Monday, April 30, 2012

Suicide bomber targets churches in Kaduna, Nigeria

Debris from a recent suicide bombing in Nigeria.
Churches celebrating Easter services were the targets of a suicide bomber who killed at least 38 people on April 8 in Kaduna city in northern Nigeria, reports Compass Direct News.

Security personnel at one of the church buildings blocked the bomber, believed to belong to the Boko Haram Islamic sect, who then detonated his explosives in the street. Dozens of people were injured in addition to those killed. The bombs damaged the buildings of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Good News church and the All Nations Christian Assembly, besides blasting off roofs from homes and hotels and destroying vehicles. Located on the same street, Gwari Road, are the Redeemed Christian Church of God and an Assemblies of God church.

Luka Binniyat, a Christian resident of the city, told Compass that law enforcement agents believed the ECWA church was the primary target. "Richard Markus, a detective, mentioned that the bomber's main target was the ECWA Good News church a few metres from the scene of the bomb blast," Binniyat said. "He tried forcing his way past, but the security man stood in between him and the blockade. He even pushed him a ways before some policemen manning the gate of the church rushed down to the scene."

Boko Haram has targeted state offices, law enforcement sites and some moderate mosques in its effort to destabilize the government and impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria, but Kaduna resident Stanley Yakubu said that Christians are one of its main targets. "The truth is that there is a deliberate effort to silence or eliminate the Christians in the north," he said.

Please keep Nigeria in your prayers.
  • Please pray for those who are grieving. 
  • Pray that, as sufferings overflow, their comfort in Christ will be more than enough for them (2 Corinthians 1:5). 
  • Pray God will provide medical assistance to the injured and give them the grace to overcome their physical and emotional afflictions. 
  • Pray for members of Boko Haram; may the Holy Spirit convict them of sin and guilt and bring them to full repentance.
For more information on persecution in Nigeria, click here. To post a prayer for those affected by these attacks, please visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

In mailboxes this week

Look for the May issue of The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter in your mailbox this week!
  • Feature: Learn about VOM’s new outreach to women—Release Women—as Ingrid Hajen shares about her recent trip to Nigeria where she met three women who lost husbands in anti-Christian violence. Find out how you can get involved in this vital ministry to our persecuted sisters. 
  • Clinging to the Cross in Turkey: Nine-year-old Hussein was so excited to wear his cross necklace to proclaim his new faith in Christ. He wanted his friends and teachers to know that he was no longer Muslim. Learn what happened to Hussein when he went public with his faith. 
  • Back to our Roots: Read the words of VOM founder Richard Wurmbrand, who shared about the beauty of the Underground Church. 
  • Servants of the Persecuted: Meet 86-year-old Gus of Alberta and learn how he is serving our persecuted family. 
  • Kids of Courage VBS Curriculum: If your church is looking for Vacation Bible School curriculum, then consider Kids of Courage. Designed for ages 5 – 13, this curriculum presents the persecuted Church in an age-appropriate way.
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.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Extreme “coward”

Tarsus: John Mark

“He cannot come with us!” Paul insisted. “He is a coward and of no use to the ministry.”

Barnabas responded, “You may have given up on him, but God has not.”

Paul was still resolute. “You cannot force my hand, Barnabas. I will only bring people on whom I can depend. He is not welcome on this journey to share the faith.”

“Then neither am I. It is your decision, Paul. God has given you the direction of the journey. Let us part in peace. When the church feared you, by God’s grace I came to you and showed them that you would do great work for the kingdom of God. God has the same call on John Mark.”

Paul hesitated, “So be it then. I hope you are right my old friend, though I cannot believe it myself.” Thus Paul and Barnabas parted ways.

Eventually Paul and John Mark ended up in prison together in Rome, and Paul found his young friend’s true worth in Christ as a faithful servant. John Mark had written the Gospel of Mark and proved himself anything but a coward as he and Paul faced the daily rigors or prison. Through the toughest of times, Mark stayed the course, which Paul acknowledged in a letter to Timothy shortly before his death.

Acts 15:35-41; 2 Timothy 4:11

God often brings trying situations our way to demonstrate one of two truths: He will use trials to show us how far we have come in our spiritual development, or he will allow problems into our lives to show us exactly where we could use some more growth. John Mark’s transformation from an apparent coward to a committed follower reminds us that spiritual growth is a process. We may point to past failures where we wish we could have been stronger. But actions in the past do not have to affect our future. Like Mark, do you need a second chance to show your commitment to Christ? Pray for opportunities that will help you grow spiritually.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

New music video: “I’m Good” by Trip Lee ft. Lecrae

The Voice of the Martyrs USA and Reach Records recently released the song “I’m Good” by Trip Lee. This group effort is intended to raise awareness of the persecuted Christian church. Watch the music video below, and please consider sharing it with others!

For another music video that shares about the persecuted Church, click here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Overcomers: Iran

Behnam Irani, an imprisoned 41-year-old pastor from Iran, is unwell with an intestinal disorder and a serious foot injury. There are more than four years left in his sentence. For the details, watch this short video clip.

Consider sharing this video clip with your church or with friends and family, urging them to remember Behnam in prayer. You can watch other videos like this one at

Church leaders killed in the Philippines

The Philippines is a mostly Christian nation, but in the south, Muslim fundamentalists are trying to build an Islamic state. Christians there face persecution and even death. This year, at least four house churches closed down after their pastors and lay leaders were killed by Muslim extremists on the island of Mindanao. For more information, watch this short video.

For more information on the persecuted Church in the Philippines, click here. For more videos like this one, please visit our multimedia site.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Christianity growing in Afghanistan

Pray that many more in Afghanistan will come to Christ.
Afghanistan, a country long suffering from civil wars, has not experienced peace for many years. Ongoing bombings by fundamentalist Muslims have stolen peace from the lives of Afghanis. However, the country has recently seen signs of change as people hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.

