Voice of the Martyrs Prayer Watch

These were first from: http://www.vom.com.au

EGYPT: How Libya’s Martyrs are Witnessing

The brutal execution of 21 Christians in Libya has sparked a feeling of unity and opportunity for Egyptian Christians.

As the country mourns the loss of 21 Coptic Christians, 13 from the same village, it has provided an opportunity to testify of the faith for which these men were killed. More than 1.65 million copies of a tract inspired by the incident have been distributed in one week.

The tract contains biblical quotations about the promise of blessing amid suffering, alongside a poignant poem in colloquial Arabic:

Who fears the other?
The row in orange, watching paradise open?
Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?
The Bible Society distributed the tract through Egypt’s churches.

Sources: International Christian Concern, Christianity Today

Prayer Points

  • Praise God for the lives of the 21 Christian men and their faithful love for Christ.
  • Continue to pray for the families of these men, may they rest in the knowledge that the Lord hears their cries and is upholding them during their time of grief.
  • Pray that the Scripture tracts created will mightily proclaim Christ’s name and draw many to Him.

SYRIA: Nineteen Assyrians Released by Islamic State, Hundreds Remain Captured

Nineteen Assyrians who were captured from the Syrian village of Tel Goran have been released by Islamic State (IS) and have arrived safely at St Mary’s Church in Hasaka, Syria.

According to the Assyrian International News Agency, negotiations for their release had been ongoing for three days and were mediated by local Arab tribal leaders.

‘Of the 19 that were released, 17 were women and 2 were men,’ said a spokesperson for AINA. But not all who were captured from Tel Goran were released. One of the hostages, an elderly woman, said that IS did not release her son and two other men who were guarding the village.

IS also refused to release a six-year-old girl. According to reports from the released hostages, Islamic State said it plans to use the girl as a bargaining chip. The girl’s mother was released but would not leave her daughter behind and stayed with her.

The spokesman told the ASSIST News Service, ‘The hostages looked tired and dishevelled but were otherwise unharmed.’

According to AINA, the number of Assyrians captured by Islamic State is between 262 and 373. According to Assyrian leaders, negotiations for the release of the remainder of the hostages are ongoing.

Sources: Assist News Service

 Prayer Points

  • Thank the Lord for the release of these hostages; pray He will help them to overcome their ordeal.
  • Pray for the many that remain; pray they will be sustained by the Lord. Ask Him to give them a peace in their heart in spite of their circumstances as well as a willingness to trust in Him completely. Pray for their protection and release.
  • Ask God to frustrate the plans of Islamic State; pray their evil schemes become their undoing. Pray many will be drawn to the Lord by the Christian witness of the captives.

SUDAN: Two South Sudanese Pastors Imprisoned

Two pastors from South Sudan, Pastor Yat Michael and Pastor Peter Yen, have been detained for over a month in undisclosed locations in Sudan without formal charges.

Pastor Michael and his wife had taken their son to Khartoum for medical attention, and the pastor was asked to give a sermon during his visit. After finishing his sermon on Sunday, 21 December, he was arrested by members of Sudan’s National Intelligence Security.

When Pastor Yen visited the Religious Affairs Office in Khartoum on 11 January to inquire about his colleague, he too was arrested. There is concern that both Pastor Michael and Pastor Yen are in danger of being tortured.

Source: Voice of the Martyrs USA

 Prayer Points

  • Please pray that the Lord would make them strong to lovingly and boldly proclaim the Gospel even while being detained. Pray they will remain steadfast (1 Peter 5:8-10).
  • Ask the Lord to grant protection to these men and their families; pray they will become more Christlike during this time of trial.
  • Pray for their release and ask the Lord to move the authorities to seek justice and mercy.
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PAKISTAN: Christians Devastated by Death of Preacher

Friends of a popular Pakistani preacher, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver, believe he may have been murdered because of his conversion from Islam.

