Pray for Sudanese Christians

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In an update to the request for prayer on 19th August, https://pray.interserve.org/sudan-pastors-face-possible-death-penalty/ Middle East Concern and Christians in Sudan have requested further prayers for the four church leaders detained by the Sudanese authorities.

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The trial of the four Christians has started, with the second court hearing held, as scheduled, on Monday 21st August. As expected, all four men have been charged with several serious offences, including waging war against the state, espionage activities, conspiracy to carry out criminal acts, and undermining the authority of the state through violence.

Some of the charges are punishable with the death penalty.

The trial was originally intended to begin on 14th August, but the four defendants were not brought to court from prison. An investigator from the prosecutor’s office has given his statement, and the next hearing is expected to take next week, on Monday 29th August.

Sudanese Christians request our prayers:

  • that the four detained church leaders will know the Lord’s strength and comfort during their ordeal,
  • for a fair judicial process, and that the four will be acquitted of all charges.
  • that church leaders and other Christians will know the Lord’s peace in the face of the increasing pressure against churches,
  • that all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.

Ephesians 6 vs 18: “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.”

Source: http://meconcern.org/

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Pray Called for the Church in Nepal

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The leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nepal has called for prayers amid a State clampdown on evangelistic outreach, including the distribution of religious literature and even having a Bible in a Christian orphanage.

All evangelistic activity is prohibited under the new Nepalese Constitution that came into force in September 2015. Article 31(3) of the Constitution says that “any act to convert another person from one religion to another, or any act or behaviour to undermine or jeopardise the religion of another, [is] punishable by law.”

“It is time to reconsider our approach toward reaching other communities with the Gospel,” said Umesh Pokharel, president of the Adventist Church’s Nepal Section.

Whilst the Constitution does not actually define what constitutes “any act to convert,” authorities have started to interpret the law. According to Pokharei, the Social Welfare Council, the government agency responsible for approving foreign aid used to conduct local programmes, has stopped approving Christian activities.

Distributing Christian literature invites punishment, and the authorities have warned the leaders of Christian boarding schools and orphanages that they face large fines, the confiscation of property, and closure if a single piece of literature is found on their premises. The government also has banned adults from praying with children and doing Bible studies with them.

Pokharel said the Church is concerned that the clampdown could expand even further.

“Holding church services accessible to all, or organising events to help underprivileged and disadvantaged people could be interpreted as evangelistic and considered a violation of the law,” he told the Adventist Review.

Pokharel said Adventist believers have experienced challenges for decades in the predominantly Hindu nation, which has never officially recognised Christianity as a religion.

“In this difficult time for Christian community in Nepal, we kindly solicit your sincere and continuous prayer for all our brethren, evangelists, pastors, and co-workers serving in parts of this country,” he said.

  • Pray for the Church in Nepal as it faces growing pressure against it. Pray for wisdom as they grapple with the new laws and their implications on the freedom to share their faith and reach their communities with the Gospel.
  • Pray for the government of Nepal to recognise Christianity as an official religion in their country, and to protect the right of all people to freedom of belief and worship.
  • Pray for Christian schools and orphanages also affected by this legislation, for wisdom and discernment as they balance obeying the law with freedom to disciple the children in their care.
  • Pray for Nepal, as it stands at a crossroads in terms of allowing freedom of belief. Pray for a move of the Holy Spirit in this nation, for the Church to remain strong and to grow, and for many Hindus across Nepal to come to know Christ and the Truth of His Gospel.

Romans 12 vs 12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

Source: http://www.interamerica.org, http://www.persecution.org

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Reading the Headlines and Hearing the Call to Pray.

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Looking through the news headlines this morning, you would be forgiven sensing a dark cloud of gloom hanging over you about the state of the world around us.

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Headlines this morning document a suicide bomb at a wedding in Turkey, more civilians killed in Aleppo, injuries from protests in Kashmir, ongoing hardships in Gaza, conflict and hardship in Yemen … the list goes on.

They don’t mention the ongoing tragedies of conflict and power struggles on the African continent, the struggle to live day by day for so many across South East Asia, the ongoing and increasingly unresolved issue of refugees around the world …. yes, a depressing read indeed!

