Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Pastor’s Name on ISIS Hit List – April 17th

Voice of the Martyrs, 11th April 2024

On Sunday, January 28, two masked gunmen entered a Catholic church in Istanbul during a service and randomly shot and killed a 52-year-old man. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility.

Turkish police quickly arrested two suspects with ties to ISIS and later arrested 25 more after raiding numerous locations. Afterwards, police contacted a pastor of a rapidly growing church in another part of Turkey and told him that his name was on an ISIS hit list.

“This pastor has been threatened by ultra-nationalist Turks many times, but this was the first time that he sounded worried,” said a front-line worker.

Turkish police offered to protect the pastor and encouraged him to set up security cameras. “We can’t pray for the elimination of persecution,” said the front-worker, “but we can pray that believers will be strengthened and recognize these things are happening because of the growth of the church.”

Unfortunately, Islam is considered by most Turks to be part of their national identity; it is hard for them to imagine leaving Islam even if they know little about its teachings and do not practice its tenets.

Believers face a range of challenges from family members, neighbours, employers and the government. It is not uncommon for the government to assign police officers to a pastor or church for “protection” from threats by Islamic leaders. This is a way to monitor the activities of pastors and churches.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Young Christian Woman Killed by Her Muslim Brother – April 17th

Morning Star News, April 12, 2024

The Muslim brother of a 19-year-old woman in eastern Uganda on March 29 killed her for putting her faith in Christ, a relative said.

Namukuve Sawuya had come to faith through a Christian Union Fellowship at her high school, a relative said. When her father, Alhaji Muzamiru, noticed she was not attending Muslim prayer times during Ramadan, he became angry and called her and her six siblings together at their home in Nawaningi village, Bulamagi Sub-County, Iganga District.

He asked her why she had not attended the prayers.

“She kept quiet for a while and later replied that she had converted to Prophet Issa [Jesus Christ],” the relative said. “This angered her elder brother, Abdul Rahim Munaabi, and he got hold of a wooden chair and hit her on the head. She cried out once, saying, ‘Oh Mum,’ and stopped breathing.”

Her mother was away checking on a relative who was ill in Naluwerere, the source said.

“Namukuve’s body was removed from the house and dumped in a swamp near the River Naigombwa.”

Rice farmers in the swamp discovered the body and informed police. Officers took it to a mortuary for autopsy and were investigating the crime.

Sawuya’s body, abandoned in the mortuary, was buried on hospital land, the source said.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Christian couple given two years in prison – April 17th

Church in Chains, April 10th, 2024

Pastor Ramesh Ahirwar and his wife Sakshi Ahirwar from Viveknagar Bhansa village near Sagar in Madhya Pradesh state have each been sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 25,000 rupees (€280) after Hindu extremists accused them of “forcible conversion” under the state’s anti-conversion laws.

They denied the charge but were convicted and sentenced on 11 March 2024 at the Trial Court of Sagar district, even though the woman they are accused of pressurising to convert denied in court that they had tried to forcibly or fraudulently convert her or her husband.

The couple’s conviction is the first under Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion law. “I am shocked at the conviction,” the pastor told Morning Star News. “The charges against us are baseless and utterly untrue.”

Pastor Ramesh and Sakshi appealed to the High Court and are currently out on bail while their appeal is processed. Their first appeal hearing was held on 5 April at the High Court in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, and the court extended the order of bail granted by the trial court until 30 April 2024.

Pastor Ramesh said he was on a trip to Delhi in October 2021 when members of the Hindu extremist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) incited a man named Abhishek Ahirwar to accuse the couple of abducting his estranged wife, pressurising her to convert to Christianity and trying to fraudulently convert him too.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

The Northern Hmu in China – April 17th

Joshua Project, April 15th, 2024

Chinese people have despised the Hmu people for centuries and called them “men-dogs.” When a Hmu person dies, a shaman “opens the road” by giving directions to enable the soul of the deceased to reach heaven after a long journey. In 1898, missionary W. S. Fleming and the first Hmu convert, Pan Xiushan, were murdered and Christian inquirers were beheaded. Today the main centre for the Northern Hmu people is Kaili City.   