Rashid Mehmood, 33, came from a rich, influential Muslim family but turned to Christ in 2005. Though he trained as a lawyer, he decided to become a pastor and preach the Gospel, despite strong opposition from his relatives.

On 23 December 2013, Rashid was a passenger on a motorbike driven by his pastor friend when a car began to chase them, and then deliberately struck the motorbike. Rashid suffered serious head injuries and died later in hospital after undergoing surgery.

Two days before his death, Rashid had preached about Jesus being the only true and living God and the embodiment of God’s love, quoting from the Koran at several points. According to sources, Rashid was a role model for other Christians with a Muslim background and his death “broke people’s hearts.”

Source: Release International

Prayer Points

  • Pray for those grieving the loss of Rashid that they will be comforted by the Spirit’s sure presence.
  • Pray Rashid’s passion for sharing the Gospel continue among other believers from Muslim backgrounds.
  • Just as God reached out to Saul, a ruthless persecutor, may He also draw to Himself those who opposed Rashid (Acts 9:1-19).

IRAN: Shahnaz Jayzan Released from Prison

Shahnaz Jayzan, an Iranian Christian arrested in December 2011, was released from prison on 28 January. Shahnaz was imprisoned along with Naser Zamen-Dezfuli, Davoud Alijani and her husband, Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh. The three men were earlier freed after spending over 200 days in jail.

Shahnaz’s release was conditional, and she is required to report to the Revolutionary Court of Ahwaz every four months. According to sources, Shahnaz and Pastor Farhad are not permitted to hold church services or visit Christians in Khuzestan province. Also, they were told they should leave Ahwaz, their hometown.

Source: Mohabat News

Prayer Points

  • Thank God Shahnaz has also been released from prison.
  • Pray that she and her husband will continue to serve God faithfully, despite the limitations placed on them by authorities.
  • Remember in prayer the many other Iranian believers who remain imprisoned, ask God to grant them endurance and pray also that they will soon be released.

You can impact and encourage imprisoned Christians by writing letters, reminding them that they are not forgotten.

 

SOUTH SUDAN: Female Church Workers Raped and Killed

Scores of female church workers were massacred last month as they sought refuge at a church in the central South Sudanese town of Bor.

The women, several of whom were elderly, had fled rebel attacks to hide in the St Andrew’s Episcopal Church compound, when rebels descended on them, raping several of them before shooting them at close range.  Five of the women worked as pastors in the church.

Since the conflict erupted, several churches have been attacked and looted, and pastors harassed. In Malakal, the St Francis Catholic Church compound was attacked and looted in mid-January, and the priest robbed. The local Anglican and Evangelical churches were also looted.

The most affected areas are the north-eastern states of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile. Bor, the headquarters of Jonglei State, was totally destroyed, with houses, food stores, shops, banks and churches burnt down and looted.

Source: World Watch Monitor

Prayer Points

  • Plead with the Lord to intervene, to bring a cessation of the brutality and bloodshed.
  • Pray for those who have lost loved ones and livelihoods, ask the Lord to strengthen them, provide for them and comfort them in their sufferings.
  • Pray the Lord will use this time of unrest to strengthen His church and draw many into His kingdom.

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INDIA: Pastor and Wife Brutally Attacked

A Baptist pastor in Andhra Pradesh, India, is in a critical condition after he and his wife were attacked on 30 December by a group of radicals wielding swords, knives and sticks.

Pastor Namha Mosses, 45; his wife, Suvartha; and their 7-year-old daughter were asleep in their home when they heard a knock at the door at 1 am. When Pastor Mosses answered the door, he was repeatedly stabbed in the stomach and back, causing damage to his liver, kidneys and other internal organs.  Suvartha rushed to help her husband, but then she was attacked, receiving injuries on her head and hands.

Neighbours called an ambulance for the couple, and they were taken to a nearby hospital in Kamineni. Because Pastor Mosses’ injuries were more severe, he was transferred to a hospital in Hyderabad.