But to despair is to take God out of the equation. When we read the headlines and see the world’s problems, we see a world that is unaware of the God who created it and who loves the people He made in His image. A world that is becoming more and more divided and polarised over the question of religion, and moving further away from His ideals and values each year.

Yes … all of that is true. But there is also hope. Looking beyond the headlines, we hear of amazing testimonies of refugees finding hope and healing through Christ, of many Muslims encountering Jesus in dreams and visions during Ramadan, of a growing hunger in the hearts of people across all religions and nations to know the Truth which sets them free.

When we put God back in the equation, we can come to know His heart for this world, how He grieves with those who grieve, hurts with the hurting, heeds the call of the suffering, and asks us, as His hands and feet on this earth, to take up His call to reach out to those around us, wherever we are, with His love, grace, compassion and mercy.

And to heed His call to pray, a call that resounds through His Word, to humble ourselves and pray, to pray with faith, believing that He is able to do far more than we can ever ask or imagine.

Our God is in His Heaven, He is Lord of Heaven and earth, He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He will be exalted, and one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Let us heed His call today to cry out for the nations of this world, to call upon His name, to humble ourselves, confess our sin and believe that He can and will heal our nation … and indeed all nations of this hurting world.

And lets use the news headlines as a starting place for our prayers today.

Psalm 46 vs 10: “‘Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”

1 Chronicles 7 vs 14: “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

 

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Fields Ripe for Harvest Amongst Refugees in Turkey.

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Christian workers in southern Turkey are working tirelessly to help children traumatised by the horrors perpetrated by the ISIL, despite facing danger themselves.

Christian workers in southern Turkey are working tirelessly to help children traumatized by the horrors perpetrated by the Islamic State group despite facing danger themselves.

Over the last 5 years, around two million refugees have flooded into Turkey from Syria and Iraq, a number that the UNHCR predicts could reach three million by the end of this year. A Turkish director of an indigenous ministry told Christian Aid Mission that most of the refugees in the area camps are women and children, as about a quarter of the mothers have lost their husbands to war or jihadist atrocities.

“There’s one boy who saw his parents killed in front of him,” said the Turkish director. “His grandma says he was a happy child until that night. Now he wakes up every night screaming. Day by day, he stopped talking. Now he only screams.”

“My heart is bleeding after I see children left disabled because they cannot go to a hospital,” he said. “One baby passed away from not having a blood transfusion. I cannot sleep some nights.”

Workers from the ministry arrive at the crowded camps with 200 boxes of food, clothing and water for people living in several hundred tent. Sadly, the needs of the refugees often far outstrip the ministry’s resources and ability to help.

However, in addition to seeking to provide for the physical needs of the refugees, the ministry also works to share the Gospel. After providing aid one week, they will ask if they can include Bibles in the next week’s box of aid. The answer is always, “Yes.”

So far, the workers have seen 112 people put their faith in Jesus, with 20 being baptised. Because of the dangers present in the camps, the refugees who were baptised have been relocated to three “safe houses” for discipleship, while the others remain secret Christians in the tents.

“We’re risking our lives to share the gospel with them, but we don’t want to risk their lives,” the director added. “Once they receive Jesus Christ, they are in danger of the radicals in the camp. So in one safe house we have 12 family members who received Jesus, but they’re living in one room.”

Sharing the Gospel does not come without risk: aid workers say they are confident that if jihadists in the camps found out they were talking about Jesus in the tents, they would kill them.

“If certain people saw us sharing the gospel, they would tell the radicals,” the director said. “Even the [Turkish] government would stop us – they would be tracking us, ban us from everything, charge us with false crimes, put us in prison.”

  • Give thanks for the faithful workers in this ministry in Turkey. Pray for their protection as they serve the refugees and share the Gospel with them. Pray that they will continue to see fruit for their ministry, and many lives finding new hope and healing through Christ.
  • Give thanks for those who have put their trust in Jesus. Pray that the witness of their faith, all be it often a silent witness, will draw many others to know the Truth of Jesus, His grace, healing and hope for their lives.
  • Pray for the jihadists who are in the camps, that they will have their hearts turned and eyes opened to recognise Jesus Christ as Lord.
  • Pray for more workers to heed the call to go to minister amongst refugees, where the fields are ripe for harvest, but the workers are so few.

