing, and telling others.

In this video, the director of Thirteen Three, Pastor Dave, shares about VOM founder Richard Wurmbrand and asks the question, “Does your passion have a price?”

Get involved with Thirteen Three! Watch Thirteen Three videos, visit us online, “like” us on Facebook, or join us at our launch this April in Calgary.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bible college bombed in Sudan

This church building, built by Samaritan's Purse,
was bombed in January.
© 2008 Samaritan's Purse.
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
A Bible school supported by Samaritan's Purse was destroyed on February 1 in the latest bombing raid to hit South Kordofan, a Sudanese province that borders the newly created independent country of South Sudan (for more on South Sudan, click here).

Eight bombs were dropped in the area of Heiban Bible College during the school's first day of classes. According to eyewitness accounts, the bombing required a sustained effort with at least four flyover passes.

Fortunately, no injuries were reported. "We have been working for years in Sudan," Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham said after the attack. "Today our Bible school in Heiban in the Nuba Mountains was bombed by the Sudanese Air Force. No one was killed or hurt, but buildings were destroyed. Please pray for the safety of believers, and that God would intervene."

Since early August, at least four churches built by Samaritan's Purse have been destroyed by bombing or burning.

Thank the Lord no one was injured or killed. Pray the Lord will strengthen the faith of the students and other believers after this attack and ask Him to provide for them. Pray the Holy Spirit will bring new life and faith to the people around the Nuba Mountains. Pray for those behind these attacks.

For more information on persecution in Sudan, visit the Sudan Country Report. To post a prayer of solidarity with suffering believers in Sudan, visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Overcomers: Nigeria

Members of the radical Islamic group, Boko Haram, killed 29 Christians in two days. The killings followed a threat issued by radical group Boko Haram telling Christians to leave northern Nigeria within three days. To find out more, watch this one minute video.

Interested in sharing about the persecuted Church with your congregation or small group? Consider playing an Overcomers clip, or our monthly 10-minute Persecution Report, and spending time afterwards in prayer.

Persecuted Christians: Affliction or privilege? (Part 2)

Last week, we shared with you the first of three videos from a conference recently held by The Moody Church about the persecuted Church.

The conference, entitled Persecuted Christians: Affliction or Privilege? The Impact of Islam in the East & West was designed to increase awareness about the persecution of Christians, especially those in Muslim countries.

Below is the next video in the series, entitled “The Legacy of the Eastern Church in the Face of Persecution.” We encourage you to watch this video to learn more about Christians living under Islamic regimes and to be inspired to pray for them!

We’d love to hear from you! Please share your reflections on this video below. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Story from church history: Polycarp burned at the stake

An elderly man in his eighties sat at a table eating dinner. Polycarp knew his life was in danger. A group of Christians had just been executed in the arena on account of their faith. But Polycarp refused to leave Rome. The Romans were executing any self-proclaimed Christians, and pagans were betraying those they knew to be Christians. After the recent executions, the crowd in the arena had chanted for Polycarp’s death.

A renowned follower of Christ and bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp had become a Christian under the tutelage of John the apostle. Recently, the Roman proconsul had been looking for him for days. After arresting and torturing one of Polycarp’s servants, they finally learned where he was staying. The soldiers came into the house, but instead of fleeing, Polycarp calmly stated, “God’s will be done.”

Polycarp asked that food be brought for the soldiers, and he requested an hour for prayer. Amazed by Polycarp’s fearlessness, especially for a man his age, the hardened Roman soldiers granted his request. He prayed for two hours for all the Christians he knew and for the universal church, and the soldiers let him.

A proconsul (an important magistrate) ordered Polycarp to renounce Christ and give obedience to Caesar as Lord. Polycarp answered, "Eighty and six years have I served Christ, nor has He ever done me any harm. How, then, could I blaspheme my King who saved me? You threaten the fire that burns for an hour and then is quenched; but you know not of the fire of the judgment to come, and the fire of eternal punishment. Bring what you will."

Polycarp, the last one of those personally taught by the apostles, was burned at the stake on this day, February 23, 155.

Excerpted from Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs and an article by Dan Graves.

Ugandan convert to Christianity flees country

A convert to Christianity who was formerly a member of a Muslim extremist group has fled Uganda and is in hiding in Kenya, reports Compass Direct News. Hassan Sharif Lubenga, 54, was a sheikh and a member of a violent Islamist group. In June 2011, after dreams and visions in which Jesus appeared to him, Hassan made a full commitment to follow Christ.

Extremists have been threatening Hassan since 2007, when he first began to speak of dreams and visions of Christ. Dangers peaked when Muslims saw him visiting a church. By April 2010, one of his four wives poisoned him because of his budding faith in Christ, leaving him unconscious. Due to increasing hostility, Hassan fled to Kenya in July 2011. Upon returning to Uganda in September, he learned that extremists and his former colleagues were threatening to kill him.

When Hassan felt like giving up on his new faith, he received a call from Bishop Umar Mulinde, his former pastor who was later attacked by Muslim militants (for more on Umar's attack, click here). Umar told him the church was praying for him, and Hassan was deeply heartened. Hassan has since fled again to Kenya, where his movements are severely restricted.

