Eight years ago—after his conversion to Christ—Mohammed Hegazi made history in Egypt as the first person to apply to change his religious preference from Muslim to Christian on his government-issued ID card. The designation would determine what churches and schools his daughter could attend in that country. Hegazi—who now goes by his Christian name Bishoy Boulous—has faced repeated arrests, trials, torture and imprisonment for becoming an outspoken Christian in that Islamic country. Although citizens of other religions who convert to Islam are routinely issued new Egyptian ID cards with “Muslim” as their religious affiliation, Christian converts are discriminated against and not given the same treatment. Boulous has already been detained in prison for a year for “disturbing public security and peace.” On December 29th, an Egyptian court sentenced Boulous to an additional year in prison. Please pray for God’s special grace for him as well as for his family and for other believers who stand for Christ in Egypt—a Muslim country that is becoming increasingly hostile to the Cross.
Somalia is not only one of the most corrupt countries on the planet, but it is also ranked as one of the worst persecutors of Christians—second only to North Korea. Officially, Somalia is 100% Sunni Muslim and is governed with harsh sharia law. The accurate number of Christians is difficult to determine due to their very low profile, but estimates put the number of underground believers anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand. Last April, al-Shabaab Islamic extremists killed two Somalian members of Parliament who voted to accept financial support from the West, which was called an “invasion of Christians into Somalia.” The month prior, al-Shabaab extremists summoned a young Christian mother, Sadia Ali Omar, into the town square of Barawa. They demanded to know why her attendance at Friday mosque prayers had stopped. Sadia was told to renounce Christ, and when she refused to do so, the extremists beheaded her in front of her daughters and the villagers. Please pray for the Gospel’s advance in Somalia, and also for special grace and perseverance for Christians, who often follow Jesus in isolation and are in great need of fellowship and discipleship.
The persecution of Christians has a long history in Syria. In the first century, Saul of Tarsus set out to crush the small Christian community in Damascus, but he was arrested by Heaven and converted to Christ. More recently, Syria was ranked #11 on the list of countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith. However, as a result of a three-year civil war in which Christians have been caught in the cross-hairs, Syria has now jumped to #3 on that list. The situation there is tantamount to ethnic cleansing, as hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled the country due to the violence perpetrated against them in the complex political environment of warring Islamic factions. The caliphate of ISIS calls Christians “crusaders,” and considers them to be enemy #1. Believers caught by ISIS are given three options: convert to Islam, abandon their homes, or face execution. Please pray for special grace for our brothers and sisters in Syria who are following Jesus in the fellowship of His sufferings.
Ukraine has long been the freest of the former Soviet republics and has welcomed Western missions activity, but with the Moscow-sponsored fighting in that country, the situation is changing. The pro-Russian separatists who have invaded eastern and southern Ukraine have demonstrated their loyalty to the Russian Orthodox Church, which views Protestants as a threat to the political order. Last June in the Donetsk region, rebels tortured and murdered four Christians. The militants also killed a pastor in Mariupol. In the eastern region of Lughansk, two Orthodox priests along with armed rebels invaded an evangelical church and ordered everyone to leave so they could take possession of the building. Increasingly, the rebels have targeted Christians in these two regions for beatings, threats of execution, and seizure of personal and church properties. Yet, Ukrainian believers have demonstrated acts of mercy by welcoming refugees who have been displaced by the fighting into their own homes. Please intercede for the peace of Ukraine so the Gospel will advance—and also for persecuted Christians who are suffering for their faith in Christ.
Yemen—the size of the state of Texas—is one of the world’s least evangelized countries. This small country in the Arabian Peninsula is also the poorest country in the Middle East. Though Yemen has been beset by wars, civil conflict, and conquest for most of the last century, the one constant factor has been its radical Muslim legal system. The state religion is constitutionally mandated to be Islam. The population is 99.92% Muslim, and evangelizing Muslims is against the law. As a result, there are only about 4,000 evangelical Christians in Yemen—and virtually no indigenous church there. Most of the believers are first generation Christians, who find themselves under constant surveillance. Those who do convert to Christ—which is legally punishable by death—also face the powerful wrath of their “clans.” It is not uncommon for new believers to be kidnapped and killed. There is a great need for healthy fellowship among the few believers there, but it is very difficult because of fears of being discovered. Please pray for these first generation believers who are grappling with following Jesus in such a hostile environment.
