The North African country of Morocco portrays itself as being moderately Muslim; but Sunni Islam is the official state religion of Morocco, and proselytizing is illegal. In fact, last year the government’s highest religious authority issued a ruling stating that Muslims who reject their faith should be executed. Christians comprise less than 1% of the entire population, and in 2010 the government declared some 70 foreign Christian workers “a danger” and expelled them from the country. In August 2013, Mohamed el Baldi, who had become a Christian seven years earlier, was arrested after his home was raided by the secret police. He was charged with “shaking the faith of a Muslim” and sentenced to 30 months in jail, though no proof was offered. However, in God’s gracious providence, after he had served only one month in prison, el Baldi was given conditional freedom due to public attention to his case by human rights groups—and last month the judge dropped the charges against him. Please praise God for this victory, but also pray for Moroccan believers to stand strong in their faith in this hostile country.
Indonesia ranks as the fourth largest country in the world and also as the largest Muslim-majority country. Because its constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all, Indonesia has attempted to be a model of moderate Islamic practice. However, government officials have increasingly bowed to pressure from militant Islamic groups to close Protestant churches. Two years ago, some 50 churches in remote provinces were forcibly closed by militant Islamists. In March of 2013, local officials in the suburbs of Jakarta bulldozed the large Batak Protestant Christian Church for allegedly not having a permit, as radical Muslims cheered. This past December, two more churches were attacked and closed, leaving hundreds of Christians with no building in which to worship. Please pray for Indonesian officials to enforce their laws and protect the minority Christians in their country. Also, pray that Christians who suffer the loss of their church buildings will reflect Christ to their Muslim persecutors who hate the Cross.
Liberia is considered a majority-Christian nation; however, a secret society called Poro, which is based on animism and witchcraft, wields significant influence in the nation’s culture. Poro has been a force in Liberia by generating fear through placing curses, poisonings, assaults, and destruction of property, especially toward Christians. Police generally have been unwilling to protect believers against this lawlessness. Last October, Pastor Dennis Aggrey (a church planting leader in Liberia) and a fellow pastor were kidnapped and chained to a tree for three days in Malawu, the center of Poro power in this West African country. The church in Malawu was closed, and believers have been forbidden to have a Bible or speak of Jesus. In the November trial for Pastor Dennis, government officials defended Poro as being their legitimate, historical religion. A final ruling is due in January. Since then, two more pastors were kidnapped the day after Christmas, and other churches have been closed. Please intercede for Pastor Dennis and the other believers who are courageously standing for Christ in the face of satanic power in Liberia.
India—the world’s largest democracy—is ranked among the top 50 countries in which Christians suffer persecution for following Christ. In 2008, approximately 50,000 Christians were burned out of their homes by radical Hindus in the state of Odisha (previously called Orissa), while the police did little to halt the attacks. In 2013, the persecution of Christians has been ongoing across the country. In the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, the Christian population is less than one percent. Believers there have faced repeated attacks from the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the radical Hindu party. After demolishing a church in this small farming village last April, the Bajrang Dal brutally attacked an elderly Christian woman, Mitko Kashyap, with the demand that she renounce Christ. As a result of the attack, Mitko was hospitalized, while her attackers went free. Please pray for God’s special grace for Mitko Kashyap, as well as other believers, who stand for Christ in India, a country that is becoming increasingly hostile to the Cross.
Believers in the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan are suffering under a combination of a Soviet-style dictatorship and a strong Islamic religious system. In 2010 Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev, age 48, was framed on false charges and sentenced to four years of hard labor in a prison camp. He was given mind-altering drugs that are frequently used to re-educate Christian prisoners, while medications for his diabetic condition were withheld. Though he was released early in 2012, the police began last month to again harass him, his wife, and even his church members. All the believers who signed the church’s registration application are now being summoned to the police department and have been subjected to long interrogations and threatening demands to furnish the names of all their relatives. Though no criminal charges have yet been filed against them, Pastor Nurliev’s family and church members are being fingerprinted and photographed. Please pray for God’s grace for this faithful pastor, his family, and his fellow believers as they face persecution for the sake of the Cross.