You can help by praying.
  • Ask the Lord to continue to strengthen Hassan – may God use his testimony to encourage the faith of other Christians in Uganda and Kenya. 
  • Pray that Hassan's conviction will also cause many of his former friends and contacts to question their Islamic faith. 
  • Ask the Lord to provide for Hassan's every need. 
  • Praise the Lord for the way He touches people through dreams and visions.
To share a prayer for Christians suffering in Uganda, visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Execution orders may have been issued for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani
Photo: Present Truth Ministries
According to contacts in Iran, the execution orders for Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani may have been issued, reports the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

Pastor Youcef’s situation – an innocent man convicted and sentenced to death for becoming a Christian – has not been this dire since ACLJ first reported his story last year.

It is unclear whether Pastor Youcef would have a right of appeal from the execution order. We know that the head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, must approve publicly held executions, but only a small percentage of executions are held public — most executions in Iran are conducted in secret.

There has also been a disturbing increase in the number of executions conducted by the Iranian regime in the last month.

Iran is actively violating its human rights obligations by sentencing and detaining Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. ACLJ is calling on the Iranian government to release Pastor Youcef immediately.

Please pray, share Youcef’s story with others, and raise a voice on his behalf.
  • Contact Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird. Send him an email today at You can also mail him postage-free at:
           The Honourable John Baird
           House of Commons
           Ottawa, ON
           K1A 0A6
  • Be sure to copy your local MP on the letter to Mr. Baird. You can locate your MP’s contact information here.
  • Contact the Iranian embassy in Canada:
          Mr. Kambiz Sheikh Hassani
          Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
          245 Metcalfe Street
          Ottawa, ON K2P 2K2

          Fax: (613) 232-5712
          Telephone: (613) 235-4726

Use the sample letter below to guide you as you write. For further guidelines on how to write government officials, click here.

* * *

[Government official’s address]

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. [MP’s surname] OR His Excellency Kambiz Sheikh Hassani,

I am writing today to express my concern for Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old pastor from Rasht, Iran, was arrested in October 2009 after he protested a government policy that required children, including his eight- and nine-year-old sons, to study the Qur’an in school. Nadarkhani told school officials that the Iranian constitution allows for freedom of religious practice.

As a result of his protest, secret police called him before a political tribunal and arrested him for protesting. The charges were later amended to apostasy and evangelism of Muslims. Nadarkhani was tried on September 21 and 22, 2010, and sentenced to death for apostasy on November 13.

In July 2011, the Supreme Court instructed the Revolutionary Tribunal of Gilan Province to review his case to verify whether he was previously a practicing Muslim. During hearings on September 25-28, the court in Rasht ruled that Pastor Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim before becoming a Christian but that he remains guilty of apostasy because of his Muslim ancestry.

There are reports that execution orders for Pastor Nadarkhani may have been issued.

Pastor Nadarkhani faces the death penalty solely on the basis of his adopting Christianity. As such, the Islamic Republic of Iran is violating its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 18 includes a provision for the right to “have or to adopt” a religion, which has been interpreted authoritatively by the UN Human Rights Committee as including the right to change one’s religion.

Further, Iran’s constitution sanctions Christianity as a legitimate minority faith and asserts that Christians are allowed to freely carry out their religious rites. Article 23 asserts that no one may be “reprimanded simply because of having a certain belief.”

I am very concerned about Pastor Nadarkhani’s welfare and I respectfully request that you give your attention to this urgent matter. Thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name and address]

Escalating insecurity for Christians in Egypt

Nancy and Christine were kidnapped in 2011.
Pray that increased persecution in Egypt will result in
increased boldness among believers (Acts 4:29-31).
(Photo: FrontPage Magazine) 
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin

Islamisation is advancing across Egypt post-Mubarak, facilitated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi ultra-fundamentalist Muslims. As the Islamic order is established, Christians are reduced to second-class citizens without fundamental human rights, their lives dependent on their total submission to the Islamic order.

These crimes are being committed with impunity, in accordance with Shariah. Thus Christians are finding their security is deteriorating dramatically and rapidly.

Escalating violence, theft and extortion

On January 20, a Muslim mob chanting “Allahu Akbar” went on a pogrom, attacking and torching properties belonging to Copts in the village of Rahmaniya-Kebly, Nag Hammadi, in Upper (southern) Egypt's volatile Qena Province.

According to Mary Abdelmassih of the Assyrian International News Agency, security forces were present but reportedly did not intervene and the fire brigade turned up 90 minutes late. Miraculously, nobody was killed or injured.

It is understood the pogrom started with a Muslim suggesting that a Coptic-owned hut be torched to make way for a mosque. This was no joke nor idle threat, with the trend towards escalating incidents of Muslim appropriation of Coptic properties for the benefit of the Muslim community.

Escalating kidnap, rape and forced Islamisation

Hundreds of Christian girls are forcibly Islamised every year in Egypt. As Coptic activist Mark Ebeid explains, the Salafi ultra-fundamentalist Muslims “believe strongly that converting a Christian Infidel is in some ways like earning a ticket to paradise – not to mention the earthly remuneration they get from the Saudis.”

Generally, the Christian girls are kidnapped and raped over many days. During this time they are brainwashed to believe they could never return home because of the shame they would bring on their families. The girls are then married off to Islamists and accepted by the Muslim community. The Christian parents frantically searching for their abducted daughters are obstructed at every turn.