According to Mohabat News, "Informed Afghan authorities acknowledge that Christianity has obtained a special place not only among youth, but also among various layers in society. (In addition), house churches are growing tremendously."

Further, an independent Shi'ite website in Iran reportedly quoted a knowledgeable Afghan official as saying, "There is evidence of widespread Christian propaganda in Afghanistan, and the existence of more than 10 churches that operate secretly in residential houses have been proven."

New reports indicate that some members of the country's parliament have embraced Christianity. A Farsi news service also published a report on these conversions, writing, "Evangelism and Christian propaganda is taking place in the country at a high level, but this is the first time that those who call themselves representatives of the Afghani people not only have become 'apostates' but have joined Christian ministries to evangelize. This time they want to present their Christian services to Muslim people through parliament."

Muslims make up the vast majority of Afghanistan's population at 99.85 per cent. Christians account for 0.05 per cent. While there is limited freedom to practice other religions, there is no freedom to propagate another faith or to convert from Islam.

Please pray for Afghanistan.
  • Thank the Lord for the way He is working in this nation. 
  • Ask Him to give Afghani Christians a strong and mature faith with a bold desire to share the gospel. 
  • Pray the Lord will continue to work to bring many more to repentance. 
  • Pray for protection of believers in Afghanistan.
For more on the trials Christians face in Afghanistan, please visit our Afghanistan Country Report.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Who are the world’s worst religious freedom violators?

Who are the world’s worst religious freedom violators? According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the following nations are “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs: Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

“It’s no coincidence that many of the nations we recommend to be designated as CPCs are among the most dangerous and destabilizing places on earth,” said USCIRF Chair Leonard Leo. “Nations that trample upon basic rights, including freedom of religion, provide fertile ground for poverty and insecurity, war and terror, and violent, radical movements and activities.”

“In addition, some of the countries we recommend for CPC designation maintain intricate webs of discriminatory rules, requirements and edicts that can impose tremendous burdens for members of religious minority communities, making it difficult for them to function and grow from one generation to the next, potentially threatening their existence,” added Leo.

In Egypt, the transitional government has failed to protect religious minorities, especially Coptic Christians, from violent attacks at a time when minority communities have been increasingly vulnerable.

“These governments too often stand idly by in the face of violent attacks against religious minorities and dissenting members of majority faiths,” says Leo. “Inseparable from freedom of expression and association, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief often is the first human right threatened by tyranny.”

Iran and China remain gross abusers of human rights and among the world’s worst religious freedom violators. Iran continues to detain, torture, and execute its citizens, and in the past year, Baha’is, Christians, and Sufi Muslims have been subjected to intensified attacks, harassment, detention, and imprisonment.

In China – the only CPC designee with a seat on the United Nations Security Council – conditions for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims are the worst in decades and in the past year, and Beijing has stepped up its crackdown on Christians.

To read the full report, click here.

Do you agree with the countries included in this list? Are there any nations you might add?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Officials arrest five Christians in southern village in Laos

On March 25, officials in a village in southern Laos arrested and detained five Christians during worship and charged them with leading a religious movement without official approval, according to advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom.

Compass Direct News reports that the five Christians from Palansai district were attending a worship service in nearby  Boukham village in Ad-Sapangthong district. The two men – Phosee and Viengsai – and three women – Alee, Poon, and Narm – had previously attended services in the area without interference from authorities.

Boukham church members meet in a private home, as do Christians in most other provincial villages. Officials strongly oppose small groups meeting outside the umbrella of the government-approved Lao Evangelical Church, but many Christians prefer meeting at house churches, citing strict controls over LEC activities.

"This is typical of Laos now," a pastor from the capital, Vientiane, said. "In Vientiane we see things opening up a little. But the law is fluid. Things can change from day to day, and the situation is still very difficult in the provinces."

You can help by praying!
  • Pray for the release of these believers. 
  • Ask the Lord to give them the strength to stand firm in their faith. 
  • Pray they will rely on the Lord to give them the words to say as they stand before authorities (Matthew 10:19). 
  • Pray that God will use them as a witness for the gospel even at this difficult time.
For more information on the persecuted Church in Laos, click here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Christian meeting bombed in Kenya

On March 31, a bomb attack at an outdoor worship service killed two Christians – a woman and an eight-year-old boy – and wounded more than 30 in the Kenyan city Mtwapa, reports Compass Direct News.

Hundreds of Christians were attending the outdoor service when a hand grenade was thrown towards the pastor's podium. Muslims were also holding a meeting around 300 metres from the scene of the attack. The Islamic preachers were vilifying Christianity in their sermon which could be heard from the location where the Christians were holding their conference.

Kenyan officials blame members of al-Shabaab, a radical Islamic group in Somalia, for the bomb attack.   Attacks and kidnappings coordinated by al-Shabaab in last year have prompted the Kenyan military to strike at al-Shabaab targets in Somalia. The Kenyan government has issued a warning of possible attack by the militants during Easter celebrations.

Please pray!
  • Pray for the wounded and the grieving. 
  • Pray these Christians will rest in the knowledge that the Good Shepherd walks with them through this difficult time (Psalm 23). 
  • Pray the Lord will give these Christians the grace to continue to meet together and encourage one another. 
  • Pray also for the perpetrators.
To post a prayer for those affected by this attack, please visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

“I Rest in the Arms of God”

Nadejda Sloboda
circa 1960s

“You must come to my house tonight and listen to the radio with us,” Nadejda whispered to her neighbour. “I have never heard anything like it before. A man is preaching God’s Word from the Bible. I don’t know how it happened, but these broadcasts have changed my life!”

Nadejda Sloboda was the first one in her village to be converted through Gospel broadcasting in Russia from stations in neighbouring countries. Soon, her love for God and her zealous witness brought others to Christ. Although she wasn’t a pastor, she formed a church in her village.

As time passed, this church grew so mightily that the police had to surround the village to keep people of the nearby collective farms from coming to hear the Gospel message.