Luke 10 vs 2: “He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”

Source: http://www.gospelherald.com/articles

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Indonesian Believers Standing Firm in Their Faith

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Despite facing threats of violence and death from local Muslims, Christians in Indonesia are standing firm in their faith, taking to heart the words of the Apostle Paul – “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

A street scene in Cianjur, West Java

According to Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International, a group of believers in an Indonesian village, led by a FMI-supported church planter, was holding a meeting to discuss starting a formal church when about 20 Muslims interrupted.

The Muslims told the believers to disperse and to stop meeting together, threatening them with machetes and taking their pictures for future intimidation. A box of weapons was later discovered outside the church door.

Bruce Allen says “[The] Pastor stayed a while longer with the family who had hosted the church meeting. They just shared their heart with him, wondering, ‘How do we go on from here? We’re nervous, we’re scared, but what do we do next? We still want to be discipled by you.'”

Despite facing possible death, this Pastor, who individually disciples about 15 believers in this village, revealed he plans on returning to the village later this month to continue his ministry.

Allen told Mission Network News, “He’ll hold a meeting with all those Christians again, several different families and parts of families represented in that new congregation, and really encourage them, saying, ‘This is what we face as Christians in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim dominant country.’

“Even though Christians enjoy protection constitutionally, on a local level, practically, they may not enjoy that because of radical elements that like to go from village to village and hunt down Christians.”

Due to the growing opposition to Christianity in Indonesia, Open Doors USA president, David Curry, has called on the Christian community worldwide to unite in prayer for their brothers and sisters in Indonesia.

“Christianity is opposed in Indonesia,” he said. ” It is a very difficult place to work, but we need to be praying, we need to be going, we need to be interacting with and loving Muslims in that culture. I think we keep pressing forward, but we know what we’re dealing with.”

  • Pray for Christians in Indonesia, for their protection, for perseverance of faith, and for courage to build bridges of God’s love to their Muslim neighbours and communities.
  • Pray for this Pastor as he returns to this Indonesian village. Pray for protection for him, his family, and the believers with whom he meets in this village.
  • Pray for the Indonesian government to take seriously their responsibility under the constitution to allow freedom of belief for all people.
  • Pray for Indonesia, for a move of the Holy Spirit across this nation, that many will have life changing encounters with Jesus Christ.

Romans 8 vs 38 – 39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Source: http://www.gospelherald.com/articles

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Sudan Pastors Face Possible Death Penalty

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After eight months of legal limbo, Sudan has finally charged two pastors of being guilty of at least seven crimes, some punishable by death.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Hassan Abduraheem Taour and Kuwa Shamal, both pastors of the Sudan Church of Christ, are accused of “complicity to execute a criminal agreement and waging war against the state”.

The two Christian ministers also face charges of espionage, calling for opposition of the public authority by violence or criminal force, and inciting hatred between classes, CSW added.

Among the host of other crimes the Christians are accused of are “propagation of false news articles, and entry and photography of military areas and equipment.”

Pastor Taour had been detained without charge after being arrested on 18th December 2015, which is in contravention of Khartoum’s own law. Meanwhile, Pastor Shamal was detained on the same date, released, and then re-arrested again without charge on 24th May.

The pastors were moved to Sudan’s Khartoum State Prison on 11th August and it was believed the pastors had appeared in court on 14th August. However, World Watch Monitor now understands that the hearing was suddenly postponed until this Sunday, 21st August.

The maximum sentence for waging war against the state (Article 51 of Sudan’s law) and espionage (Article 53) is the death penalty.

  • Pray for Pastors Taour and Shamal as they await their court hearing this weekend. Pray for peace surround them and their families at this time, and for their faith to be a witness to others in prison, including their guards.
  • Pray for the hearing on Sunday to go ahead, for the charges to be dropped and the two pastors released without further delays.
  • Pray for Christians in Sudan, as they face ongoing and growing persecution. Pray for their protection, for their faith to be strong and for freedom to meet together to worship without fear.
  • Pray for a move of the Holy Spirit across Sudan for and easing of the strict Islamic law that holds many in fear, and for many people to have life changing encounters the living Jesus Christ.