Please pray specifically that:
  • the Holy Spirit will draw Egypt's wounded, anxious Christians ever closer to him.
  • Egypt's Christians will learn to look to and depend on the LORD; may He answer their cries and may the devil have no victory over them.
  • God will reveal himself in Egypt as the One who judges, rules, compensates, loves and saves. (Isaiah 40:10,11 ESV)
For more information on Egypt’s suffering Christians, visit the Egypt Country Report.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In mailboxes this week!

Look for the March issue of The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter in your mailbox this week!

In this issue:
  • No God for the Malays: Malaysia is often upheld as the ideal model of a moderate Islamic society, abounding in cultural and religious tolerance. But the appearance of tolerance vanishes when ethnic Malays decide to convert from Islam to another religion. Read about several Malays who have faced the consequences for turning to Christ.
  • Secret visit: The Malaysian government has called them places for Muslims to strengthen their faith, but for Christians who have left Islam, their experience is entirely different. Gary Lane brings you a short update on these Islamic Purification Centres with a special video link to view his report.
  • Bibles for difficult situations: From William Tyndale’s small “pirate” edition Bible to a tiny Russian New Testament, printing methods have changed to accommodate getting Bibles into difficult areas, especially those hostile to the gospel. Read what VOM offices are doing to support such projects.
  • Update on Somchi: You read her story in our Special Edition, now learn how Somchi of Laos is doing since her Bible was blamed for making her mother sick.
  • Save the Date! Don’t miss the launch of VOM’s youth initiative Thirteen Three on Friday, April 13th and our Standing in the Fire prayer conference on Saturday, April 14th—both in Calgary, Alberta.
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.

Pastor Youcef reportedly in imminent danger

Please pray for Pastor Youcef!
Photo: Present Truth Ministries
There has been an extremely dangerous turn of events for an Iranian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, leading to an increased likelihood that the regime will execute him for his faith, reports the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

Pastor Youcef’s case had been stalled due to increased international pressure and the Iranian court’s request that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, decide Pastor Youcef’s fate (for more information, click here). Now, because Pastor Youcef has continually refused to give into the regime’s demands that he renounce his Christian faith, the likelihood that the Iranian regime will execute him increases by the day.

ACLJ notes the situation has not been this dire since Pastor Youcef’s story was first reported.

Please pray for Pastor Youcef, and please share this latest update with your friends, family members, and churches.

To find out how you can raise a voice for Pastor Youcef, click here.

Extremists in Somalia arrest man whose sons converted to Christianity

On January 14, Somali Muslim extremists arrested a Muslim man after two of his teenage children converted to Christianity in Kismayo, reports International Christian Concern.

The two teenage sons of Mo'alim Mohamud Aw-Omar converted to Christianity in late 2011. They fled their home following their conversion. Members of the radical Islamic group, al-Shabaab, accused Aw-Omar of "failing to raise his sons as good Muslims" because "good Muslims cannot convert to Christianity." Aw-Omar, who is still a Muslim, insisted that his sons had memorized the Qur'an, fasted and prayed regularly, and therefore he should not be accused of failing his duties.

According to sources on the ground, the Islamists have refused to release Aw-Omar until his two sons return to Kismayo. This is unlikely to happen because the young men will be killed if they return. According to the strict interpretation of the Islamic law that al-Shabaab follows, leaving Islam is a crime punishable by death. Radical Islamists have killed a number of Christian converts in Somalia. This is the first confirmed case of a parent being arrested for the conversion of children.

  • Please pray that Aw-Omar will also put his hope and trust in the Lord. Pray for his release. 
  • Pray the Lord will protect and provide for his two sons. 
  • Pray that Christians in Somalia will take up their cross, loving Christ more than anything or anyone else, even their families (Matthew 10:37-38). 
  • Pray believers will remain steadfast in their faith despite increasing persecution in Somalia.
Go to the Somalia Country Report for more on Somalia's suffering Church.

Monday, February 20, 2012

House church leader released from prison in China

Praise God that Shi Enhao was released early!
Photo: ChinaAid Association
Shi Enhao, a house church pastor and vice president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was unexpectedly released from a labour camp on January 20, reports ChinaAid Association. At last report, the legal basis for his early release was not yet known.

Pastor Shi was sentenced to two years of "re-education through labour" in July 2011 for "illegal meetings and illegal organizing of venues for religious meetings" (for more, click here). Following his arrest, police ordered Pastor Shi's house church, which has several thousand members and meets in various locations, to stop gathering. They also confiscated instruments, choir robes, a car, and 140,000 Yuan (approximately $20,900 CAD) in donations from the church.