The couple had been warned to stop their Christian activities, but they continued to minister through prayer and their church, which includes 100 members and six house churches in the area.

Source: Voice of the Martyrs USA

Prayer Points

  • Pray Pastor Mosses and his wife will make a full and complete recovery, pray the Lord will help them and their daughter overcome this ordeal.
  • Pray this attack will result in increased boldness among the believers in the area (Acts 5:29).
  • Pray the perpetrators will be affected by the witness of the believers and come to the Lord in repentance.

CHINA: Update on Alimujiang Yimiti

This month marks Alimujiang Yimiti’s sixth year in prison. Alimujiang was first charged in 2009 for “providing state secrets to overseas organisations.” However, many believe the real reason for his incarceration is his zealous commitment to share the Gospel and for leading a church in the Uyghur area of China’s northwest.

Alimujiang has been imprisoned since January of 2008. The following year he was sentenced to 15 years in detention. In April of 2010, his wife, Gulnur, was finally permitted to visit him for the first time since his imprisonment. Tragically, their son, who was only four years old at the time, could barely even recognise his father. At last report, Gulnur is only able to visit her husband once a month at the most.

The past six years have been incredibly difficult for this family, but God has faithfully sustained them. Gulnur recently shared that she had found a new job, and that her mother has become a believer. She also expressed how encouraged she is by the many prayers of brothers and sisters from around the world, as well as by the support of local Christians.

Source: Open Doors, International Christian Concern

Prayer Points

  • Pray that Alimujiang will be released from prison soon so he can be reunited with his wife and children. May this family be encouraged by the prayers of Christians throughout the world.
  • Praise the Lord that Gulnur’s mother has become a believer. Pray her faith will grow, eventually producing a great harvest.
  • May God also bless Gulnur in her new job. Ask for a special blessing on the couple’s children who are missing the presence of their earthly father in their daily lives…that they would look to their Heavenly Father to sustain them.

While praying for this family, please also consider sending Alimujiang a letter to build him up in his faith.Click here to visit our Prisoner Profiles page.

PAKISTAN: Deadly “Reform” to Controversial Blasphemy Laws

The Federal Sharia Court, the organisation that determines whether or not Pakistan’s laws comply with Sharia law, has ordered the Pakistani government to remove life imprisonment from punishments for blasphemy, leaving death as the only consequence.

Most fear that Muslims will abuse this new law to persecute religious minorities. Accusations of blasphemy are often levelled against individuals as a way of taking revenge or settling scores.

The hope is for there to be enough international pressure on the Pakistan government that they will not allow death to become the only punishment for blasphemy.

Source: International Christian Concern, VOM sources

Prayer Points

  • Pray for the protection of Christians in Pakistan who have been falsely accused of blasphemy.
  • Pray for the wisdom and courage of Christian lawyers fighting on behalf of Christians falsely accused of blasphemy.
  • Pray that the radicalism will be noticed and discouraged by the international community.

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IRAN: Christian Prisoner: We Celebrate Christmas in Prison!

Farshid Fathi was arrested on 26 December 2010 in Tehran. He was eventually tried in January 2012 and sentenced to six years in prison for “acting against national security through membership of a Christian organisation, collection of funds and propaganda against the Islamic Regime by helping spread Christianity in the country”. The Revolutionary Court Judge, Mr Salavati signed his sentence.

Pastor Farshid Fathi is spending his third year in Evin prison without ever being given a leave permit. According to Iranian law, prisoners have the right to a number of leave permits each year.

Read below a message of encouragement, first published on Facebook and addressed to those praying for him.

