Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Persecution has escalated in Afghanistan – May 31st

Voice of the Martyrs, 25 May 2023

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021, life for Christians is difficult.  Most Afghan Christians fled, but some remained.  “It is very challenging for the normal Afghan and very, very hard for Christians,” a front-line worker shared.  “Persecution has escalated from the government, local religious authorities, family, and community, and it is still escalating.”

Remaining Christians struggle with isolation, but some cautiously reach out.  “Our Afghan brothers and sisters feel pressure, like sheep among wolves, but the desperation there is leading to opportunities for them to share ‘God stories’ that can lead to conversations about Christ.  Pray for the Taliban,” the front-line worker added.  “They are fighters, not governors.  Pray that they will lead by peace, do what’s good for the country and that they will come to Christ.”

The good news of Christ reached Afghanistan by the second century, but today there are no church buildings.  Cultural and religious opposition to the gospel as well as significant security issues remain great challenges for all missions efforts in this Central Asian nation.

There is, nevertheless, a special unity among Christians labouring for the gospel in Afghanistan. Indigenous, near-culture and expatriate believers are boldly taking risks and using every possible opportunity to help believers grow in faith and connect with local house churches.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Churches Closed, Pastors Under More Pressure – May 31st

Voice of the Martyrs, 25 May 2023

Christians in Algeria report suffering from a systematic campaign of government persecution.  Since the end of 2017, the government has reportedly closed 30 of the 47 Protestant churches in the country.

In January 2023, a 54-year-old pastor from a Muslim background was sentenced to two years in prison for holding “unlicensed worship” and “holding worship in a building not designated for non-Muslim worship.” The pastor has been in jail since his arrest on December 30, 2022.

Before the founding of Islam in the seventh century and the subsequent invasion by Arab Muslims, Algeria was inhabited by the Berber people.  Today, they live mainly in Algeria’s mountainous Kabylie area in the north, while Arabs inhabit the rest of the country.  The Christian faith has a long history in North Africa, especially among ethnic Berbers. 

After centuries of oppressive Muslim occupation, public Christian worship and witness have largely disappeared, but many Berbers are now rediscovering their Christian heritage.  Churches have seen rapid growth, and Algeria has experienced one of the world’s largest movements of Muslims coming to faith in Christ.  Algerian Christians are reaching out boldly to their Muslim countrymen, causing increased persecution in an uncertain political climate.

Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Fund – May 31st – Update 1

Updates on the persecuted Church

Barnabas Fund, 23 May 2023 (excerpts)

  • An Australian missionary doctor who has been held by al Qaeda-linked militants in Burkina Faso since January 2016 was released on 19 May. Dr Ken Elliott, 88 years old, is reported to be in good health, and has been reunited with his wife, Jocelyn – Mrs Elliott was abducted at the same time but released after three weeks.  They ran a 120-bed clinic in the town of Djibo.
  • An estimated 130 people have been killed in a series of attacks launched by Fulani Muslim extremists on Christian-majority areas of Plateau State, Nigeria, in the past week.  Around 1,000 buildings in 22 villages have been burned down in Plateau since 15 May, leaving thousands displaced.
  • Two Christian boys have been charged with “blasphemy” in the Lahore area of Punjab, Pakistan. On 18 May one of the boys, Adil, 17 years old, was chewing some gum that has the brand name “Muhammad Ali”.  His friend Saiman, 12, made a joke about the gum, which was overheard by a Muslim man who accused the boys of making jokes about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. The Muslim man beat Saiman and threatened to kill the boys, before calling the police.  Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws stipulate death for defiling the name of Muhammad.
Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Church Planting in the “Circle of Silence” – May 31st

Voice of the Martyrs, 25 May 2023

Aaron is one of many church planters advancing God’s kingdom in the “Circle of Silence,” an eight-state region in central Mexico of nearly 23 million people with less than 1% evangelical witness for Christ.  

There is a strong culture of Christo-paganism, which is a syncretistic blend of ancient pagan practices and Roman Catholicism, and front-line workers like Aaron are often opposed by those hostile to the gospel. 