For this, Sister Sloboda was sentenced to four years of prison. Her five children were forcibly taken away to an atheistic boarding school. Her husband was left alone.

In prison, Sister Sloboda told other prisoners about Christ. For this, she was confined in an unheated, isolated cell, where she had to sleep on the cold, concrete floor without a mattress. Prisoners find it impossible to sleep in such conditions: Even the walls are too cold to lean against comfortably. Some report that by standing with just their forehead touching the wall, they could manage to sleep enough to survive for a few days.

Yet Sister Sloboda was kept in this cell for two months! Not only that, during the day she was put to hard labour with the other prisoners. The Communists expected that the lack of sleep combined with the hard labour would completely ruin her health and break her resolve to stand for her faith. Yet she never weakened.

Everybody asked, “How can you endure it?”

She answered, “I fall asleep on the cold concrete floor trusting in God and it becomes warm around me.

“I rest in the arms of God.”

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. 
Deuteronomy 33:27 NIV

Excerpted from Jesus Freaks, a best-selling collection of worldwide testimonies targeting teens with the life-changing message of the Persecuted Church. You can order a copy of this book from our online catalogue or by contacting our office.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Should kids be taught about persecution?

The Kids of Courage VBS Curriculum introduces
kids with real Kids of Courage at risk for their faith today. 
A child in North Korea explains to her teacher that she did well on a test "by God's grace." Later, she arrives home to find her parents have disappeared.

Such stories in a new Vacation Bible School curriculum from The Voice of the Martyrs have some children's spirituality experts questioning whether it encourages children's faith or burdens them with inappropriate information, reports Christianity Today.

Launched last year, the Kids of Courage curriculum "came about as a result of churches' desire and [our] desire to tell the story of persecuted Christians in an age-appropriate way," said VOM-USA’s media director, Todd Nettleton.

Church for the Harvest in Alexandria, two hours northwest of Minneapolis, used the curriculum last summer. Children's director Katy Kiger is a former missionary to South Africa and liked that Kids of Courage includes stories from China, Egypt, India, Nigeria, and North Korea.

For example, stories from Nigeria talk about Muslims converting to Christianity as well as terrorists attacking churches.

Many of the children in Kiger's program attend public schools where they face a milder form of antagonism. Still, she said, "It was awesome to hear how kids talk about their own struggles."

"The kids here need to know what is up in the world today," said Jalil Dawood, pastor of the Arab Church of Dallas, whose members and their families have faced death and severe persecution in their home countries. His church hasn't used the program, but Dawood says it is important for American children to learn about the challenges of being a Christian in other parts of the world.

It is important for children to confront difficult or challenging topics, says Scottie May, professor of Christian spirituality at Wheaton College and co-author of Listening to Children on the Spiritual Journey. However, she said, "I have concerns about materials that might introduce pain, torture, and death to a young child without a context for them."

Ginny Olson, director of youth ministry for the Covenant Church's Northwest Conference, agrees. She said, "There is no way a teacher can be attuned to the differing levels of sensitivity of a group of children. Little kids need to experience scary stories in the presence of a parent who can protect them."

Still, telling stories of God's presence with his people who suffer on his behalf has a long history. "Jewish children heard the stories of Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego," said Holly Allen, professor of Christian ministries at John Brown University and author of Nurturing Children's Spirituality. Stories of suffering in the mission field have been told to children in recent centuries.

"Six- or seven-year-olds can hear and process these stories," Allen said. "We have mis-represented God's work in the world when we avoid telling stories where God does not save. The deeper, more foundational truth must be told: God will not abandon us, even in our death."

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think kids should be taught about persecution? Why or why not?

For more information, or to view and hear samples from the Kids of Courage VBS Curriculum, click here. Canadians can order the curriculum from our online resource catalogue or by contacting our office.

To learn more about VOM’s children’s ministry, Kids of Courage, please click here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Overcomers: Somalia

Islamic extremists belonging to the al-Shabaab extremist group in Somalia recently beheaded a young Christian man just outside Mogadishu. For more, watch this week’s edition of The Overcomers.

For more information on Somalia’s persecuted Church, click here. For other Overcomers reports, visit our multimedia site.

27 believers remain detained in Iran

Believers study God’s Word in apartments.
There are calls for both praise and petition in Iran as some formerly imprisoned believers have been released while others remain jailed for their faith, reports Middle East Concern.

Davoud Alijani was arrested in Ahvaz last December and was released on March 8. Sharifeh Dookh, Masoud Golrooyan and Nima Shokouhi arrested in Shiraz last February were released after 36 days in custody. And Giti Hakimpour, a 78-year old detained for three days in February, received all the property back that was confiscated when she was arrested including her passport, pension book, computer, mobile phone and Bibles and other religious materials.

However, at least 27 believers remain detained across Iran because of their Christian faith. Following a series of raids in February and early March, five believers remain detained in Shiraz, three in Kermanshah and at least seven in Isfahan. Among those detained for more than one year are Youcef Nadarkhani, Noorallah Qabitizade and Farshid Fathi.

Several believers who have been released on bail await court hearings. Alireza Akhavan, a Christian who was released on bail in 2010 but was convicted in November 2011 of "actions against national security," was re-arrested on March 14 while attempting to flee from Iran.

Please pray for believers in Iran!
  • Please pray that each of those detained or facing court hearings will know the presence and peace of Jesus. 
  • Please pray that believers across Iran will know the Lord's wisdom and protection while meeting together, and so will be enabled to live without fear.
To learn more about Iran's persecuted Church, go to the Iran Country Report. You can encourage imprisoned believers in Iran by writing them letters of encouragement. Compile a letter online at or download our letter writing guide.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

VOM speakers in Quebec and Alberta this month

Please join us at a VOM event this month!