Praise God for Pastor Shi's release from prison!
  • Pray that the Lord will meet every need of this pastor and his family.
  • Pray that believers in Pastor Shi's church will be encouraged to continue to meet together despite opposition (Hebrews 10:23-25).
  • Pray that the gospel will continue to advance in China.
Please visit the China Country Report to learn more about China's suffering Christians.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A memorable letter home

In June 1990, a fierce nationalist reaction in China against Christian missionaries and churches claimed more than 32,000 lives. The worst massacres occurred in the northern province of Shanxi. The pregnant Lizzie Atwater wrote a memorable letter home before she and six others were martyred.
Dear ones, I long for a sight of your dear faces, but I fear we shall not meet on Earth. I am preparing for the end very quietly and calmly.
The Lord is wonderfully near, and He will not fail me. I was very restless and excited while there seemed a chance of life, but God has taken away that feeling, and now I just pray for grace to meet the terrible end bravely. The pain will soon be over, and oh the sweetness of the welcome above!
My little baby will go with me. I think God will give it to me in heaven and my dear mother will be so glad to see us. I cannot imagine the Saviour's welcome. Oh, that will compensate for all these days of suspense. Dear ones, live near to God and cling less closely to Earth.
There is no other way by which we can receive that peace from God which passeth understanding. I must keep calm and still these hours. I do not regret coming to China.
On August 15, 1900, soldiers took Lizzie and ten others away from the relative safety of a nearby town and hacked them to death with their swords, tossing the bodies into a pit.

Excerpted from Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs, which was written by John Foxe and The Voices of the Martyrs and published in 2007. You can order a copy of this book from our online resource catalogue.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Update on Christians arrested in church raid in Ahvaz, Iran

In January we requested prayer following a raid on an officially recognized church in Ahvaz, Iran.

Middle East Concern reports that three Christians detained during the raid remain imprisoned: the church's pastor, Farhad, and two other church members, Davoud and Naser. Farhad's wife, Shahnaz, was detained but released on January 1.

There is mounting concern for Farhad's health. He had been receiving medical treatment shortly before being detained. In jail, he has been denied access to a doctor and has been unable to continue his medication.

Shahnaz was released when a property title deed was deposited as bail. However, there are no known charges against her, nor against Farhad, Davoud and Naser.

Iranian Christians request our prayers that:
  • Farhad, Davoud and Naser will know the presence, peace and healing of Jesus, and that they will be acquitted and released soon.
  • Shahnaz and other family members of detainees will know the Father's strength.
  • All church members will know the Spirit's wisdom and guidance, especially concerning meeting together for worship.
  • All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus, and choose to follow Him.
For more information on the persecuted Church in Iran, click here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Overcomers: Uganda

Islamic extremists threw acid on a church leader on Christmas Eve, leaving him with severe burns that have blinded one eye and threaten his sight in the other. Find out more by watching this one minute video clip.

For other videos with stories of persecuted Christians, visit our multimedia site.

Persecuted Christians: Affliction or privilege? (Part 1)

In order to increase awareness regarding the persecution of Christians, specifically those in Muslim countries, The Moody Church recently hosted a conference entitled Persecuted Christians: Affliction or Privilege? The Impact of Islam in the East & West.

The church was joined by speakers from all over the globe. Below is the first of three videos from the conference.

This video, entitled “Biblical Reponse to Persecution,” will challenge you to change your thinking and will inspire you to:
  • be better informed about the persecution of Christians under Islamic regimes,
  • more highly value the freedom we enjoy to worship our Lord Jesus,
  • seize every opportunity to reach out to those Muslims God brings into our lives,
  • designate significant time to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Islamic countries.

How did this message challenge you? Please share your comments or questions below.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Christian convert sentenced to two years in prison in Iran

Women pictured inside the Evin Prison
Photo: Mohabat NEWS
Leila Mohammadi, a Christian convert from Islam, has been sentenced to two years' imprisonment after enduring five months of uncertainty in Iran's notorious Evin prison, reports Mohabat News.

Leila’s trial was held on January 18, where she was charged with "collaboration with foreign-dependent groups, broad anti-Islamic propaganda, deceiving citizens by formation of what is called a house church, insulting sacred figures and action against national security." She was acquitted only of collaboration with foreign-dependent groups because the judge believed she had done that unintentionally.

Leila was arrested after a number of security agents raided her home on July 30, 2011, in Kianshahr town, east of Tehran. The agents thoroughly searched her house and also confiscated some of her belongings.

Another Christian, Parviz G, was freed after spending three days in the Evin custody centre. Apparently his arrest was related to the Christian activities of his wife, who was linked to the case of Leila.

Please pray!
  • Please pray Leila will be released from prison.
  • Ask the Lord to strengthen, protect and sustain her and all those in Iranian prisons for their faith in Christ.
  • Pray that God will provide opportunities in prison for Leila to clearly share the gospel for which she suffers (Colossians 4:2-3).
To learn more about persecution in Iran, go to the Iran Country Report. To post a prayer of solidarity with Leila, please visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pastor released from prison in Vietnam

Pastor Y Wo Nie was
released in December 2011!
Y Wo Nie, a Vietnamese pastor who was arrested in August 2004, has been released from prison, reports our sister mission, VOM-USA.

Y Wo Nie was given a nine-year prison sentence for leading a demonstration demanding more religious freedom and the release of property confiscated by the Vietnamese government (for more information, click here). He was released in December 2011. At last report, he had been spending time with his family and was planning to have a medical check-up to assess his health after more than seven years in prison.

While Y Wo Nie was imprisoned, his wife told VOM partners, "I'm worried for my husband but God gives me His comfort that He is always with us though we have to face sickness or hard situations; He will help me to overcome my hard times."

