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.

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.

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.

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.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

“Nicaragua has become a prison state.” – May 17th

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 15 May 2023

Over the past five years, President Daniel Ortega has cracked down on all critical voices as he consolidates power.

Religious leaders, especially those the government views as critical of its actions, have been a particular target.  One of them told CSW that even preaching about unity or justice, for example, can be considered criticism of the government and therefore treated as a crime.

Several religious leaders were among the 222 political prisoners removed from prison on 9 February – but stripped of their citizenship and expelled to the United States.

Then on 15 February a further 94 political prisoners, including nine religious leaders, had their citizenship removed; most were already in exile.  Others, like Bishop Ronaldo Alvarez, remain unjustly imprisoned in Nicaragua.

Among those expelled from Nicaragua was Pastor Wilber Alberto Pérez – a Protestant pastor who was falsely convicted of selling illegal drugs.  In reality, he was targeted for promoting the campaign ‘Christmas without political prisoners’ in 2020, and was held for a prolonged period in solitary confinement with no natural light.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Agariya in India – May 17th

Joshua Project, 15 May 2023

One of the nine Munda-Santal tribes, the Agariya have worked with furnaces as iron-smelters for generations.  Much of their more recent history has been greatly influenced by British colonialism.  Today the Agariyas continue to work with metal.  They manufacture agricultural tools such as axes, ploughshares and sickles.  Only ten percent are literate, however that number has increased with more focus on education and beneficial programs.

Hinduism is the official religion of the Agariyas, and Dulha Deo is the family god.  Their religion is often a big part of their lives, and they may not be interested in new ideas and change.

Sending outreach teams to the Agariyas could be a possible way to help them understand the gospel.  Efforts by the church to stop economic exploitation might go a long way towards helping them see the work of Christ’s hands.

Pray that many family leaders from this people group will understand that their people are sinful just like the Israelis, and that they need to seek the Lord for forgiveness.

Pray for a church movement to grow among them and for their spiritual needs to be met and fulfilled.  Pray that they would find people who want to listen and spread God’s word through communities.  Pray education would be elevated among the Agariyas and that children would have access to all they need to thrive in India’s modernizing economy.  Pray they would have their medical and educational needs met.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

The Church is a Beacon of Hope in Sudan – May 17th

International Christian Concern, 9 May 2023

Amid the escalating violence currently wracking Sudan, priests in violent hotspots have kept church doors open. They continue to minister and provide shelter despite increased dangers.

“I want to stay until the last minute, I do not want to leave the people here alone,” one missionary priest told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “But we face the same problems as the rest of the people.” 

At least 600 people have been killed since the conflict began on April 15, when fighting broke out between military units and the paramilitary Rapid Support. According to the UN, the number of displaced people inside Sudan has more than doubled this past week, now reaching more than 700,000.

Armed fighters also forced their way into the cathedral in Khartoum, and a chapel belonging to a religious congregation was bombed.”  Internationally, people push for dialogue, but there is still shooting.”

Sudan was removed from the U.S. Dept. of State’s list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) in December 2019. Advances in religious freedom lasted for only two years, however, until a military coup in October 2021. 

The coup brought back fears of repression and harsh implementation of Islamic law.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Ugandan College Student Slain for Sharing Christ – May 3rd

Morning Star News, 1 May 2023 (excerpts)

Jeremiah Mwanga, a second-year Christian college student was killed in his room at the school in northern Uganda on April 14 for sharing about Christ with Muslims.  He was 24.

Mwanga was a native of Kapchorwa, eastern Uganda, where the Muslim student at the school charged with killing him also lived.

“Jeremiah complained about messages from one of the students threatening to kill him for misleading Muslims by preaching to them the gospel of Christ as well as converting them to the Christian faith in the school,” a friend of Jeremiah’s told Morning Star News.

The friend said that on April 14 he heard screaming from a room on the school premises at about 10 p.m.  “After 30 minutes I rushed to the scene of incident and found out that it was Jeremiah’s room,” he said. “Inside the room was a pool of blood.”

Mwanga had already been rushed to a medical clinic near the school, he said.  “Reaching the clinic, I was told by the medical personnel that he had been referred to the Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival,” he said.  “I found him lying in the hospital bed, dead.”

The friend requested he be given Mwanga’s personal effects, including his mobile phone.  “Going through the phone, I found out that the threatening message was from a Muslim student who happened to come from Kapchorwa also,” he said.  “I then took the phone to the school administration who reported the matter to the police.”