April 28, 2012 –  9 am                            
Église Évangélique Baptiste Renaissance                            
4855, 2ème Avenue Ouest                                                        
Charlesbourg, Quebec                                                                
Speakers: Yves Fontes, Michel Lafleur                                    
For more information, email or phone our office at 1-888-298-6423

April 29, 2012 – 3 pm
Crossroads Community Church (Salvation Army)
11651 95 Street
Edmonton, AB  T5G 1L7
Speaker:  Greg Musselman
For more information, contact Pastor Steve Court at 780-474-4324

April 29, 2012 – 6:30 pm
Fairview Baptist Church
230 78 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB  T2H 1C4
Speaker:  David Harrison
For more information, phone 403-293-1527

To view other upcoming events, or to request a VOM speaker, please visit our website.

House church raided, believers detained in China

This unregistered church holds several mass baptisms each year.
More than 70 Christians were taken into custody when a house church, which had been meeting for more than two decades, was raided in western China, reports VOM partner, China Aid Association.

The church, located in the region of Xinjiang, was stormed by police on March 18. About a dozen policemen and Domestic Security Protection agents burst into Pastor He Enjun's home, and authorities on the scene declared it was an "unapproved, illegal meeting" and ordered an immediate end to the meeting.

Each Christian present was photographed by force and was taken for questioning. Some believers were not released for two days. Bibles, hymnals, notebooks, Christian education DVDs and other materials were confiscated without a receipt, even though a receipt is required by law.

The pastor and his wife were later called back into the local police station for further questioning. They were threatened and ordered to stop hosting meetings in their home.

You can help by praying!
  • Please pray that the Lord will reward the faithfulness of these believers by using them to lead even more people to the King of Kings. 
  • Pray that these believers will echo Peter's sentiment to obey God regardless of what man says (Acts 5:29). 
  • Pray that God will work powerfully in the hearts of the authorities in Xinjiang.
Please visit the China Country Report for more on the persecuted Church in China.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Executive Director of VOM-USA passes away

Tom White, the Executive Director of our sister mission in the United States, has passed away. Please pray for Tom’s friends and family during this difficult time. Please also pray for all the staff, volunteers, and supporters of VOM-USA as they mourn his loss.
Tom White: (1947-2012) 
It is with great sadness that The Voice of the Martyrs (USA) announces the death of our Executive Director, Tom White.
Tom led The Voice of the Martyrs for more than 20 years, including years of incredible growth in the ministry’s reach to support and work with persecuted Christians and to share their stories with the American Church. Prior to taking leadership of the ministry he worked alongside VOM’s founders, Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand.
All of our hearts are heavy at this loss, and most of all heavy for Ofelia, Tom’s loyal help-mate through years of ministry, including 17 months he spent in a Cuban prison, and for his children and grandchildren.
Additional information, including information about memorials and services, will be made available at the appropriate time.

Shahbaz Bhatti honoured by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister

The late Shahbaz Bhatti was recently
honoured for his work in defending
religious minorities in Pakistan. 
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird on March 14 presented this year’s John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award to the late Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s former Federal Minister for Minorities, and Susana Trimarco, Argentinian activist and founder of the Fundación María de los Ángeles.

With this award, Canada honours the memory of Shahbaz Bhatti, whose determined efforts in the struggle for equality, justice and freedom cost him his life, said Baird in a media release. Braving multiple threats to his safety, Bhatti worked tirelessly to advance the rights of Pakistan’s religious minorities. Peter Bhatti accepted the award on behalf of his late brother.

Shahbaz Bhatti was elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan in 2008 and named Federal Minister for Minorities, a portfolio he accepted because of the opportunity it offered to defend the oppressed and marginalized of Pakistan.

As Minister, Bhatti took steps to advance the rights of religious minorities. These included launching a national campaign to promote interfaith harmony. Bhatti also fought valiantly against abuses of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws during his time in government.

Minister Bhatti helped to found the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance in 1985 and subsequently chaired that organization. He also served as head of Pakistan’s Christian Liberation Front, which he formed in 1985. In 2002, he joined the Pakistan People’s Party.

Minister Bhatti visited Canada in February 2011 where he met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, among other government ministers.

Shortly after his visit to Canada, Minister Bhatti was assassinated while on his way to work.

For the complete article from ASSIST News, click here.

Malatya murders remembered 5 years later

Christian martyrs Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel
and Tillman Geske
(Photo by Compass Direct)
Today, April 18, is the fifth anniversary of the murders of three Christians (Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske) at the Zirve Christian publishing house in Malatya, Eastern Turkey, in April 2007, reports Middle East Concern.

Memorial services are planned for the three grave sites, and also at a church in Istanbul. Nacati and Tilmann were married, with two and three children respectively, and Ugur was engaged. His finance has since married another believer.

Five men, aged 19 and 20 at the time, were arrested at the scene and were charged with the murder. Their trial opened in November 2007 and became complicated as a result of efforts to identify those behind the perpetrators.

A hearing was held on February 17, the 37th since the trial opened. The panel of judges announced that an indictment was being prepared against those suspected of instigating the murders and would be ready in time for the next hearing scheduled for April 9-13 to give time for defence testimony and cross-examination.
However, on April 9 the court heard that the indictment was not yet ready, and the hearing was postponed until June 18. The indictment is expected to name former local commanders and other officials who are already in custody.

Under Turkish law, those accused will be exonerated if they have not been formally convicted and sentenced within five years, which had caused concern that delays will lead to the perpetrators being released. However, this law does not apply in terrorism cases, and this case is officially designated as a terror case. Therefore, the perpetrators will not be released.

Turkish Christians request our continued prayers that:
  • Family members and friends of the murdered men will continue to know the peace of Jesus as the trial process continues.
  • All those who aided or perpetrated the murders would have a deep conviction about what they have done, and understand the depths of Jesus' forgiveness.
  • All judges, other officials, lawyers and journalists involved will hear the gospel of Jesus, and be drawn to the Father's love, forgiveness and acceptance.
The May edition of The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter shares the testimony of a boy in Turkey who has suffered much for his faith in Jesus. To read his story, be sure to sign up for a free subscription today. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rising restrictions on religion

Rising Restrictions on Religion, a recent report by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, has discovered that restrictions on religious beliefs and practices:
  • rose between mid-2006 and mid-2009 in 23 of the world’s 198 countries (12%),
  • decreased in 12 countries (6%),
  • and remained essentially unchanged in 163 countries (82%).
Because several countries with increasing restrictions on religion are very populous, however, the increases affect a much larger share of people than of states.

