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.
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.
Nigeria is one of the most dangerous nations for Christians. Muslims comprise about half of the nation’s population, and several radical Islamic terrorist groups have vowed to eradicate Christianity from Nigeria through “religious cleansing.” In 2014, Boko Haram killed more people in Nigeria than ISIS did in the Middle East. Thus far in 2018, more than 1,400 Christians have been murdered by Muslim terrorists, including 233 Christians that were brutally killed one weekend in June. Christian girls continue to be abducted by Boko Haram and made child brides with the attempt to force them to convert to Islam. Please pray for special grace for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Nigeria and that they will shine as lights for Christ as they follow the way 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.
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.
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.