Northern Hmu have strongly resisted the good news of Christ and this resistance may linger today. Ethnic religious practices, ruled by fear, legends and superstition are strongholds that must be pulled down before truth of the gospel can take hold.

The Hmu New Testament was completed in 2018 and audio Bible resources are available in their language.

Pray for many from today’s people to know that they must have no other God but the Lord.

Pray that the followers of Jesus among the Northern Hmu people would be nourished by the Holy Spirit and would fellowship together. Pray they would have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness, living as children of light. Pray that these disciples would make disciples who will plant churches among Hmu people, spreading and growing deep roots. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work powerfully through those ministering to Hmu people. Pray they would be given spiritual understanding.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Coptic Priest Threatened with Death in Sudan – April 3rd

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, March 28, 2024

‘He threatened to shoot me if I did not accept Islam. I refused and said if God wants me to die by your bullet, His will is above us.’ 

These are the words of Father Arsenius, priest of the Al-Masalma Coptic Church in Omdurman, Sudan, which was attacked by RSF gunmen last May.

Moments before his life was threatened, the attackers had shot Father Arsenius’ son in front of him and threatened to do the same to him if he did not accept Islam. In a TV interview after he fled to Egypt he said: ‘My son was lying down in front of me and heavily bleeding. I rushed to help him and told them this is my son, but they did not allow me and threatened me to shoot him if I tried to help him.’

Thankfully, the attackers didn’t shoot Father Arsenius. His son was treated in hospital and has now recovered.

Sudan has been in a state of crisis since April 2023 when conflict broke out between two factions of the ruling military junta – the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) – days before they were due to merge as part of a planned transition to democracy.

In the year since then, it is Sudan’s civilians who have suffered the most, experiencing some of the gravest crimes under international law. Christians are particularly vulnerable, with reports of attacks on clergy, the bombing of churches by both warring parties, and the seizure of religious buildings for use as military bases.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Deprived of an education because of her faith – April 3rd

Open Doors, 26th March 2024 (excerpts)

Deki is one of the estimated 19,500 Christians in Bhutan, a country where all citizens are expected to be Buddhist. Because of her faith, she couldn’t go to school, but her greatest dream has now been fulfilled – to read and write.

She finds it difficult to recall her childhood. Having not attended school, she missed out on the fun of playground friendships and activities, the joy of learning, and the exciting possibilities that come from being able to read and write.

It could have been very different if she and her family denied their faith, but they didn’t. Despite the sadness, Deki has no regrets and today she is looking forward to a future that not long ago seemed impossible.

Since there was no church in the village, the family walked four to five hours to attend church – and in secret. “Every Sunday, we had to go to church, hiding.”

Despite seeking to keep a low profile, locals knew of the family’s faith. “Villagers taunted my parents,” recalls Deki. “They held many meetings and mocked us for our faith. They inquired about our faith, such as who shared it with us and who told us to be Christian.”

The hostility was so intense that on two occasions Deki was denied admission to schools. “I couldn’t study,” she says. “All my friends of my age went to school, and now they are doing well.  I felt bad when I couldn’t attend school, but I never blamed my parents,” she adds. “I also never questioned their faith. Now, I know that whatever happens, it happens for good.”

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Persecution of Christians Escalates in India – April 3rd

Morning Star News, March 27th, 2024

India’s Christians suffered an alarming escalation of violence, hatred, and systematic oppression last year, according to the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI-RLC).

The 601 cases of persecution against Christians in India in 2023 marked a 45 percent increase over the 413 instances recorded the previous year, according to EFI-RLC’s annual report.

While no area of India was unaffected, several emerged as hotspots. Uttar Pradesh state remained the most hostile environment with 275 incidents, up from 147 the previous year. Chhattisgarh saw 132 cases, a decrease from the previous year’s 141, while Haryana had 44 incidents, up from 22 the prior year.