More than 2.2 billion people – nearly a third (32%) of the world’s total population – live in countries where either government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose substantially over the three-year period studied.

Which restricted country will you pray for today?

To see the full report from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public life, click here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Three secret believers arrested in Morocco

(Sources: VOM-USA, Mission Network News)

Three Christian men were arrested in a city café on March 1 in Morocco. During the arrest, police apparently gained information about other secret believers in the country. The arrest involved two young men who were meeting with an older believer from another city.

While the two young men were released later that night, the older believer remains in custody. The families of the two young men did not know the men were following Christ. One of them was no longer welcome in his home once his beliefs were discovered.

Many foreign Christians were expelled from Morocco two years ago, and this had a significant impact on the Church as anti-Christian sentiment seems to be growing in the country. Moroccan believers now meet in small groups for fear of persecution. While becoming a Christian in Morocco is not actually illegal, it is forbidden to share the gospel with non-Christians.

Please pray for Morocco:
  • Please pray that Moroccan Christians will continue to gather despite the threats of reprisals. 
  • Pray that the believer in prison will remain strong in his faith and will be freed. 
  • Pray that Moroccan Christians' passion for Christ will be the light that draws others to Jesus (Matthew 5:14-16).
For more information on persecution in Morocco, please click here. To post a prayer of support for Moroccan believers, visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Extreme Forgiveness

Romania: Demeter

Demeter suffered for many years in Communist prisons. He had remained strong in spirit during his confinement, but his body was beginning to wear down. There was a certain prison warden who amused himself by beating on Demeter’s spine with a hammer, which permanently paralyzed him. But Demeter’s Christlike attitude never wavered, and he was eventually released from prison.

Twenty years later, he heard a knock at the front door of his home. He was shocked to see the same prison warden who had so cruelly beat on his spine and paralyzed him years before standing before him. Still, Demeter did not waver in his expression of faith.

Even before Demeter could offer a greeting, the former warden said, “I realize I can never be forgiven for what I have done to you. It was too heinous. But please just listen to my words of apology and then I will leave.”
Demeter paused only for a moment as he gazed with compassion and wonder at the man. He replied softly, “For twenty years I have prayed for you daily. I have waited for you. Twenty years ago, I forgave you already.” If we are willing to show love and forgiveness to everyone – even those who have hurt us – then the love of Christ can conquer all.

Most people will never suffer deliberate physical torment. However, the wounds that others inflict upon us emotionally can be just as devastating. Memories of unkind words, a betrayal by a friend, a bitter divorce, can stay with us for a lifetime. We are tempted to hold a grudge, or even perhaps to exact revenge against the offender. Forgiveness does not come naturally to us, but it is inseparable from God’s nature. If we have tasted God’s grace, then we can allow others to share in God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness does not depend on the offender’s asking for it first. It is an act of obedience, as well as an act of faith. Ask God to open your heart to the miracle of true forgiveness.

Excerpted from Extreme Devotion, a book of 365 true accounts of men and women who totally sold out for Jesus. You can order a copy of this book from our online catalogue or by contacting our office.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Underdogs: 'Linsanity' and Chinese Christians

By Chuck Colson, BreakPoint

I suppose there may be a village in Kazakhstan whose inhabitants don’t know who Jeremy Lin is, although I doubt it. I am sure there are very few Americans who aren’t familiar with what the Wall Street Journal called Lin’s “quintessential underdog story.”

It has something for almost everyone: Lin’s off-the-bench heroics with the NBA’s New York Knicks, his Asian-American roots, Christian faith, and Ivy League background.

There are many reasons to root for Jeremy Lin. But here’s another: his story has helped draw attention to a group of even bigger underdogs, Chinese Christians.

As part of its coverage of what has been dubbed “Linsanity,” the New York Times has been reporting on Lin’s impact in his parents’ native Taiwan and on the Chinese mainland.

He is so popular that politicians on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have rushed to embrace him. While Taiwan has an obvious connection to Lin, the Communist government wasn’t about to be left out of the hoopla. The head of the Communist Party in one Chinese province announced that Lin’s maternal ancestors were natives of village near the provincial capital.

While Communist officials were quick to note the birthplace of Lin’s ancestors, they were silent about Lin’s Christianity. In fact, Lin’s great-grandfather converted to Christianity under the auspices of American missionaries in the early 20th century, making Lin a fourth-generation Christian.

None of the Chinese coverage of Lin’s exploits mentioned his faith. As a result, relatively few Chinese citizens know about Lin’s faith. After all, for the Communist Chinese to acknowledge Lin’s Christianity would be, to put it mildly, awkward.

The press here in the United States, however, is less reticent. In its reporting of Lin’s impact in China, the Times described China’s Christian minority as “often-persecuted” — as well as the various efforts the Communist government has used to contain the spread of Christianity. While there is a lot more that can be said about the subject, the Times deserves credit for at least pointing out the irony in Beijing’s embrace of Lin.

What is even more ironic is that the Lin story broke around the same time that China’s next leader, Vice President Xi Jingping, was touring the United States. Among the people who protested Xi’s visit was the writer Yu Jie, who recently moved the United States after being tortured and held under house arrest by Chinese authorities.

Yu, like many prominent dissidents, is a Christian. Similarly, most of the Chinese lawyers brave enough to take on the government are Christians. To talk about human rights in China without mentioning the role played by Chinese Christians makes as much sense as talking about Jeremy Lin without mentioning his faith.

