Persecution Updates

Persecution Update, July 2017: Iran

Maryam Naghash Zargaran 2017 Iran (USCIRF).png

The Islamic Republic of Iran is among the top 10 worst countries for persecuting Christians. Despite that fact, the Gospel is powerfully at work in that country, especially among younger Iranians. There are now an estimated one million evangelical believers, but scores of these Christians have been imprisoned for their faith and subjected to very harsh conditions. Maryam Naghash Zargaran, a single woman in her late 30s, converted to Christ out of Islam. In 2013 she was arrested because of her ministry among orphans and falsely charged with endangering national security. Maryam has a serious heart condition along with other serious health issues. Iranian authorities grudgingly allowed her to be hospitalized in 2016, but her health continues to deteriorate. Though she was due to be released later this year, the government extended her sentence because of her time in the hospital. Please intercede for Maryam, asking the Lord for a special sense of His presence as she endures suffering for Christ’s sake.  

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Persecution Update, June 2017: Ethiopia

Although Ethiopia has a long-standing reputation as a Christian nation, there has been a rise in persecution of its evangelical Christian community, which makes up 20% of the population. With Islam comprising approximately one-third of the population, radical Muslims from neighboring Somalia and the Middle East have targeted Ethiopia for “Islamization.” Just recently in a Muslim-dominated part of the country, three teenage girls were sentenced to spend one month in prison among adult criminals for distributing Christian literature. This past March there were eleven cases of attacks by Muslims against some 250 Christians. Furthermore, though the nation’s constitution advocates religious freedom, the influential Ethiopian Orthodox Church persecutes the growing evangelical house church movement. Please pray for grace and boldness for believers in Ethiopia as well as for continued blessing and Gospel-impact of Frontline’s Oromo Bible Project.

Persecution Update, May 2017: Malaysia

Malaysia has prided itself in being a moderate Muslim nation. However, in recent years efforts towards the full Islamization of Malaysia have been underway, and official law mandates punishment for apostasy if a Muslim converts to another religion. In February 2017, Malaysian Pastor Raymond Koh, age 62, was kidnapped on a public road by masked men near Kuala Lumpur. The kidnapping was captured on video, but no one has seen or heard from Pastor Koh since. Pastor Koh faithfully ministered for years to the poor and to drug addicts and provided free education to children. In 2011 government officials questioned Pastor Koh after he was accused of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence, but many Christians think that the authorities are now not doing enough to find Pastor Koh because he is a Christian. Christians comprise less than 10% of the population of Malaysia. Please pray for Pastor Koh and his family during this difficult and uncertain time. 

Persecution Update, April 2017: Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan ranks among the top twenty countries that persecute Christians and remains one of the world’s most repressive regimes. Evangelical believers number less than 2,000 in that Central Asian nation and are suffering under a combination of an old-style Soviet dictatorship and an overwhelmingly Islamic religious system. The late President Niyazov (1985-2006) began a strong personality-driven cult based on his book, the religious text Ruhnama (“The Book of the Soul”), which was given equal status as the Quran. In this environment, evangelistic activities, Christian literature, and unregistered churches are all illegal. Christians face loss of jobs, pastors have been beaten and imprisoned, and great pressure is applied to Muslim-background believers to return to Islam. Please pray for God’s grace for faithful believers as they face persecution for the sake of the Cross.  

Persecution Update, March 2017: Egypt

Hana Adly Girgis (Photo used with permission of World Watch Monitor)

Hana Adly Girgis (Photo used with permission of World Watch Monitor)

Egypt is a deeply divided nation—even within the 95% Muslim population. While some Muslims there desire a secular state, many want Egypt to be an Islamic nation strictly ruled by sharia. The minority Christian population, caught in the middle of this national controversy, are being targeted; and currently Egypt ranks #21 among nations that persecute Christians.

In January, 18-year-old Hanan Adly Girgis, a Christian young woman who was planning her wedding, was kidnapped from her home at night. Her family is heartbroken because the police have done little to solve her abduction. It’s not uncommon for Christian young women in Egypt to be pressured—and even kidnapped—to become brides for Muslim men.

Also in the last few months, shootings of Christians by radical Islamists have increased in the Sinai Peninsula area of Egypt, and hundreds of Christians are fleeing the area. Please pray for God’s special grace for Hanan, as well as for her family, and for all the others who stand for Christ in Egypt, as their nation becomes increasingly hostile to the Cross.