Acts 12 vs 5: “While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.”

Source: https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org

 

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China Tightens Stance on North Korean Refugees

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After a period of relative tolerance, the Chinese government has tightened its “hunt” for North Koreans fleeing the dictatorship in Pyongyang.

The border authorities near the Tumen River, the border that divides China and North Korea, have issued a “bounty list” related to refugees: anyone who reports on refugees gets 1000 yuan (about 120 euro); anyone who personally captures a refugee is rewarded with twice that amount. Meanwhile, those who help a refugee and are discovered will be fined three thousand yuan. The border guards have also been ordered to shoot fugitives on sight.

For North Koreans who choose to flee their country, there is a huge risk. Beijing has recently signed an agreement with Pyongyang that defines these refugees as “economic migrants”, and does not grant them any leniency. Forced to pass through China, if they are captured, they will be sent back to  North Korea, where they risk the death penalty or a decade of hard labour for “treason”.

According to an anonymous source from DailyNK, in the first seven months of 2016, the North Korean government executed at least 60 of its citizens in public. Of these, half would have been imposed on citizens who were caught trying to leave the country.

Since the division of the peninsula, the South Korean Catholic Church has worked to help refugees, who are called “Saeteomin” (“settlers of the new earth”). Catholics in the South offer programmes including social inclusion, language courses and “political renovation” for the refugees, as well as helping the refugees to find jobs.

  • Pray for Christians and other religious minorities in North Korea, who make up a high percentage of those seeking to leave the country. Many face intense persecution, imprisonment and death if they remain, as well as the risk of capture and death if they are caught leaving.
  • Pray for Chinese authorities to relent and soften their attitude to North Korean refugees, allowing them to stay in China and ultimately to find refuge in the West.
  • Pray for Christian organisations seeking to help North Korean refugees on the border with China and within South Korea. Pray for wisdom, protection for their workers and that they will be channels of God’s love, grace and healing to these desperate people.
  • Pray for a move of the Holy Spirit across North Korea, for softening of hearts Theamongst those in power, and for many to have life changing encounters with Jesus Christ.

Psalm 10 vs 17 – 18: “O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear  to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more

Source: http://www.asianews.it/news-en, http://www.persecution.org

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The Church is Growing in Iraq.

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According to Frontiers USA, thousands of people from Fallujah, Iraq, have fled to a nearby refugee town dubbed the City of Refuge and, in the last 18 months, through the work of Iraqi Chrisitans, over 140 of those people have accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Iraqi forces now work to secure Fallujah and resume public services, some of these new Christians want to go back to their homes and share the hope they’ve found through Christ.

What is it about the Gospel message that strikes such a chord with Muslim refugees? Recent surveys of new Muslim Background Believers seek to understand what it was about the Gospel that attracted them to Christ. The majority of these new believers refer to Jesus’ own words, ‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden. Learn of me, I will give you rest for your souls, for I am meek and humble.

One such woman is Layla, who, along with her husband and children, fled on foot from the, then ISIL stronghold, city of Fallujah to the “City of Refuge”.

Then God gave Layla a vision of a man who would tell her about Jesus. That man … came to her house the next day and offered to read the Bible with them.

Over several weeks of reading the Bible, the message of the death and resurrection of Christ finally turned their hearts to accept the Lord, and over the last year, they have started up a whole network of about 20 groups of Muslim-background believers, mainly families, who are now studying the Bible together and encouraging each other in their new found faith.

  • Give thanks for the Iraqi Christians taking the Gospel to their own people, often in danger to their own lives. Pray for them as they continue to serve God in the hardest of places.
  • Pray for the Muslim Background Believers, for their faith to grow strong, for access to Bibles and discipleship material, and for protection for them and their families.
  • Pray for those who seek to return to Falujah, for protection, for opportunities to share their faith in that city, and for a growing numbers of Muslims to come to know Christ Jesus as Lord across Iraq.

Romans 1 vs 16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”

Source: http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/

 

 

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Children Suffering Most in Aleppo

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Food and fuel are increasingly scarce in the Syrian city of Aleppo, which has been at the centre of the civil war for more than four years.