Please join us in prayer!
  • Praise the Lord that this pastor has been released! 
  • Pray that God will give him complete and lasting healing. 
  • Pray that, like Paul, Y Wo Nie's time in prison will result in the advancement of God's kingdom (Philippians 1:12-14). 
  • Pray that God will strengthen the faith of this pastor's family and friends.
For more information on the persecuted Church in Vietnam, visit the Vietnam Country Report.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Two imprisoned Christians in Pakistan released

(Sources: Asia News, Compass Direct News)

Blasphemy charges against a 74-year-old believer have been dropped while a Christian woman who was brutally beaten by police while pregnant has been released on bail due to lack of evidence.

The elderly believer arrested in June 2010 under Pakistan's contentious blasphemy law, which is often used to persecute Christians in the predominantly Muslim nation, was released after 18 months in prison. Rehmat Masih was charged shortly after he had engaged in a dispute with a local Muslim leader, Tahir Hameed, who wanted to lay claim to some plots of land that belonged to local Christians. Hameed's brother was the man who accused Rehmat of insulting Muhammad (for more information, click here). After months of investigation, the court ruled that statements of witnesses were filed too late and were full of contradictions.

Thirty-year-old Salma Emmanuel and her husband, 30-year-old Emmanuel Rasheed, were severely beaten for three days when they refused to confess to false allegations in November 2011 (for more information, click here). Salma was taken to a hospital in critical condition and the life of her unborn child was also threatened. Rasheed, who was freed on bail in November, lost his job as did his wife, who was falsely accused of theft by the woman who employed her as a maid. The couple is now struggling to support their three children. Salma was released on bail in December 2011 after police failed to produce evidence incriminating her.

Please join us in prayer!
  • Praise God that these faithful believers have been freed! 
  • Please pray that Salma and Emmanuel will find employment and will be able to provide for their family. 
  • Pray that the lives of these believers will be an encouragement and will offer hope to other Christians imprisoned in Pakistan. 
  • Please pray that other persecuted Christians in Pakistan will endure the trials before them by trusting in the Lord.
For more on the persecution of Pakistani Christians, go to the Pakistan Country Report.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Church leaders in Sudan may face arrest

Sharing Christ could land pastors in prison as Sudan's Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments has threatened to arrest church leaders if they carry out evangelistic activities and fail to provide their names and contact information, reports Compass Direct News.

The threats were sent by letter to church leaders of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) shortly after the New Year. It arrived just a few days after Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur, told cheering crowds that following the secession of the largely non-Islamic South Sudan last July, the country's constitution will be more deeply entrenched in Shariah, or Islamic, law (for more on the secession, click here).

Christian leaders said Christianity is now regarded as a foreign religion following the departure of 350,000 people – most of them Christians – to South Sudan following the secession. Sudan's Interim National Constitution (INC) holds up Shariah as a source of legislation and laws, and the policies of the government favour Islam.

War in Sudan's South Kordofan state has also led leaders there and in North Kordofan to incite hatred against Christians with officials in both states calling for holy war against the predominantly Christian Nuba people.

You can help by praying.
  • Pray that the gospel will advance throughout Sudan despite all efforts to thwart it. 
  • Please pray that President Omar al-Bashir will be brought to justice for his crimes and that he will repent and bend his knee to Christ. 
  • Pray the Nuba people will be protected by God.
To learn more about how Sudanese believers suffer for Christ's sake, visit the Sudan Country Report.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The global war on Christians in the Muslim world

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of Infidel,
recently wrote an article highlighting
the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries.
Best-selling author, film director, women’s-rights advocate, former Dutch parliamentarian, Islamist death-threat survivor, refugee from a Somalian forced marriage, and a fierce champion of individual freedoms — that of others as well as her own — Ayaan Hirsi Ali has demonstrated her courage once more, reports Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

In the cover story penned for the current issue of Newsweek, entitled “The War on Christians,” Hirsi Ali gives an overview of the most politically incorrect subject of all human-rights reporting: the ongoing religious persecution of Christians in the Muslim world. Below are excerpts from Hirsi Ali’s article:
We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway—an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.
The portrayal of Muslims as victims or heroes is at best partially accurate. In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania. In some countries it is governments and their agents that have burned churches and imprisoned parishioners. In others, rebel groups and vigilantes have taken matters into their own hands, murdering Christians and driving them from regions where their roots go back centuries.
The media’s reticence on the subject no doubt has several sources. One may be fear of provoking additional violence. Another is most likely the influence of lobbying groups such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—a kind of United Nations of Islam centered in Saudi Arabia—and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Over the past decade, these and similar groups have been remarkably successful in persuading leading public figures and journalists in the West to think of each and every example of perceived anti-Muslim discrimination as an expression of a systematic and sinister derangement called “Islamophobia”—a term that is meant to elicit the same moral disapproval as xenophobia or homophobia.
But a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity—and ultimately of all religious minorities—in the Islamic world is at stake.
To read the rest of the article, click here

Please share your reactions to Hirsi Ali’s article in the comments section below. Why do you think the media is largely silent about incidents of Christian persecution? What do you think of the last line quoted in this blog: “The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity—and ultimately of all religious minorities—in the Islamic world is at stake.”

Saturday, February 11, 2012

An interview with Asia Bibi

(Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA)

What do you do while imprisoned in solitary confinement for more than two years? The answer for one Pakistani Christian is “pray.”

Asia Bibi has spent almost three years in prison on charges that she blasphemed Islam’s prophet Muhammad. She was convicted and sentenced to death, and she now awaits the ruling on her appeal (for more, click here).