Despite the efforts of the government, it appears that Chinese Christians are learning about Lin’s faith and drawing inspiration from it. That’s great.

What I hope happens here in the United States is that even more Americans learn about the faith of Chinese Christians and the price they pay for that faith. With all due respect to Lin and the Knicks, those are the underdogs I’m rooting for.

Want to know more about persecution in China? Visit our China Country Report for historical background, country facts, recent persecution incidents, and prayer requests.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Overcomers: Saudi Arabia

Muslim social network users are calling for the arrest and even for the death of a Saudi Arabian Christian convert they say has insulted the Muslim prophet Muhammad via Twitter. Watch this short video to learn more.

For other videos about persecuted Christians, please visit our multimedia site.

Church buildings vandalized in Israel

(Source: VOM-USA)

Anti-Christian graffiti and slurs against Jesus were spray-painted onto a Jerusalem church late last February, reports our sister mission, VOM-USA.

The words "Death to Christianity" were written on the wall of the Baptist Narkis Street Congregation church building along with the words "Price Tag" – a slogan used by Jewish extremists. "Price tag" attacks are occurring all over Israel, and these targeted acts of destruction are meant to suggest that vandalism is the "price" that must be paid by non-Jews for the evacuation and demolition of Jewish settlements. The tires of several cars parked on church property were also slashed.

The vandalism was similar to property damage which occurred two weeks previous on the 11th-century Monastery of the Cross, which is also in west Jerusalem.

When asked to comment on the attack by a local reporter, a VOM contact in the region said, "Jesus told us persecution would happen, and he told us to forgive when it does happen."

Please join us in prayer:
  • Pray that the Lord will soften the perpetrators' hearts and lead them to seek forgiveness. 
  • Please pray that the Christians affected by these attacks will be patient in affliction (Romans 12:12).
To learn more about anti-Christian sentiments in Israel, click here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Visa restrictions impede missionaries in Turkey

Missionaries will have to leave Turkey every three months and will be forced to remain outside the country for three months before returning, now that the Turkish government has tightened its visa regulations, reports VOM-USA.

The new policy, which came into effect on February 1, allows 180-day multiple-entry visas, but visitors can only spend 90 days in the country and then must wait another 90 days to re-enter the country. This will significantly hamper the work of foreign missionaries.

Since early February, the Turkish government has expelled a number of missionaries who held resident permits, and other missionaries who have left the country and have tried to re-enter have been turned away at the border under the new visa regulations.

Please remember Turkey in your prayers.
  • Please pray that these new restrictions will only encourage missionaries rather than discourage them as they rest in the knowledge that no man can thwart God's purposes  (Job 42:2). 
  • Pray that the gospel will continue to spread and grow in Turkey.
To learn more about the struggles Christians face in Turkey, please click here

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani turns 35 in prison

Please keep Pastor Youcef in your prayers.
Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor imprisoned for his faith in Jesus Christ, turned 35 yesterday, April 11, reports Present Truth Ministries.

Youcef 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. Youcef 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. Youcef was tried on September 21–22, 2010 by the 1st Court of the Revolutionary Tribunal and sentenced to death on November 13 for apostasy.

The pastor is imprisoned in Lakan prison, where authorities have used various methods, including medication, to convert him back to Islam.

An Iranian envoy has since denied an execution order was issued for Pastor Youcef, but revealed a list of charges that allegedly make him guilty of "offending Islam."

The envoy said Youcef was inviting juveniles into his home, without their parent's permission, to preach Christianity. He also claimed Youcef converted his basement into a church without the government's permission. He also said that in preaching Christianity, Youcef was offending Islam, a serious charge that shows the true reason why his case is so concerning to the government.

Please remember Pastor Youcef by praying for him and writing him an encouraging letter.

Please pray that:
  • God will provide for Pastor Youcef’s every physical, spiritual, and emotional need while in prison.
  • God will enfold Youcef’s family with His love and care.
  • God will work in the hearts and lives of Iranian authorities involved in Youcef’s case.
  • Youcef will be released, in God’s good timing.
Please send your letters to:
          Youcef Nadarkhani
          Lakan Prison

Please note: When writing a letter, never mention the name of the source of your information or the name of any organization such as Voice of the Martyrs. Also, please do not state anything negative about their government. For more information on letter writing, click here. To create a letter using phrases in Youcef’s own language, please visit

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Saudi Arabian Christian attacked on social networks

Hamoud Bin Saleh
Muslim social network users are calling for the arrest and even for the death of a Saudi Arabian Christian convert they say has insulted the Muslim prophet Muhammad via Twitter, reports American Thinker.

Hamoud Bin Saleh, who has been imprisoned three times in eight years, was first arrested for "attacks against Islam" in 2004 and spent nine months in jail after blogging about his conversion from Islam to Christianity.

In 2008, he was again arrested after writing about religious matters and his conversion. He was detained for a month and during that time he was tortured with sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and physical and psychological abuse.

His most recent arrest was in 2009. He was released on the condition that he not travel outside the country or appear in the media.

Please pray.
  • Please pray that Hamoud's voice for Christ will not be silenced by the authorities or by those who oppose his Christian faith. 
  • Please pray that Hamoud will not fear despite his past suffering (1 Peter 3:14).
For more on the persecuted Church in Saudi Arabia, please visit the Saudi Arabia Country Report.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Imprisoned Iranian pastor suffering ill health

Pray for Pastor Behnam’s healing!
Behnam Irani, an imprisoned 41-year-old pastor from Iran, is unwell with an intestinal disorder and a serious foot injury, reports our sister mission in the United States. There are more than four years left in his sentence.

The husband and father of two was convicted of crimes against national security in January 2011 and was sentenced to one year in prison. After voluntarily surrendering to authorities last spring, he learned that he would be forced to serve five years in connection with a previous conviction.

Behnam's family is very concerned over reports of his ill health as his brother died from intestinal cancer.