Dear brothers and sisters,
We are celebrating Christmas in prison with honour and unexplainable joy in Christ.
2013 is going to end and we are very thankful to the Lord for everything we were given this year. I had called 2013 ‘the year of revelation’. Now I am very excited because I am calling 2014 ‘the year of God’s presence’.
God calls us to walk before him and be blameless, as he said to Abraham. So far, walking before him is very sweet and so exciting. It is filled with great endurance, afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, sleepless nights, hunger, purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech and the power of God. So my dear brothers and sisters, if you read this, be ready for a very exciting journey in 2014.
Thank you so much for remembering me in your prayers after 1,100 days.
With blessings in Christ,
Your brother,
Farshid

Sources: Mohabat News, VOM Sources

Prayer Points

  • Praise the Lord! He has given Farshid an extraordinary faith and a great joy, in the midst of difficult circumstances.
  • Pray the Lord will use Farshid’s love of Jesus to strengthen the faith of believers all over the world and draw others to Himself, including Farshid’s fellow prisoners and guards.
  • Pray for Farshid’s release, in God’s perfect timing. Pray for his family as they wait for this day.

Click here to write to Farshid and other Christians in prison for their faith.

NIGERIA: Christians Killed as Extremists Confirm ‘Religious War’

Twelve Christians were killed in extremist attacks on two villages in Nigeria’s northern Borno state – just as Boko Haram confirmed that Christians remain a target for its violence.

On 28 December, eight people were killed when suspected Boko Haram extremists opened fire on a pre-wedding party in Tashan-Alede. The following day, four people died in an attack on neighbouring Kwajffa village.

These attacks came as Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, speaking on a video obtained by Associated Press, defined the group’s struggle as ‘a religious war’. ‘We are fighting Jonathan, we are fighting Christians,’ he said. This has prompted claims that the group is now trying to gain favour with Muslims angered by the fact its casualties have included many Muslims.

Meanwhile, central Plateau state has seen further violence against Christians at the hands of suspected Fulani militants. Gunmen stormed the Church of Christ in All Nations at Maiakworigold Maikatako village on New Year’s Eve, killing three people and wounding 16 others.

Sources: Release International, AP, ICC, Nigerian Tribune

Prayer Points

  • Pray that God will comfort and heal all those who mourn in Nigeria. Pray that Christians in that nation will know that Jesus is the cornerstone of life (1 Peter 2:6), their rock and firm foundation.
  • Pray for a real breakthrough in efforts to end the bloodshed in Nigeria this year. Pray for courage, political will and determination on behalf of the country’s officials.
  • Pray for Muslims all over Nigeria who currently oppose the Lord and His church. Ask the Lord to have mercy on them and draw many into His Kingdom.

EGYPT: Christian Reportedly Shot by Muslim Brotherhood Protesters, then Refused Treatment

A Coptic Christian man died on New Year’s Eve from a gunshot wound to the head after three hospitals in Cairo are reported to have turned him away.

Ihab Ghattas, 23, was shot outside Mar Girgis (St George’s) Church in the Ain Shams area of Cairo after celebrating mass. The Maspero Youth Union (MYU), a Coptic activist group, claims he was shot by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood following a protest outside the church by the Islamist group.

In a statement released on New Year’s Day, the MYU claimed that Ghattas died because of ‘negligence’ on the part of the hospitals which refused to treat him.

Mideast Christian News (MCN) reports that Ghattas was denied access to one hospital because it was deemed not to be an emergency and another due to a lack of beds. The third hospital refused to treat him due to the absence of an intensive care unit, according to the MYU.

A fourth hospital, St Peter’s in Heliopolis, admitted him but he died soon afterwards. The MYU said that by this stage he had been ‘bleeding for three hours’. The group has called for an investigation.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters were reported by MCN to have fired birdshot at St George’s Church, after which a group of young people from the church, including Ghattas, had joined police in defending it. Other protests reportedly took place across the country, but police used tear gas to disperse them.

Source: World Watch Monitor

Prayer Points

  • Pray the Lord will comfort the family and friends of Ihab and help them to rely ever more on Him during their time of grief.
  • Pray the lord will grant strength, wisdom and benevolence to the Egyptian authorities as well as a desire to do all they can to protect persecuted minorities.
  • Ask the Lord to be at work during the continuing unrest to strengthen His church in Egypt.