A young girl in Syria, who needed to fill containers with water, sat and cried as they were too heavy for her to carry home

Young children are suffering the most; the shops no longer stock milk, which can now only be bought on the black market and, if families can find any milk in the markets, the price has escalated by between 500% and 800%.

For the last month, the city has been entirely encircled by Syrian government forces who, supported by Russian air strikes, are trying to take back control of eastern Aleppo from rebels. On 6th August, rebel forces succeeded in breaking the Syrian army’s stranglehold on the main supply route into Aleppo, but as a result, the bombing has intensified.

An estimated 40,000 Christians are amongst the remaining residents trying to survive in this besieged city and now having to face a new fear: that Islamist rebels will gain ground and they will again find themselves in rebel-held territory, where they will become targets, both for their faith and their support of the Syrian government.

Isolated and under threat, for Christians in Aleppo their faith is their only certainty. Many are destitute, without reliable supplies of food, medicines, water or electricity, and in constant danger from the fighting.

A ministry partner working with Barnabus Fund in Aleppo described the situation of Christians in the city, declaring, “The situation is getting very hard. No more food to come in and fuel as well. The difficult life is adding more burden to all families and [especially those] who have kids and very young infants.”

  • Pray for an end to the fighting in Syria, and especially for the city of Aleppo.
  • Pray for those trying to survive in Aleppo, that aid supplies of food and medicine will be allowed in and reach those who desperately need it.
  • Pray for the children of Aleppo. Many are starving, sick and traumatised by the constant bombardments. Pray for families, for access to food, water and medical facilities for their children, and for emotional and spiritual healing for these precious children.
  • Pray for Christians in Aleppo, as they face the fear of persecution and starvation. Pray for their faith to remain strong, and to be a witness and a light in the darkness that threatens to engulf this city and nation.
  • Pray for Christian workers and the Church in Syria, for compassion, opportunities to share their faith and to be channels of the healing love and grace of Jesus to the people of this nation.

Psalm 72 vs 4: “May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor.”

https://www.barnabasfund.org

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New Laws in Kazakhstan Set to Further Restrict Religious Freedom.

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Kazakhstan looks set to become the first of the ex Soviet Central Asia nations to follow Russia’s lead in bringing in harsher restrictions on religious activity.

Laws concerning legal restrictions in Kazakhstan already ban and punish certain religious activities, including free speech. However, the Minister who oversees religion has announced that further restrictions will be imposed in amendments to the Religion Law and other Laws, and these are likely to be presented to Parliament in September.

These amendments are in response to an  order on 10th June, by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, to harshen laws on “extremism”, terrorism and religion.

Currently, anyone discussing religious issues with other people is required to have permission from a registered religious organisation and to have a permit from the state Regional Religious Affairs Department. Any literature they use when they speak to others also needs to be censored in advance by the Religious Affairs Department.

Anyone who speaks on religion without such permission faces punishment, usually a hefty fine.

The amendments to the Religion Law and a series of other laws that are being prepared will further restrict freedom of religion or belief.

The minister of Culture and Sport who oversees the government’s Religious Affairs Committee, said that, among other things, “missionary activity” will be subjected to controls. “Activity to spread a faith as a missionary without registration will not be allowed,” he declared.

However, as talking to others on religion is already banned unless it has been specifically authorised by the state, it remains unclear what further controls might be introduced.

  • Pray for Kazakhstan and other Central Asia states, in the light of these new proposed restrictions. Pray for wisdom for the government as it discusses the restrictions, and for a relaxing of these laws, rather than a continued tightening of them.
  • Pray for Christians in Kazakhstan as they face these harsh restrictions on top of already strict limits on their freedom. Pray for endurance and perseverance in their faith, and for courage to share the Gospel with friends and family.
  • Pray for the Church in Kazakhstan, for unity, strength, access to good discipleship and training material and for opportunities to meet and pray together for their country and government.
  • Pray for the ongoing flow on effects of the new legislation in Russia, which is likely to continue to have a n impact across Central Asia too. Pray that the light of the Gospel will overcome and the Church will continue to grow in this region.

1 Timothy 2 vs 1 – 2: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.

Source: http://www.forum18.org, http://www.persecution.org

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