“The rapidly deteriorating situation for religious minorities is a matter of grave concern,” EFI General Secretary Rev. Vijayesh Lal told Morning Star News. “Christians, especially pastors in rural areas, faced assaults, disrupted prayers and damaged places of worship throughout the past year.”

The grim findings come atop data from the United Christian Forum (UCF) showing persecution has continued unabated into 2024. The UCF documented an additional 161 incidents of violence against Christians from Jan. 1 to March 15, including 70 cases in January, 62 in February and 29 in just the first half of March.

The UCF reported 122 Christians have been arrested or had cases filed against them based on allegations of “forced conversions” across various states since Jan. 1. The report stated that these “fabricated cases” were aimed at persecuting the Christian minority.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Laos house church reopens – April 3rd

Barnabas Aid, 27th March 2024 (excerpts)

A small house church in southern Laos attacked by residents and village leaders in February is now reopening under the protection of district authorities.

On Sunday 4 February a mob of residents and village authorities tore down the house where Christians were gathered and interrupted the worship service. The attackers also burned Bibles and other documents.

Ministry of Public Security officials have since stepped in to protect the Christians’ right to worship. “They announced that from now on, our fellow Christians can resume worship,” a Laotian Christian said. “So, starting this week, we’re rebuilding our place of worship.”

Another churchgoer added that while the building is being repaired, the church will still meet for worship.

“But the village authorities and other non-Christian villagers are still threatening us, threatening to tear down our place of worship again,” he said.

He said that the district level authorities warned the village authorities not to harass Christians again.

The tearing down of Christian homes and eviction of Christians from villages has happened repeatedly in country districts in Laos, despite a national “Law on the Evangelical Church”, in force since December 2019. But in rural areas this law has not had much impact yet.

Praise God for the support of the district authorities in providing protection for the house church to reopen.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

The Bagirmi Fulani in Central African Republic – April 3rd

Joshua Project, April 1st, 2024

The Bagirmi Fulani are semi-nomadic, mixing farming with shepherding. Although some Fulani tribes travel seasonally with their flocks, the Bagirmi have a permanent home they live in for half of the year. They only travel during the dry season, when grazing lands and water are scarce. Many of the men have multiple wives. Since cattle are a symbol of wealth among the Fulani, brides are sometimes chosen because of the amount of cattle they own.   

The Fulani were one of the first people groups in Africa to be converted to Islam. The Bagirmi still hold onto many old Fulani traditions. They believe that family, cattle, strong morals, beauty, poetry, singing, and dancing are the most important things in life.

The Fulani continue to be strongly committed to their current religion and worldview. Change is quite difficult and usually occurs slowly.  Reaching the Fulani may take a combination of contact inside and outside their communities. Pray that outreach will take place within the context of the market as well.

Pray for the handful of Christian believers among the Bagirmi Fulani, that they will depend fully on the finished work of Christ, understanding the requirements for forgiveness of sin have been satisfied. Pray for sufficient rain to support the livestock of the Fulani, and for good yields for their crops.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

200-strong mob attacks church in India – March 20th

Open Doors, March 13th, 2024

At least 22 Christians in India, injured after a 200-strong mob attacked a church, are still in shock after their ordeal. Two children were among those injured in the mob violence in the southern state of Telangana over a land dispute, in which attackers shouted, “Jai Shri Ram”, meaning ‘Hail Lord Ram’, – a chant which has become a hallmark of Hindu nationalists.

Tensions had arisen after a group of villagers demanded the road to be widened eight feet into the compound of the Methodist Church in the Janwada village area of Rangareddy district. The Christians protested, and that’s when things turned violent.

“The argument became strong, and suddenly around 200 people barged into the church with hockey sticks, stones and wooden sticks,” shares an eyewitness. “When the believers tried to stop them, they beat them mercilessly and broke everything that was inside the church.”

When the police intervened, the ordeal wasn’t over for the believers. Despite being the victims of the violence, several members of the church were arrested alongside the attackers.

The imprisoned believers were terrified and forced to sign some documents in favour of the attackers. So, the attackers got bail and were released from prison immediately, whereas the believers were released on bail only two weeks later.