The west African country of Niger is 80% Muslim. Jeff Woodke, an American citizen, has served in Niger for more than twenty-five years as a Gospel worker among an unreached people group known as the Tuareg. Woodke made himself at home among these nomadic people by living among them and learning their language. In October of 2016, Woodke was kidnapped by radical Islamists and taken across the border into neighboring Mali. For more than 20 months nothing was known of his condition. This past June, Niger’s President Issoufou indicated that Woodke is still alive. Please pray for God’s enabling strength for Jeff Woodke and for his family as they suffer for the sake of the Cross.
In order to Sinicize Christianity, the Chinese regime is retranslating the Bible for their own political purposes and compelling house church leaders to pledge loyalty to the Marxist government.
Pastor John Cao (a Chinese-American who previously pastored in North Carolina) was arrested in 2017 on charges of illegal border crossing. Prior to his arrest, Pastor John, a leader in the house church movement, led efforts to take Chinese believers into Burma to build 16 Christian schools for more than 2,000 children. Now serving a 7-year sentence in prison, his health has suffered. Please intercede for God’s strength and grace for Pastor Cao, his American wife and two sons, and other believers in China who suffer for the Gospel’s sake.
We praise the Lord we can share the good news that Professor Kim Hak Song, a Christian Korean-American, was one of the three prisoners released from North Korea yesterday! We rejoice that he appears to be in good health and are grateful for your intercessions on his behalf. Please continue to pray for the thousands of North Korean Christians who are still in slave labor camps. Read our previous update here.
The government of Somalia claims that all Somalis are Muslim because its constitution makes Sunni Islam the state religion. The radical Islamic terrorist group Al Shabaab is waging a campaign against Somalis who are secret Christians, executing them by beheading. In addition, just being a Christian woman invites abuse. One report documents that daily six women are raped or forced into arranged marriages because of their faith. Please pray for Gospel light to shine in Somalia and for Christians, isolated and in great need of fellowship and discipleship, to persevere in following Jesus.
UPDATE on April 2018 Persecution Update
Pastor Andrew Brunson’s April 16 trial did not go well. After Pastor Brunson denied the terrorism charges brought against him, he was ordered back to prison. His trial is postponed until May 7. The entire process has taken a major toll on him physically and emotionally. Please pray for a special measure of God’s grace for him and his wife, Norine. Please also pray for God to turn the hearts of the judges to righteousness.
The communist nation of China has seen some decrease in harassment of believers in recent years, so the country’s persecution ranking dropped to 39. However, this year President Xi increased the pressure on Christians through tougher laws and his insistence on installing government surveillance cameras in church buildings. Also, new laws passed in September 2017 mandate that all underground churches must register with the government by March 2018.
Though some areas of China have seen lessened oppression, in Henan province the persecution is growing more intense. In 2014, a well-known pastor of a Three-Self Patriotic church, Zhang Shaojie, was given a sentence of 12 years in prison and a $16,000 fine for the crime of “disrupting public order” — the harshest given since Mao in the 1970s. In prison, Pastor Zhang has been cruelly tortured, given meager food, and subjected to sleep deprivation. The latest report from his family indicated that he is close to death. Please intercede for God’s strength and grace for Pastor Zhang and for the other believers in China who suffer for Christ.
(Photo from www.worldwatchmonitor.org)
The tiny Muslim nation of Qatar is located on the Persian Gulf with a population about the size of Houston, Texas. The native Qatari populace comprises only 12%, while the vast majority is composed of low-income migrant workers from the Philippines, India and Pakistan who work in construction and in the oil industry. The national religion is Wahhabism - the ultraconservative form of Islam. Any attempt to evangelize Muslims is forbidden by law. Approximately 14% of the population professes to be Christians, but they are almost exclusively found among the foreign migrant workers. Very few native Qataris have actually been converted to Christ. Persecution of Christians is severe with Qatar ranking #20 among nations that oppress Christians. Please pray for the Gospel’s advance among indigenous Qataris and for grace for new converts to find fellowship among other believers.
Although 82% of the population of Kenya self-identify as Christians, Kenya ranks 18th on the list of countries that are the worst persecutors of Christians. Kenya’s 10-15% Muslim minority is growing and becoming radicalized. The Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabbab, which is based in neighboring Somalia, has been attacking Christians in eastern Kenya. In August, three Kenyan Christians in eastern Lamu County were beheaded when they refused to deny Christ by reciting the Islamic prayer of faith. One of the men was Joseph Kasena, age 42, who was an elder in his church. In July, al-Shabbab militants raided a village and went door-to-door looking for Christians. Seven Christian men—all poor farmers—were brutally killed by the attackers. In 2015, al-Shabbab terrorists killed 148 Christian students at Garrisa University near Kenya’s Somali border, and in 2016, the same group of militants murdered 48 Christians in Lamu County who could not recite Quaranic verses. Please pray for special grace for suffering Kenyan believers and their families who endure torture and death for their faith in Christ.
(Photo from www.uscirf.gov)
UPDATE on August 2017 Persecution Update
We received word that Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, Vietnam, was released from prison! We praise the Lord for this answer to prayer and wanted to let you know so you could rejoice with him and his family. You can learn more about his release here.
UPDATE on July 2017 Persecution Update
We praise the Lord we can share the good news that Maryam Naghash Zargaran has been released from prison in Iran! You can learn more here. We rejoice in this development and are grateful for your prayers. Please continue to pray for Maryam's physical and emotional recovery from her time in prison and for other Iranian sisters and brothers who are suffering for their faith.
Vietnam is one of five remaining Communist nations—China, Cuba, Laos, and North Korea are the others—and it ranks among the Top 20 countries for persecution of Christians. The minority Christians, who are less than 10% of the population, are increasingly oppressed and attacked for following Jesus. House churches are raided by government officials, and pastors are often jailed. In 2011 Nguyen Cong Chinh, a 50-year-old Lutheran pastor, was charged with “undermining national solidarity” because of his work with tribal groups in the Central Highlands and was given an 11-year sentence. In prison Pastor Chinh has been beaten, his Bible has been confiscated, and he has been kept in isolation. Furthermore, authorities have contaminated his food and denied him needed medical treatment. His wife—and mother of five—has also been interrogated and beaten. Please pray that God would give special grace to Pastor Chinh and his family as they follow Christ in the pathway of suffering.