Burma has endured civil strife in one of the world's longest civil wars—almost 50 years. The military coup renamed the country Myanmar; but the majority Buddhist country is still widely known as Burma. The minority Christian population includes about 2.5 million evangelical believers, primarily among the Karen and Chin people groups—some of whom are spiritual descendants of Adoniram Judson's ministry. These believers live under constant persecution to convert to Buddhism. One pastor testified that he was told that by 2020 everyone in the country would be Buddhist. This past May, the President, with the urging of extremist Buddhist groups, began plans to pass a new "Religious Conversion Law" that would require people to obtain government permission to convert to another religion. It would also forbid inter-faith marriages. Even though international human rights activists have protested such legislation, the government is moving forward with it. The Gospel's advance is making inroads among the Buddhist population with even monks coming to Christ! Pray for believers to remain Gospel-focused in the face of growing opposition and persecution.
Over the past 10 years, the historic Christian communities in Iraq have suffered violent persecution, and nearly one million Iraqi Christians have fled the country. Churches have been torched, and Muslims have killed some 1,000 Christians since 2003. Remarkably, in the face of such bloodshed and risk, the number of evangelical Christians (many who are being converted out of Islam) has been growing rapidly, and they now number over 50,000. Please intercede on behalf of these brothers and sisters asking God to give them boldness in sharing Jesus, as well as strength to endure suffering for the sake of His name.
Sudan has waged war on its Christian citizens for years. The newest case occurred on May 15th when Sudan’s Islamic government handed down a death sentence to a 27-year-old Christian mother, Meriam Ibrahim. Meriam was raised by her Christian mother and is married to an American citizen; yet, the Islamic judge considered Meriam to be a Muslim, due to her Muslim father who abandoned their family early on. Based on sharia law, Meriam has been found guilty of apostasy from Islam and sentenced to death. When she was given a chance to recant her faith in Christ, Meriam refused to do so. Because she was eight months pregnant, the court declared that she could give birth to her second child and wean her before facing execution by hanging. Recently Meriam gave birth to a baby girl in prison, where they (along with her young son) continue to live in horrific conditions. Recent reports coming out of Sudan have sent mixed messages about whether the sentence will be rescinded; so please pray for special grace for Meriam, for her husband, and for God’s will to be accomplished in the efforts to secure her release. TAKE ACTION:
In addition to praying for Meriam Ibrahim, please contact your two U.S. Senators and your U.S. Congressman on her behalf, and also urge your friends to do so. You can contact them by phone at the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121), asking them to co-sponsor the resolutions urging Meriam’s full release from all punishment in Sudan. The Senate resolution, sponsored by Senator Rubio, is S. Res. 453, and the House resolution, sponsored by Representative Trent Franks, is H. Res. 601. For those who choose to contact them by e-mail, please find your Congressman’s website and find your Senators' website.
UPDATE ON 7/24/2014:
PRAISE: Meriam Ibrahim, her husband Daniel, and two children have just been released from Sudan. The Italians were instrumental in securing her freedom, and they have flown her and her family to Italy from where they will eventually be brought to the U.S. Thank you for your intercessions, and we praise God for His mercy in her release!
The results of the national elections for prime minister of India, which conclude on May 12th, may well increase the persecution toward the minority Christians in that country. The most popular candidate is Governor Modi of the Gujarat state, a BJP leader who is known for his strongly nationalistic Hindu views. Modi has been previously banned from entering the U.S. because of his connections to a massacre of 2,000 minority Muslims in 2002 in Gujarat. His state of Gujarat has long imposed discriminatory anti-conversion laws, which are used against Christians who share their faith with Hindus. The prevailing view is that if Modi is elected as the next prime minister of India, then the ongoing persecution of Christians will be heightened. Believers are commanded to pray for government leaders in order to enjoy a peaceful life (1Tim. 2:1). Please pray for God to give Indian believers a leader who will honor the Constitution of India, which provides for freedom of religion.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest country by population, was the most dangerous country in the world for Christians in 2012, even though approximately 40% of the population consider themselves Christians. Nearly 800 believers were killed for their faith in Nigeria in that year alone, which was more than the number of Christians killed in the entire rest of the world during the same period! Thus far in 2014, the slaughter of Christians has continued unabated, the majority of them massacred while worshipping in church services. In February alone, some 400 believers were slaughtered, including 43 high school boys who were burned to death at night in their dormitory. Though some of the attacks have originated from the Muslim Fulani tribe, the majority of the terrorism has been carried out by the radical Islamic group, Boko Haram, whose stated purpose is to rid the country of Western influence. They want to drive out all Christians and then establish extreme Muslim law, sharia, as the law of the land. Because Nigeria’s government is so weak and corrupt, Christians are left unprotected and very vulnerable. Please pray for special grace and Gospel courage for our persecuted brothers and sisters as they follow the way of the Cross.