Barnabas prayer points for persecution spots
Christmas – Many Christians killed in Christmas attacks
Six people were killed by gunmen at a church service in Maiduguri, Borno state on Christmas Eve. Then another six worshippers were killed, and two injured, in Siri village, Yobe state, in a shooting at a church service in the early hours of Christmas Day. The pastor was amongst those killed.
At this time Christians were not safe even in their own homes; a number were killed in Musari, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, when suspected Boko Haram militants broke into their homes early in the morning on 28 December.
Violence against Christians over Christmas was also reported in Sudan, where at least eleven people were killed when the Sudanese air forces carried out bombing raids on Christian villages in South Kordofan between 18 and 26 December. On the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, a church leader was seriously wounded when he was shot by two assailants on a motorcycle on Christmas Day. His attackers are thought to be members of the Association for Islamic Mobilisation and Propagation (UAMSHO), an Islamist separatist group.
Lift up to the Lord all those who have lost loved ones in these atrocities, and ask that He will comfort them in their grief. Ask that Boko Haram’s murderous campaign in the Northern and Middle Belt states of Nigeria will be brought to an end, and pray that 2013 will bring greater safety and freedom from persecution to our vulnerable brothers and sisters in all these places.
Mali – Christians under threat from rebels; France intervenesPray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Mali, who are once again at risk as Islamist rebels push further into government-controlled territory. Last year Christians were driven out of the two-thirds of the country that is now controlled by the militant groups, who executed a violent takeover in the aftermath of a military coup.
Christians were forced to flee south, but the rebels are now progressing there, endangering them once more. Although the international response to the threat posed by the rebels has been slow, France has now taken decisive action by intervening. Many Christians had fled to Bamako, the capital, and are living in refugee camps there. Although French troops are now defending Bamako, the rebels have threatened revenge attacks against the city.
If the militants do advance south, Christians will be left with no safe haven in their own country. Ask that the Lord will be a refuge and a fortress (Psalm 91:2) for Christians in Mali and that the Islamists’ campaign will be brought to a swift end. Pray that Mali, which was once a country tolerant of Christians, will not see a complete Islamist takeover that would greatly endanger them.
UK – Landmark victory for Nadia Eweida in legal battlePraise the Lord that a Christian woman has won a court case concerning her right to wear a cross in the workplace. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on 15 January that Nadia Eweida’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion had been violated by her employer, British Airways (BA).
Nadia was told in October 2006 that her cross necklace violated BA’s uniform code, although the Sikh bangles and Muslim hijabs worn by her colleagues of other religions were permissible. Nadia, who believes that an employer should not be an “arbitrator of faith”, refused to conceal the necklace and, supported by Barnabas Fund, began the gruelling public campaign and legal battle that culminated in the Strasbourg ruling. Give thanks for Nadia’s courage and conviction, and that the right of Christians to manifest their faith in their professional lives has been upheld in this instance.
However, the appeals of three other British Christians who also claimed to have suffered discrimination in the workplace for their faith were rejected by the court. One appeal, which was brought by former nurse Shirley Chaplin, concerned a case similar to Nadia’s. Shirley was asked not to wear her cross necklace at work for reasons of “health and safety”, although once again Muslim hijabs and Sikh bangles were allowed. Ask that the British government will send a clear and strong message that Christians should not have to conceal their faith in Christ in their professional lives.
Egypt – Christians concerned for the future as Islamist domination expandsThe future for Egypt’s Christians looks troubling as the grip of Islamism tightens on the country. Nadia Henry, a Christian politician elected to the Shura Council, which will hold legislative power until the upcoming elections, quit her role on 27 December. She claimed that liberal and other minority groups were not properly represented.
Ms Henry’s resignation comes after a controversial Islamist-backed constitution was approved in late December. Voter turnout was just 33% for the vote to approve the code, and accusations of fraud have been raised. There are fears that the constitution paves the way for Egypt to become an Islamic state; it gives Islamic clerics an undefined role in ensuring that legislation complies with sharia law. Human rights groups have also criticised its restrictions on gender equality.
The attitude of President Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters has been revealed by the Brotherhood’s de facto spiritual leader. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has said that Islam cannot be satisfied except “by [completely] controlling society and directing all aspects of life”. Pray that Egypt will not see this oppressive vision become a reality. Ask that the Lord will protect Christians in Egypt, who face becoming second-class citizens if sharia law is implemented. There were major protests in the run-up to the vote on the constitution; pray that the mounting tide of Islamism in Egypt will be turned back and that fair representation for all groups will be achieved in the elections, which will take place in early 2013.