Since the largely Christian south broke away to form its own nation in 2011, Sudan’s government has escalated its attacks against the remaining Christians who are too poor to move their families south. President al-Bashir has stated that he intends to write a new constitution that is “100 percent Islamic.” In the last ten months, church buildings have been demolished and Christian-run schools and orphanages have been closed. Furthermore, the government has stopped the delivery of humanitarian aid to minority Christians. Thankfully, in the last twelve months a Christian relief organization has assisted 8,000 Christians—mostly women and children—to escape to South Sudan by air and by bus. Please pray for grace for the remaining believers in Sudan who are being viciously persecuted by those who hate the Cross.
It has been four years since Asia (ah-see-ah) Bibi, age 48 and mother of five, became the first woman to receive a death sentence under Pakistan’s draconian “blasphemy” laws. In June of 2009, Mrs. Bibi was picking fruit on a farm when she drank water from a cup used by Muslim women. Because she is a Christian, Asia’s coworkers considered her unclean. So they attacked her physically and pressured her to renounce Christ and convert to Islam. When she asserted that Christ is the only Savior, her coworkers reported Asia for “blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed.” She was found guilty in court and was sentenced to death by hanging. Mrs. Bibi’s appeal was denied in 2011, and she has languished in prison on death row for four years now. In prison, Asia has experienced numerous physical problems. Furthermore, two prominent Pakistani government officials, who spoke out on behalf of Mrs. Bibi, have been assassinated. Please pray for God’s comfort and grace for Mrs. Bibi and her family, as they endure such hostilities for the sake of Christ in the midst of radical Islam.
Laos is a small, land-locked country in Southeast Asia, where Communism remains strong and the government routinely targets Christians. Last winter Mr. and Mrs. Sakien, an elderly couple, were evicted from their village in the southern part of Laos after they became Christians. Also, three Christian ministers—Pastors Bounma, Somkaew, and Bounmee—were arrested last winter for making personal copies of a DVD about Bible prophecy. The pastors were charged for the crime of spreading the Christian religion. They were held in jail for two months and tortured by the police in an attempt to extract confessions. Although the Laotian government acknowledges religious freedom on paper, it continues to oppress minority Christians with forced relocations, closure of churches, detentions on false charges, and destruction of livestock. Christians are paying a high price for the Gospel’s sake under this Communist government, and intercession is needed for these brothers and sisters. Pray that Laotian believers will continue to glorify God in their sufferings.
Because the two holiest Muslim sites, Mecca and Medina, are located in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government considers itself to be the guardian of Islam--and they are one of the worst persecutors of Christians. Their laws are based on an extreme form of Islam known as Wahabbism, and religious freedom is virtually non-existent. Several months ago the mutawaah, or religious police, raided a private prayer meeting of Ethiopian Christian guest workers. The women were abused, and the men were put in prison, where they suffer ongoing torture. On May 12, 2013, a Lebanese Christian working in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 300 lashes and six years in prison for encouraging a Saudi woman to convert to Christianity. Yet the Gospel is still making inroads even in this stronghold of Islam. Pray for grace for these brothers in prison who are suffering for the Gospel’s sake and that their testimony for Christ would impact others in prison. Also pray for Saudi Christians who live and witness in a very difficult place.
Afghanistan ranks third among nations most severely opposed to the Cross. There are 48,000 mosques in the country—but not a single church building. Afghanistan’s population is 31 million, but estimates show there are less than 5,000 indigenous believers in this nation that has radical Islamic sharia law written into its constitution. Because of strong family traditions, any Muslim who comes to Christ is often in danger of an “honor killing” by the family even before the government decides to pursue them, and Muslims who convert to Christ are subject to harsh imprisonment and possible execution by the authorities. Some make the world news, such as Abdul Rahman and Sayed Musa, who were spared from death as international efforts intervened to get them out of Afghanistan, and Shoaib Assadullah, who was brutally abused in prison before he was finally allowed to flee to Canada due to international pressures—but most others go unnoticed. Please pray both for the Gospel’s advance within the spiritual darkness of Afghanistan and also for grace for courageous believers who bear witness to Christ at great personal cost.