Yemen is the poorest of all the nations in the Middle East with an ongoing civil war and a corrupt government. Islamic Sharia law does not permit any religious freedom, and the penalty for apostatizing from the Muslim religion is death. Furthermore, both the Islamic State and Al Qaeda terrorist groups have targeted Christians for death. Added to that, to go against one’s family by choosing to follow Jesus brings intense hostility. Many keep their faith secret, but it is estimated there are only 1,000 Yemeni Muslims who have converted to Christ. Please pray for these believers who follow Jesus in such an oppressive country.
Azerbaijani pastor Hamid Shabanov was arrested and given a prison sentence in 2008 for having an unregistered house church, even though his many attempts to register his church had been rejected. In 2016 his church was again raided by police, and all 30 members were taken to the police station. National television reported they were arrested for “spreading illegal religious doctrines.” Both Pastor Hamid and another church leader were assessed heavy fines—the equivalent of three months wages—and they were ordered to stop meeting as a congregation. Please pray for Pastor Hamid and the believers in Azerbaijan as they seek to follow Jesus in this Muslim country.
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.
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.
At Pastor Andrew Brunson’s trial in Turkey July 18, the judge denied him release and returned him to prison. Andrew is being held on the false charges of endangering national security. His next hearing is scheduled for October 12, which will be two years from the time he was initially arrested.
Brunson had served faithfully as a pastor for 23 years in Turkey prior to his arrest in 2016, and he has become a political pawn that the Turkish government is using for their purposes. In spite of the major disappointment of Wednesday’s outcome, Brunson is looking at the bigger picture:
"There is no concrete evidence against me. The disciples of Jesus suffered in his name, now it is my turn. I am an innocent man on all these charges. I reject them. I know why I am here. I am here to suffer in Jesus's name."
Please continue to pray for special grace for Pastor Brunson, as well as for his wife, Norine.
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.
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.
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.