Iraq – Two Christians killed as sectarian violence breaks outLift up to the Lord Christians in Iraq, who are at risk of being caught in the crossfire as the country’s political deadlock erupts into further sectarian violence. On 8 January a car bomb killed Ayyoub Fauzi Auyyoub Al Sheikh, a Christian medical student, near the university in Mosul. The explosion also injured dozens of people. This incident illustrates the rising tensions in the city.
In another incident, the body of Shdha Elias, a 54-year-old Christian teacher, was found on 7 January in an area of Mosul where attacks on Christians had taken place in the past. Her throat had been cut. Ask that the Lord will comfort those who are grieving for our brother and sister in Christ.
The vulnerable Christian minority in Iraq is largely unprotected amidst the political tensions that are running high in the country. Christians have been targeted by violent extremists since the 2003 US-led invasion; they have been kidnapped and murdered, and their churches have been bombed. Although attacks had become less frequent in recent years, Christians are once again exposed as the gulf widens between Sunni and Shia Muslims, Arabs and Kurds, and local and central government. On 13 December, a radical Muslim cleric issued a fatwa threatening Iraqi Christians with death.
Pray that the Lord will be the strong defender of His people in Iraq (Proverbs 23:11) and protect them from further attacks. Ask that the political deadlock that Iraq has endured since the withdrawal of US troops in December 2011 will be broken and that the country will soon see stability.
Uzbekistan – Police arrest 80 church leaders in raid on ministry trainingChristians in Uzbekistan continue to face opposition and harassment from the government. Most recently, 80 church leaders were detained during a raid on a ministry training gathering in the village of Silyk, outside the capital, Tashkent.
During the raid, which took place on 1 December, officers insulted the gathered church leaders and took their fingerprints. Bibles and Christian books were confiscated, and a court later ordered that they be destroyed, despite the fact that the government officially recognises the Bible as a legitimate text.
Four of the leaders were charged with offences under Uzbekistan’s restrictive religion laws and were each given a fine equating to more than a year’s salary in the country. They will now appeal against the ruling. A church leader from Tashkent told Barnabas Fund that the persecution of Christian leaders in Uzbekistan has been on the rise since September 2012, reaching a peak over the Christmas season.
Give thanks for the faith and courage of our brothers and sisters in Uzbekistan, who face such repressive conditions. Pray that they will know the Lord’s strength and peace as they face the prospect of their meetings and ministries being disrupted, and that the government will desist from its campaign against Christian activities. Give thanks that Barnabas has been able to cover the cost of the fines meted out to the four church leaders.
Nepal – Christians written out of records in census “manipulation”More than two million Christians in Nepal have seen the official record of their numbers reduced to just 375,699 in what has been described as “manipulation” of the country’s 2011 census. Christian leaders have complained that the growing minority’s numerical strength has been grossly underestimated at a time when the relative influence of different groups is very important. This is the first census since Nepal became a republic in 2008, and the country’s long-awaited constitution is still in a state of deadlock.
Although the preliminary results of the census showed over 2 million Christians, the published results reduced this number dramatically, marking many Christians as Hindus. Dr K.B. Rokaya, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Nepal, said that he suspects “double manipulation”, whereby census collectors not only failed to visit every house, but also marked any person with a Hindu name as a Hindu.
Pray that this injustice will be rectified, so that an accurate figure for the size of the Christian minority will be publicly available as the country’s first elected representatives make reforms. Christians are still waiting for rights they were promised by the government, such as legal recognition for their churches and the provision of land for their graveyards. Lift up our Christian brothers and sisters in Nepal and ask that the Lord will strengthen them in their faith and sustain them throughout whatever political negotiations are to come. Ask that they will be confident, while the political situation of their country remains changeable, that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
Vietnam – Christian activists given jail sentencesCry out to the Lord on behalf of 14 Christian activists in Vietnam, who have been jailed for terms of between three and 13 years on charges of subversion against the state. At their trial, which took place in Nghe An, central Vietnam, the lawyers for the defendants complained that the Christians had been subjected to torture, including sleep deprivation, and forced into making false confessions.
During the trial, thousands of Christians staged a protest against the arbitrary and illegal arrest of innocent people. Give thanks that the activists’ fellow believers are speaking out against this miscarriage of justice, and pray that this pressure will lead to the Christians’ release. Some of them were apparently detained at random during church services, and it has been suggested that the prime minister has set quotas for the number of Christians to be arrested as a means of harassing the community. Pray that the government will cease to use the appalling tactic of arbitrary arrest, and that those Vietnamese Christians who are suffering in prison for the Lord’s sake will know His peace.