Persecution Update, February 2017: Syria

Syria is currently ranked as the sixth worst nation in persecution of Christians. The situation there is very complex because of warring Islamic factions, and those who have left Islam to follow Christ face extreme persecution, including murder, kidnappings by ISIS, and forced slavery. Because of this, approximately 50% of the Christian population has fled the country, leaving behind their homes and businesses. The remaining Christians are conflicted about whether to stay or to leave. In Aleppo, the Christians who stayed are seeing extraordinary opportunities to reach Muslims with the Gospel. Bombs are exploding around their church, but one pastor said in spite of that, they are conducting mercy ministries to 2,000 families—half of whom are Muslims. Muslims are shocked to see Christians caring for them, which often causes them to abandon their prejudice against Christians. A pastor said, “I think God is giving us double grace.” Another believer said, “For the first time in history, Muslims are coming to us. The only thing we have to do is tell them the Good News.” Please intercede for special grace for our suffering brothers and sisters in Syria who are courageously following Jesus.

Persecution Update, January 2017: Turkey

Since last July, Turkey’s President Erdogan has intensified his crackdown against tens of thousands of Turkish citizens—mostly educators, journalists, judges, military personnel, and especially Christians. Caught up in the crackdown is Pastor Andrew Brunson (pictured), a 48-year-old American from Black Mountain, North Carolina, who has been a pastor in Turkey for the past 23 years and is currently the pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church. On October 7, 2016, he and his wife were arrested on vague “national security” grounds. They were held in isolation without formal charges and were not allowed to see a lawyer. Andrew’s wife, Norine, was released two weeks later, but Andrew continues to be detained. On December 9, Andrew was formally brought to court and charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” No evidence was presented except the word of a secret informant, and Andrew was sent to a maximum security prison. Please intercede earnestly for God to give grace and a special sense of His presence to Pastor Andrew in prison and to his family who is working for his release.         


Persecution Update, December 2016: Cuba

Cuba, one of five Communist nations left in the world, has persecuted Christians for more than fifty years under the dictatorship of the late Fidel Castro. Thousands of Christians were imprisoned and martyred during Castro’s reign of terror, when simply being a Christian was considered a “disease.” Reports during that time tell of Christians shouting out “Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!)” before being silenced by government firing squads. Though persecution in Cuba today is not as brutal as in years past, government threats, intimidation, and surveillance are still the norm for Protestant churches and believers. Church services are infiltrated by government informers to monitor sermons, and Christian literature and Bibles are still restricted. In October of this year, Pastor Juan Carlos Nunez was sentenced to one year of house arrest after his church was charged with “disturbing the peace.” Yet, Cubans are being converted to Christ as the Cross continues to triumph over Marxism. The estimate of house churches today is as high as 10,000. Please pray for brothers and sisters in Cuba who joyfully stand for Christ under persecution.       

Persecution Update, November 2016: The Maldives

The Maldives is a tiny and beautiful South Asian island republic located in the Indian Ocean southwest of India. It has a population of approximately 400,000 people, and the official religion is Sunni Islam. Surprisingly, the Maldives ranks #13 on the list of countries that persecute Christians. According to the government, there are no Christians in the country, and reports indicate that Maldivians are among the least evangelized people in the world. In fact, all Christian materials, including Bibles, are illegal. However, there are estimated to be about 300 evangelical believers who meet in underground house churches. Foreign workers and tourists are subject to deportation if they attempt to connect with or worship with these Christians. In two separate incidents, an American and a Bangladeshi believer were arrested, jailed for nearly a month, and then deported for bringing Christian literature into the country. Please pray for the Gospel’s advance in the Maldives, for Spirit-given boldness to proclaim Christ, and for special grace for persecuted believers in this hostile country.

Persecution Update, October 2016: Burma

Burma (also called Myanmar) has historically been a majority Buddhist nation with nearly 90% of its population claiming to be Buddhist. The military government is clearly pro-Buddhist and actively seeks to restrict Christians, who number only about 6% of the population. Government laws restrict Christian proselytizing. Not only do local governments refuse to grant permission to build churches, but last year in the states of Shan, Chin, and Kachin, church buildings and crosses were destroyed by the Burmese Army. In the last 10 years, more than 3,000 Christian villages have been destroyed by government troops; and at least 100,000 Christians of the Kachin people group are living in refugee camps as a result of being displaced by government forces. In 2014 two Kachin Christian school teachers were murdered—and the murderers went free. In spite of all this hostility to the Cross, the Gospel that was first brought here by Adoniram and Ann Judson is still at work as Jesus continues to build His Church in Burma! Please pray for God’s grace for these persecuted brothers and sisters.