VOM has supported Asia’s family during her long imprisonment and has stayed in touch with Asia through her faithful husband, Ashiq. In January, a VOM staff member was able to visit Asia in prison for the first time since she received the death penalty. Ashiq and the VOM worker spent 25 minutes with Asia, but they were separated by a tight metal screen.

Ashiq, Asia Bibi’s husband
“She had a smiley face full of joy and thanksgiving,” said the VOM worker. Asia said she was thankful for the visit and that she was happy and fine. She reported that jail officials were taking good care of her and that the superintendent, sympathetic to her extreme loneliness, promised to bring her any books she wanted. A female guard is with her at all times.

Asia told the VOM worker about another way she has been blessed. “There is a beautiful thing that happens every day in my cell. Two days after they announced my death penalty, I was brought into the death cell [death row]. Every morning around 3:30 or 4, a brown bird with a long beak appears and sits on the boundary wall. This bird also comes every evening around 5. He sits there for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. Later on he became my friend. I talk to him and he also talks to me.

“As I watched this bird every day, I tried to understand the meaning of him coming day after day. I think this is a messenger from God giving me his message. When the bird comes, I feel encouraged and peaceful. I feel comforted after his visit. I think this is very significant sign from God.”

Asia is allowed to walk in the courtyard every day for a few minutes, but she is always accompanied by guards. Other prisoners attend religious services in the jail every week, but Asia is not allowed to attend. So in her loneliness, she prays.

“I am praying every day,” she said. “I am strong in my faith. I know that this is a test of my faith and I know to make gold, it must be purified; it has to be put in the fire.

“I am not worried about myself, but I am worried about the VOM workers who are helping me, which is very dangerous. I pray for them every day.

“I don’t know the names, but I know the people from USA are helping me; I pray for them also. I pray for the people around the world who are praying for me.” Asia also prays for the families of two men, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, both of whom were killed for their support of Asia.

“I am very thankful to them that they sacrificed their lives for me,” Asia said. She is also thankful for the financial support provided to her family. “I know you are the people helping me and my family and fighting my case in the court. I am very thankful to Lord for this.”

Ashiq and daughters
Asia asked how her two young daughters are doing. She wanted to make sure they are going to school and church, concerned they might stray from what she wants for them. Ashiq assured her that the girls are attending school and church. “I am thankful they are doing this,” she said.

Asia, Ashiq and the VOM worker finished their time together with prayer. They prayed for the court, the judge, the attorneys and the jail’s staff. And Asia prayed that God would bless her and make her life an example to the other prisoners.

She ended with, “I pray that God will forgive the people who blamed me. … I know God helps his people and he will release me. I want to appeal to the world to pray for a miracle to release me from jail and that I stand strong in my faith.”

Please join Asia in her appeal for release by signing the petition at

And above all, pray.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Overcomers: Somalia

A Somali convert from Islam was paraded before a cheering crowd recently and publicly flogged as a punishment for embracing a "foreign religion.” Hear Sofia’s story by watching this short video.

For more information on the persecuted Church in Somalia, click here. For more videos like this one, click here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

New laws in Azerbaijan attempt to repress the gospel

Believers in Azerbaijan who distribute religious material that hasn't been through compulsory state censorship will now face prison terms of two to five years or fines equivalent to nine years' minimum wage salary, reports Forum 18 News Service.

The punishments are included in amendments to the Criminal and Administrative Codes, which were prepared by the powerful Presidential Administration (for more information, click here) and signed into law by the president on December 12, 2011.

Azerbaijan has been increasingly restricting religious freedoms for several years. In 2009, the Religion Law was twice amended to restrict rights and freedoms related to religion, and in December 2010, fines for religious activity under the Administrative Code were increased by up to 20 times. More amendments in July 2011 introduced new controls on religious education as well as other restrictions.

Please pray for Azerbaijan.
  • Please pray that President Ilham Aliev will succumb to international pressure and stop violating the rights and freedoms of the people he governs. 
  • Pray that believers in Azerbaijan will continue to be bold in sharing their faith so that more will be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).
Please visit the Azerbaijan Country Report to learn more about persecution in Azerbaijan.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book review: Silenced by Paul Marshall and Nina Shea

Review by Riley K. Smith

Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide
By Paul Marshall & Nina Shea

It is unquestionable that the death sentence given to Christian Asia Bibi of Pakistan has resonated with people around the world. To think that a young mother could die for challenging her Muslim co-workers in an issue related to Islam—and (ironically) after they had taunted her Christian faith—is frightening.

Her case has stirred up all kinds of unsettling questions. What kind of law would impose a death sentence for allegedly offending someone from another religion? And do Westerners need to be concerned about such blasphemy codes becoming law in their countries?

Paul Marshall and Nina Shea address the blasphemy and apostasy laws in their recently released book entitled Silenced. The authors clearly state what the book is not: “a work on Islamic law or history,” nor an analysis of “the development of apostasy and blasphemy concepts.” Their intent is “to survey the contemporary use and effects of such accusations and threats.” In a globalized economy with products being exchanged between countries, are religious defamation laws a “commodity” that Westerners wish to see imported into their countries? I think not.

