The Muslim nation of Sudan is a dangerous country for Christians. Ruled by radical Islamic Sharia, Sudan decrees the death penalty for those who abandon Islam. The Sudanese government has systematically bulldozed churches, arrested Christians, and raided Christian bookstores. A recent case involves a Sudanese church leader, Tajadin Idris Yousef, and nine other believers who were arrested during a house church meeting in October. They were charged with apostasy and taken to jail, where they were beaten and pressured to renounce their faith in Christ. Yousef stood courageously for Christ while the other nine men recanted their faith and were released after paying a fine. Please pray for strength for Yousef as he faces a trial and a very possible death sentence.
Afghanistan is second to North Korea as most hostile to Christians. There is not a single Christian church building in the country, although there are over 48,000 mosques. Afghans who convert to Christ are considered traitors to their country and can be sent to a psychiatric hospital or face a death sentence for apostasy. In addition, relatives who forsake Islam are often murdered by Muslim family members in “honor killings.” As a result, many Christians must flee the country in order to escape persecution. Please pray for the Gospel’s advance within the spiritual darkness of Afghanistan and for special grace for believers who follow Christ at great cost.
We praise the Lord that a Turkish court freed American pastor Andrew Brunson on Friday, October 12, 2018, after nearly two years in jail and more recently under house arrest. Thank you for your prayers for Pastor Andrew over the past two years. Please continue to pray for him and his family. Read our previous update here.
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.
On July 25, Andrew Brunson, an American citizen who has lived and ministered in Turkey for over 20 years, was released from prison and moved to house arrest, where he awaits his October 12 hearing. This is a promising step, but he still remains accused of the false charges of endangering Turkey’s national security, and he faces a potential 35-year prison sentence. Please continue to pray for God to be glorified through this situation.
Although Nepal is a majority Hindu nation, the government declares the country to be a secular state. Yet in late 2017, the government passed an anti-conversion law which criminalizes conversions from one religion to another. Like India and Pakistan, Nepal is using the anti-conversion law to jail Christians, who make up 2% of the population. Even having a Bible can be used as evidence of attempting to convert Hindus.
In 2016 four Christians were imprisoned and charged with “witchcraft” when their prayers for a severely mentally ill woman resulted in God’s healing. This past May, five churches were bombed and burned. Please pray for God to give grace to believers in Nepal as they increasingly suffer for the Gospel’s sake.
The Muslim nation of Tajikistan has recently amended its religion law to assert total control over all religious matters. Churches must fill out detailed questionnaires about their activities and also include a list of the foreign organizations from which they receive funding. Cameras are to be installed in churches, so the government can monitor the people and the preaching.
In July of 2017 Bakhrom Khomatov, a 42-year-old Protestant pastor, was sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly “singing extremist songs in church” and inciting “religious hatred.” The secret police also designated his Christian books as “extremist material” and disbanded the church. His wife, Gulnora, has suffered health issues since her husband’s arrest. Please pray for God’s special grace for Pastor Khomatov and Gulnora so that they will shine as lights for Christ in the darkness.
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 tiny country of Eritrea ranks as the world’s tenth-harshest persecutor of Christians. Dire economic conditions and government oppression have earned that nation the title, “North Korea of Africa,” and its citizens have been fleeing the country for years. Eritrea’s official religions are Sunni Islam and three government-approved Christian denominations—Catholic, Orthodox, and Lutheran. Independent congregations are illegal, and evangelical Christians—who number slightly more than 100,000—are suffering. In 2017, more than 200 evangelical Christians were arrested—including mothers taken away from their small children. These believers endure barbaric conditions in concentration camps, where they are being housed in crowded metal shipping containers with no ventilation in extreme heat. Fikadu Debesay, a young mother of three, died in August while interned in a desert camp. Some believers have spent more than ten years in the concentration camps. Yet, “God is working mightily; the church is growing,” said an Eritrean church elder. Pray for sustaining grace for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Eritrea who suffer for the Gospel’s sake.
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)