Aaron lost his job because of his faithful witness, and he and others like him are routinely threatened. These front-line workers request prayer for renewed strength and encouragement as they serve in this difficult place.  They also ask for prayer that God will increase their opportunities to reach more neighbourhoods with the gospel and that they will be able to celebrate more baptisms as new believers trust in Christ.

Specific areas within southern Mexico have a high concentration of indigenous minority groups.  These minority communities, which maintain a separate identity and language, are systematically oppressed by local authorities.  Christians among them are persecuted by Marxist and animist groups as well as village leaders.

Tribal leaders persecute Christians in defence of their indigenous culture, and the federal government allows this.  These communities are remotely located and difficult to reach.  Despite persecution, the number of Christians has continued to grow in these areas.

Jacksons, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Jacksons – May 31st – Update 1  (excerpts)

The Mukhanyo library staff are being helpful.   Fraser has two alternative methods to improve things before the system goes live.  He starts the training when he goes in person on 26th June. 

Thank God that Drakenstein Medium A Restorative Justice looks as if it’ll go ahead next week, Monday to Saturday.  Pray there’ll be no last minute hitches.  Many inmates and staff are unwell at Medium A.  There will be over 20 lifers and about 16 others participating – it’s not about being eligible for parole but about changing lives.

Pray that the prison ministry leadership will not cause extra and avoidable stress through lack of forethought, inadequate communications and lack of consideration.

Akhona and Raymond from the Bible study are being released at the weekend.  Pray that they will put into practice what they’ve learned, find a sound and supportive church, jobs and really start new lives.

So many people are struggling with poverty, crime and lack of education and opportunities in South Africa.  Pray that those in positions of leadership will be honest and work for the good of society, not entitled and corrupt.

We had a lovely week with James and his friend who were able to come and stay with us but it’s always so hard when they go.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Israeli Jews in Israel – May 31st

Joshua Project, 29 May 2023

Sabra Jews are those born in the land of Israel, particularly since the founding of the Jewish State in 1948.  “Sabra” is derived from the Hebrew name of the prickly pear cactus.  The allusion is to a tenacious, thorny desert plant with a thick hide that conceals a sweet, softer interior.  All Israeli young people, both men and women, receive military training and become part of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

Jewish identity is threatened when a Jew acknowledges Jesus as his or her Messiah.  Their Jewish identity needs to be enhanced by following Jesus the Messiah.

The gospel is available if the hearts of Israeli Jews are prepared to hear and receive it.  TV and radio programs in Hebrew would be helpful.  Pray that many from this people group will be in awe of the blessings of the Lord.

Pray that Christ’s followers among Israeli Jews would be faithful witnesses to their families and friends.  Pray that these Messianic Jews would live lives that fully honour the Lord Jesus.  Pray the Lord would give Jewish families understanding as they hear about the love of Christ.  Pray that the veil over their spiritual eyes would increasingly be lifted, allowing them to accurately see Jesus as their Messiah.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to move powerfully among Israeli Jewish leaders.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Christians suffering violence in Sudan – May 31st

Barnabas Fund, 23 May 2023 (excerpts)

The warring parties in Sudan have agreed to a seven-day ceasefire that began on the evening of 22 May – although reports indicated that fighting continued in some areas.

Although this conflict is not specifically anti-Christian, there have been several reports of attacks on churches and church leaders in this Muslim-majority country.

Masked gunmen raided a church in Omdurman, a city on across the River Nile from the capital Khartoum.

The gunmen fired at church leaders and worshippers, severely injuring five.  They insulted the Christians, calling them infidels and “sons of dogs”, telling them they should convert to Islam.

Sudan has been governed by Islamic law since 1983, one of only a few countries in modern times where the death penalty for apostasy has been carried out.  

In 1994 two Christians from a tribal group, converts from Islam in the early 1970s, were executed by crucifixion.