For the first few months of his sentence, Behnam was held in solitary confinement in a very small cell, and although he was moved to another cell with other prisoners, the room was so cramped that prisoners were not even able to lie down and had to sit all day and night in the stifling cell.

The pastor is now in a normal cell, but authorities have asked for him to be beaten regularly. His hair has turned white, and there are fears he could lose the use of his foot due to a severe foot injury.

Please remember Behnam Irani!

  • Please pray that the Divine Healer will restore Behnam to full health. 
  • Please pray that he will have the opportunity to share the lifesaving gospel message with his fellow prisoners. 
  • Pray that his family will be given peace and strength during his incarceration.
Let Behnam know that you are praying for him and his family. To compose a letter in his own language, visit For our complete letter writing guide and prisoners’ list, click here.

Please note: When writing a letter, never mention the name of the source of your information or the name of any organization such as Voice of the Martyrs or Prisoner Alert. It is not dangerous for a prisoner to receive letters from individuals, but if an organization is mentioned they may be accused of links with “foreign organizations” and receive harsher sentences. Also, please do not state anything negative about their government.

Send your letters to:

Behnam Irani
Ghezel Hesar Prison
Karaj, Albourz State

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pastor discusses Christianity with Pakistani teacher

(Source: VOM-USA

An Arabic-language teacher at a government school in Pakistan has been meeting with a VOM-supported pastor to learn more about Christianity.

The encounters began after the teacher learned that one of his students was a Christian. "I've never met a Christian in my life," he told the young man. "How do you Christians pray?" The student invited him to speak with his pastor.

At first the discussions were difficult because the teacher didn't feel he could speak openly. But last month, the pastor visited the teacher's school and brought pencils and notebooks for the students. That day, the pastor and the teacher spoke for two hours, and the teacher requested a Bible so he could look up some of the verses the pastor cited.

The Pakistani teacher suggested they discuss the topic of whether Jesus is the Son of God the next time they meet.

The pastor asks for our prayers. "Please pray for me, when I have this meeting, that God will protect me and the Holy Spirit will guide me and save the soul of [this teacher], so he can accept Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour."

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Words from our founder: Celebrating Easter in prison

While the prisoners were talking the next evening, I reminded [Gaston] that Easter was approaching.

“If we had any hard-boiled eggs we could dye them red and crack them together, following the Orthodox custom,” I said. I held out my hand as if offering an Easter egg, and said, “Christ is risen!”

Old Vasilescu, one of the farmers, hit my fist with his own and cried, “He is risen indeed!” A chorus of voices echoed the traditional response.

“That’s a strange thing to say!” I said, turning to the others. “Surely Christ died on the cross. What proof have you that He is risen?”

There was a silence. Vasilescu tugged at his heavy moustache. “I’m a simple farmer, but I believe it because my father and mother and his father and all our priests and teachers told me so. I believe it because I see how nature is resurrected every year. When the snow is on the ground, you can’t ever believe that the fields will bear crops in spring. But the trees bud and the air grows warm, and the grass green. If the world can come alive again, so can Christ.”

“A sound answer,” said Miron.

“But in a world where every Christian assertion is challenged, that’s not enough,” said Gaston.

“We need the strongest proofs, I agree,” I said, “and they exist. Mommsen, the great historian of the Roman Empire, calls the Resurrection the best-proven fact in history. Do you believe the classical historians were largely truthful?”

No one argued.

“They were usually courtiers, the flatterers of kings, men who praised for profit or to please powerful protectors. How much more should we believe Paul, Peter, Matthew, Andrew – apostles who died a martyr’s death to spread the truth!”

“It is rational to believe that Christ rose from the dead; otherwise we must accept the impossible – that the Church, which has survived the external assaults and internal corruptions of two thousand years, is built on a lie. Only consider that Jesus in His lifetime organized no church, wrote no books. He had a handful of poor disciples and one of these betrayed Him for money, while the rest fled or denied Him when the test came. He died on the cross crying, ‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?’ His tomb was closed with a huge stone.”

“Not a hopeful start,” said Braileanu.

“Then how do you explain that it led to a world religion?”

“The disciples came together again,” said Gaston doubtfully.

“But what gave them the power to preach and to die for their faith?”

“They overcame their fear in time, I suppose.”

“Yes, they say how they mastered it: on the third day Christ appeared in person and gave them courage. Peter, who had been frightened by a housemaid, stood in Jerusalem and declared that he and his brethren had seen and spoken with Christ, that He had risen indeed. Peter said they might kill him before he denied it again. So the Romans did.”

“Was it rational to believe,” I asked, “that Peter and the disciples went to be crucified for a liar? Peter gave his first sermon about the Resurrection five hundred yards from the empty tomb. He knew that the facts could not be contradicted, and no one among Christ’s enemies attempted to do so.”

Excerpted from Richard Wurmbrand’s book, In God’s Underground. You can order this book from our online catalogue or by contacting our office.

The Voice of the Martyrs was founded in the mid-1960s by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned and tortured by Communist authorities in his native Romania for 14 years. While still in prison, Pastor Wurmbrand envisioned a ministry that would focus on the plight of the persecuted Church, raise a voice on their behalf, and provide encouragement and assistance to them.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Gao Zhisheng visited by family in prison

Gao with his family in January 2009.
Photo: ChinaAid
The relatives of prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng have finally been allowed to visit him in prison, reports VOM partner, ChinaAid.

The visit has put to rest fears that the pioneer in the growing Christian legal defense movement in the country had died during the two-plus years of his forced disappearance into police custody.

Gao’s older brother and his father-in-law were permitted a half-hour meeting with Gao on March 24 at the Shaya prison, in a remote part of Xinjiang in far western China. They were able to see each other through a glass window and converse using a prison phone.

Gao’s wife, Geng He, recently telephoned ChinaAid’s founder and president Rev. Bob Fu confirming the meeting and providing details. She said that her husband broke into tears when her father told Gao, “My health is greatly improved now that I have seen you.”