Marshall and Shea invited three Muslims to contribute their evaluation of blasphemy and apostasy laws. One asserts that such laws are used purposefully to thwart reform of Muslim societies, and another argues that current human rights dialogue is not exclusively a Western conviction but is supported by many Muslims. Sandwiched between the contributors are chapters focusing on a number of Muslim-majority countries. These chapters explain recent blasphemy and apostasy cases against not just Christians, but also Hindus, Ahmadis, Baha’is, Jews, as well as accusations among Muslim sects. Four chapters are then dedicated to show how blasphemy laws are affecting Western countries, such as Australia and Canada.

This book is recommended for those wishing to broaden their understanding of the scope of blasphemy and apostasy laws in Muslim-majority countries beyond how it has affected Christians like Asia Bibi. In addition, it equips the Western reader to discern potential laws that may sound good on the surface with their intention to create a harmonious society, but have tragic legal consequences that silence society.

As followers of Christ, we know that the purposes of God will proceed regardless of such laws being imposed. But as citizens of two kingdoms—our earthly kingdom and heavenly kingdom—it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the society the Lord has allowed us to inhabit, while diligently praying for and acting on behalf of our persecuted family who are affected by such laws.

Riley K. Smith is the author of four Restricted Nations books available through The Voice of the Martyrs.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Story from church history: Bonhoeffer transferred to Buchenwald

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was transferred to
a concentration camp on February 7, 1945.
The following was excerpted from an article by Dan Graves.

Where does a Christian fit in a nation which makes itself god?

The Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer answered that the Christian's duty is to resist such a regime. This landed him in a concentration camp and cost him his life.

Safe in exile in America, he abruptly returned to Germany. "I have come to the conclusion that I have made a mistake in coming to America. I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of the Christian life in Germany after the war if I did not share in the trials of this time with my people. Christians in Germany face the terrible alternative of willing the defeat of their nation in order that civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose. But I cannot make that choice in security."

In Germany, Bonhoeffer worked with the underground resistance. He helped guide Jews to safety. Believing that Hitler was like a madman "driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders," he joined a plot to kill the Führer.
After he was arrested for his aid to the Jews, his role in the plot was discovered. There was little hope he would survive Nazi wrath. Nonetheless, Bonhoeffer was personally at peace. Suffering, he said, had become a better key for understanding the world than happiness had ever been.

On February 7, 1945, he was transferred to the terrible Buchenwald Concentration Camp where many thousands of prisoners died, some under cruel medical experiments.

Two months later, he was hanged at the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp, just days before the Allies freed the camp. He had fulfilled his own theology, aptly expressed in his book The Cost of Discipleship: "The one thing that matters is practical obedience. That will resolve [man's] difficulties and make him free to become the child of God."

UK Christians raise voice for North Korean believers

Supporters, with faces painted with running tears,
raised a voice at the North Korean Embassy in London.
Photo: Release International / Crossfire
A funeral procession for freedom was staged by VOM's sister mission in the UK, Release International, on January 20 outside the North Korean Embassy in London. Release International called on North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-Un, to reverse the nation's reputation as one of the worst persecutors of Christians.

To the beat of a drum, Release International's supporters accompanied a coffin to the Embassy. Dressed for mourning, their faces painted with running tears, they staged a prayer vigil. A 52,000-signature petition was also presented to the Embassy, calling for religious freedom.

The coffin signified the death of freedom in North Korea under the previous leadership. After the petition was handed in, the coffin lid was opened and white balloons released – a sign of hope for a new beginning.

"With the country's new young leader, now is the time for change," said Release International's CEO, Andy Dipper. "Christians are treated as political prisoners and held in prison camps, which have been likened to concentration camps.... Because of their faith they are detained, brutally tortured and removed from society. Many are forced to flee the country they love to avoid terrible persecution and oppression. Given a chance to practice their faith freely, North Korean Christians would work to support North Korean society and unity."

Please pray for North Korea!
  • Pray that North Korean Christians will remain steadfast to God in every circumstance they face. 
  • Pray that religious freedom will soon be respected. 
  • Ask God to work powerfully in the life of Kim Jong-Un. 
  • Pray that Christians around the world will be dedicated to pray for believers in North Korea.
For more information on our brothers and sisters in North Korea, visit the North Korea Country Report. To post a prayer of love and encouragement for North Korean believers, visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ugandan girl tortured by her father for her faith walks again

Susan Ithungu is slowly regaining the use of her legs
after being locked in a room for six months.
Photo: Compass Direct News
A 15-year-old Christian girl in Uganda is slowly regaining the use of her legs after her father, in an attempt to make her convert back to Islam, confined her in a small room and deprived her of adequate food and water, reports Compass Direct News.

Susan Ithungu was locked in a room for six months after accepting Christ as her Saviour in 2010 (for more information, click here). She weighed just 20 kilograms when she was finally rescued after her brother informed neighbours of his sister's life-threatening condition.

The two children lived alone with their father who was arrested last fall when the girl was removed from the home by police and hospitalized for more than a month. Susan's father was quickly released, however, and remains unapologetic for the abuse. Susan now lives in a rented house in an undisclosed location.

"Well-wishers have been paying the house rent and buying me food and clothing," said Susan, who added that she has forgiven her father. A church member, Biira Dreda, left her own four children with family to care for Susan.

Susan has begun to walk with support, but cannot squat or stand upright due to the amount of time she spent immobilized. She hopes to return to school soon, but remains in very fragile condition.