In 2022, 4 Christian converts were charged with apostasy, despite the apostasy law having been abolished 2 years earlier.  Thankfully the case against the 4 was dismissed.

The recent violence has laid bare the Islamist attitudes in Sudan.  No wonder many believers have fled for refuge in neighbouring countries such as Egypt and South Sudan.

Blythswood, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Blythswood – May 31st – Update 1

Daniel Centre

Drugs have loomed large with one of the lads having to be sent away for pepper-spraying another of the lads.  He had stolen the pepper spray from his security work at the airport and also lost his work there because of his attitude.  The lad who was pepper-sprayed is also in danger of being sent away.

One of the carers, himself a former resident of the Daniel Centre, is in danger of emotional burnt-out.  Iva, who works with their sister organisation, Bonus Pastors as a professional counsellor, acts as a back-up for the staff.

The electricians finally came this week for the Depot.  Every delay prevents the potential renters from concluding contracts with Blythswood.

Balazs has now had his initial assessment with James Campbell after taking over foreign operations from Finlay MacKenzie and the assessment was very positive.

Balazs’s daughter Ilka has a stressful exam in 3 weeks’ time to decide which high school she can attend.

Talita Kum

Ending the school year, Adi’s Talita Kum will have their Children’s Day Show in Jimboliya’s main square and their year-end celebration on June 6th after a very positive past school year.

Adi will take the 35 TK1 children to camp in the Southern Carpathian mountains in late June and the 45 TK2 kids to a new location with a group of young helpers from a Free Church in Inverness in August.

The Romanian teachers’ strike for higher pay could put financial pressure on Adi to find enough teachers.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

In the Land of the Setting Sun – May 17th

Frontiers, 15 May 2023

The easternmost region of Morocco has a multiplicity of cultures and languages but is mostly empty of gospel proclamation.   Hemmed in by the Atlas Mountains in the west and the 800 km border with Algeria, it stretches from the fertile Mediterranean to the Sahara sands.

The major cities like Oujda, as well as smaller towns serve as centres of trade and community for nearby desert dwellers.  Unlawful cross-border commerce continues despite official closure 30 years ago, while political peace with their eastern neighbour remains elusive.

Distinct indigenous dialects are spoken, as well as the common language of Moroccan “Darija” Arabic The economy is dynamic, and as the middle class grows, roughly as many Mercedes as donkeys are used for transport. 

Oujda is a relatively modern city with a reputable university and strong-minded students who fearlessly protest for justice and causes they believe in.   The Empty East is well connected through social media.

The far east of Morocco is largely empty of believers, yet the ground here fertile, with a small, but sturdy body of believers that is growing.   Unfortunately, they cannot reach the whole region and so more workers are needed.

Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Fund – May 17th – Update 2

Updates on the persecuted Church

Barnabas Fund, 10 May 2023 (excerpts)

  • More than 50 people from the Christian-majority Kuki tribal group have been killed in anti-Christian violence that has raged in Manipur, India, since 4 May. About 114 church buildings have been burned down and there have been targeted attacks on around 67 Kuki villages.
  • Iranian Christian converts Homayoun Zhaveh, 64, and his wife Sara Ahmadi, 45, were acquitted and released from prison on 9 May. The appeal court judge ruled there was “no evidence” that Homayoun and Sara had acted against national security. 
  • 2 of the 276 “Chibok girls” abducted by Boko Haram Islamist terrorists in April 2014 were rescued by the Nigerian military on 21 April 2023. Pray for more than 100 “Chibok girls” who have not returned home.
  • Terrorists on Sunday 7 May abducted more than 40 people from a Baptist Church in Kaduna State, Nigeria. 15 people escaped, and 25 are still captive. 
  • A Christian wedding photographer and the Muslim couple who hired him have been accused of “blasphemy” in the Pakpattan District of Punjab, for taking photos of the newlywed couple at a Muslim shrine on 30 April.
  • Six Libyan Christians who were arrested separately earlier this year are facing the death penalty as apostates for having converted from Islam and proselytising others in the Muslim-majority country.