Gao, who has disappeared into police custody several times since 2006, was last seen by his family members in April 2010 when he briefly resurfaced after a previous long period of disappearance.  During that time, he gave an extensive interview to the Associated Press in which he gave a detailed account of brutal torture inflicted on him by Chinese police.

Gao’s wife said he looked fine during the weekend prison visit, which was conducted under the watchful eye of prison officials and Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials. The PSB instructed Gao’s family members not to talk to the outside world about the visit.

PSB officers from Gao’s hometown in Shaanxi province had accompanied Gao’s older brother, Gao Zhiyi, on the entire trip from central China, a journey of more than 3,000 kilometres to Shaya.

Gao’s brother cried a lot and said to Gao's wife, “I am relieved after finally being able to see that he is at least alive.”

Thank the Lord that Gao was able to visit with his family! Please also consider writing a letter to Gao, reminding him that many around the world are praying for him.

Gao Zhisheng
Shaya Prison
Shaya County Aksu Prefecture
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Please note: When writing a letter, never mention the name of the source of your information or the name of any organization such as Voice of the Martyrs or Prisoner Alert. It is not dangerous for a prisoner to receive letters from individuals, but if an organization is mentioned they may be accused of links with “foreign organizations” and receive harsher sentences. Also, please do not state anything negative about their government. For more information on letter writing, please click here. To create a letter using phrases in Gao’s own language, click here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Overcomers: China

Journalist and Christian activist Li Ying was released from prison in China on December 25, 2011, almost five years before the end of her 15-year sentence. To learn more, watch this one minute video clip.

For other videos like this one, visit our multimedia site. For more on China’s persecuted Church, click here.

Suicide bombers attack Nigerian church

Emergency workers carry away the body of one killed
in the recent suicide bombing in Jos, Nigeria.
Photo: Compass Direct News
(Sources: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Compass Direct News)

A suicide bomber has killed eight people, including two boys and an expectant mother, after detonating an explosive device just outside a church in Nigeria. The car bomb detonated outside the gate of a church on March 11 could be heard up to two kilometres away, shattering the glass in buildings within a 200-metre radius.

It is believed the attacks are the work of Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist group that seeks to impose a strict version of Shariah (Islamic law) in Nigeria.

The bombing has led to outbreaks of more violence, and some state health and police sources have reported unconfirmed "reprisal" attacks against Muslims. Witnesses have also reported additional deaths of Christians at the hands of military personnel. Some sources said soldiers killed four Christians when they were confronted about how the car containing the bomb had made it past security.

This is the second such bombing in the Christian community of Jos in Plateau State in recent weeks. An earlier bombing at a church in late February killed several people.

Please pray.
  • Please pray that those mourning the loss of loved ones will find comfort in Christ. 
  • Pray for a peace that surpasses all understanding for those living amidst the ensuing violence. 
  • Pray that God will give Nigerian Christians the patience to entrust true justice into the hands of God (Romans 12:17-21).
For more on the persecuted Church in Nigeria, go to the Nigeria Country Report.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pakistani woman charged with blasphemy after refusing Islam

In this photo, Muslims protest after hearing that Asia Bibi,
another Christian woman accused of blasphemy,
might be granted clemency. She was not.
A young mother who angered relatives when she refused to deny her Christian faith has been falsely accused of blaspheming Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, reports Compass Direct News.

Shamim Bibi, the 26-year-old mother of a five-month-old baby girl, was arrested by police in Khichiwala, Bahawalnagar district, in Punjab Province on February 28 after neighbours accused her of uttering remarks against Muhammad – an offence punishable by life imprisonment or death under Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

Shamim's brother and brother-in-law say she was wrongly accused because she had resisted pressure from her husband's sister as well as her nephew and niece to convert to Islam just four days before her arrest.

A local leader claimed that Shamim's neighbours told him and other Muslims that they had heard the Christian woman making derogatory remarks about Muhammad in her courtyard. Shamim's brother-in-law says after gathering information from an accuser and the neighbourhood, he found that neither accuser was even present at the time of the alleged remark. The Superintendent of Police Investigation also acknowledged that one of the two witnesses had admitted to not being present at the alleged "crime" scene.

You can help by praying!
  • Please pray that the accusers will recant any untruth and that Shamim will be freed.
  • Please pray that her infant daughter and her husband, Bashir Masih, will remain safe and will soon be reunited with Shamim.
  • Pray that Shamim will keep her eyes on Jesus, persevere in her faith, and not grow weary or lose heart (Hebrews 10:32-39; Hebrews 12:1-3).
For more on the persecution of Pakistani Christians, go to the Pakistan Country Report.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Join us in Calgary this April!

Please join us this spring for our annual prayer conference and for the launch of Thirteen Three, our new youth and young adult ministry!

Scheduled speakers at both conferences include Gilbert and Joseph Hovsepian, Iranian brothers whose father, Haik, was martyred in 1994. A husband and wife originally from Iran (names withheld for security reasons) are also planning to share about the sufferings they have faced and how the Lord has been faithful in all things.

The prayer conference will provide the opportunity to hear updates about how VOM is serving our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world and how you can join us in remembering those in bonds. There will also be the opportunity to enjoy Iranian style worship and watch a new music video from Hovsepian Ministries.

If you bring a friend to the Saturday conference, both you and your friend will receive a free copy of Iran: Desperate for God

Event details are as follows:
Thirteen Three Launch
Friday, April 13, 2012
7:15 - 10 p.m.
Standing in the Fire Prayer Conference
Saturday, April 14, 2012
9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Please note: Lunch will be available for $10.00, with proceeds supporting VOM projects in Iran. Should you have any dietary restrictions, please bring your own lunch.
Centre Street Church, West Campus
4120 Centre Street N
Calgary, AB  T2E 2Y7
The conferences are free and open to all. Kindly RSVP with your name, the number attending, and the conference you will be attending by calling 1-888-298-6423 or emailing

We hope to see you there!