Please pray!
  • Please pray that Susan will continue to make progress in her physical and emotional healing. 
  • Pray that she will regain full use of her legs and will be strong enough to continue in her studies. 
  • Pray that her brother and her father will see Christ's love in Susan and that they will be brought to salvation. 
  • Please pray for Biira; pray that her love and compassion for Susan will be rewarded with abundant blessings.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

“We have hope, but we have no future”

Nader and Aram are two Christians who have been affected by escalating violence in Iraq. They lead a house church in Iraqi Kurdistan and are also involved in ministering to Kurdish refugees, especially among those in the camps. They are passionate about bringing the hope of Christ to those who are without hope.

Since 2003, Islamist groups have stepped up persecution of religious minorities in Iraq, causing mass emigration of the ancient Christian confession, whose presence in Iraq pre-dates the Arabs by centuries. Christians suffer from the anti-Western atmosphere in the country and are seen as collaborators with Westerners. As Western influence in the country dwindles with the pulling out of many of their forces, extremists take their chance to terrorize Christians and force them out of the country.

Discover Nader and Aram’s amazing story by watching this video today! (Length 4:35)

For other video reports about the persecuted Church, please visit our multimedia site.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Overcomers: Laos

Officials forced Christians in a Lao village to give up their faith in order to bury a family member in the village graveyard. To learn more, watch this one minute video clip.

To watch other videos about the persecuted Church, visit our multimedia site. For more on Christians in Laos, click here.

New year brings renewed efforts to prevent worship at Shouwang Church in China

Members of the Shouwang Church were harassed, detained and
prevented from worshipping together on New Years Day.
Photo: ChinaAid
Christian believers at Beijing Shouwang Church, who had arranged an outdoor worship service after the government continued to thwart their efforts to rent premises to worship indoors, were harassed, detained and prevented from worshipping together on January 1, reports ChinaAid.

The church has long been a target for the oppressive government (to learn more, click here). Believers report that at least 49 Christians were taken into custody either before they were able to depart for the outdoor service or as they made their way there. Most believers were sent to 13 local police stations. Many were released home late that night and all were released by January 3.

The church had rented three different locations to conduct indoor worship services, but by the evening of December 31, 2011, all three sites notified the church that they could not lease the space to the church and had to tear up the agreement as the result of government interference and pressure.

Since then, China's state and domestic security have come out in force setting up guard stations and imposing martial law at the plaza where the outdoor service had been planned. Those who had been to the plaza in the past were confined to their homes by security guards, and pastors have been under house arrest.

You can help these brothers and sisters in Christ by praying!
  • Please pray that our brothers and sisters at Shouwang Church will be granted the freedom to worship indoors without fear of reprisal or harassment. 
  • Pray that these believers will continue to spread the gospel despite these trials as a testament to God's sovereign power and for His glory.
For more information on China's suffering Church, go to the China Country Report.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Karnataka most dangerous state in India for Christians

Christmas and New Year's holidays in the south Indian state of Karnataka brought a dramatic increase in attacks on believers, and the state was identified as the most unsafe place for Christians for the third consecutive year, reports Compass Direct News.

There were 49 cases of violence and hostility against Christians in the state last year, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India's annual report. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported there were at least six anti-Christian attacks between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day alone. Services and prayer meetings were disrupted and pastors and worshippers were harassed and physically abused by groups of suspected Hindu extremists.

In one case on Christmas Day, about 20 people beat Christians, including women and children, with stones and wooden clubs as the believers celebrated at a house a few miles from the city of Mangalore. Injuries in the attacks included fractures, chest injuries and head trauma. Christians account for at least 2.3 percent of India's population, which is more than 1 billion.

Please pray for Christians in Karnataka. 
  • Please pray that eruptions of violence will cease and the storm of hostility will be stilled in this troubled state. 
  • Please pray for the physical and emotional healing of those who have been attacked and harmed. 
  • Please pray that Christians in Karnataka will be Christ's light and will overcome the spiritual darkness that is consuming this region.
For more information on India's suffering believers, please visit the India Country Report

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

God’s love in Colombia

“The Lord has put in my heart a really big love for the people who do bad things.” – Celso

In this four-minute interview from our sister mission in the US, Celso, a mission worker in Colombia, shares the story of his kidnapping and how he continues to witness about God’s love.

For other videos like this one, check out VOM-USA’s YouTube channel or visit our multimedia site.

Are you receiving our free newsletter?

In our February newsletter, you will learn about how your brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering for their faith and how you can stand with them!

Articles include:

Delivering God’s goodness: Read how your gifts to VOM’s Christmas Blessing brought a glimpse of God’s goodness to Christians in war-torn Iraq.

Bound with them: Learn about the vision behind VOM’s new youth initiative called Thirteen Three, and plan to send youth you know to our April launch event in Calgary.

VOM around the world: We bring you an update on Indian Christian teen Manini Digal, reports of attacks against Christians in India and Vietnam, and news about the petitions in the Asia Bibi “Call for Mercy” campaign.

Back to our roots: VOM founder Pastor Richard Wurmbrand shares why it is important to learn from the martyrs.

Save the date!: Mark your calendars for upcoming VOM events, like our annual prayer conference.

The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter is the flagship publication of The Voice of the Martyrs Canada. Subscribe to our FREE monthly newsletter today!