Thanks to everyone who came to the Not Forgotten event to remember our persecuted brothers and sisters across the globe.
What a day of blessing!
The theme was the blessings of engaging with the persecuted church and by the end of the day I know all would agree we appreciated and experienced these blessings.
Kenneth Harrod from Release International opened the day with thoughts on Psalm 2 which gave us a biblical perspective on the persecution of Christians.
The main points were
- Christians suffer because the world is in rebellion against the one true God.
- Remembering God is in control in the midst of the persecution.
- He is never phased.
- Christ will have the supremacy v7&9
- Until then we are called to proclaim the gospel.
- Always respond in love even when it is difficult.
Then we watched an interview with a Bishop of Jos from Nigeria. It was very moving and challenging too. His life exuded a life with Jesus. He said no matter how many of his congregation were killed and the threats to his life he would continue to proclaim the gospel. He reminded us that God is in control and He will have His way. He said that he heard the gospel because years ago people came from the U.K and died for the sake of the gospel and so he now had to give his all for Christ too.
We prayed for a great revival and that many would come to Jesus including those in Boko Haram and the herdsmen as this was his prayer request.
There were a range of displays to look at to give more insight in to types of persecution in different countries and encourage us in our faith with many testimonies of God’s grace. Stories of terrible suffering which were transformed by God’s grace, power of prayer and help from organisations such as Release International and Open Doors and Barnabas Fund.
There was a lot we could learn from them to help our faith and encourage us too.
After lunch we had the privilege of hearing from Andy Darmoo, the secretary of ARCERO, an Assyrian church charity supported by Barnabas Fund. He spoke about the work with Iraqi Christians who had to flee because of ISIS. He told us about how they were providing housing in safe areas, fun activities to help the traumatised children and support they were giving to the elderly and disabled refugees.
We took time to thank the Lord for all the good things He is doing through His church and also thanked Him that we can worship in freedom.
Our final guest speaker was Brian Greenaway from Moaz ministries. They support Jewish believers in Israel. He talked about the difficulties facing congregations. Some have been picketed and outreaches shouted down, threats made to leaders and the attacks carried out by ultra-orthodox Jews. We watched an interview with a church leader who told us about the persecution they face. He has had lies told about him and pressure had been put on individual believers not to attend meetings. However they are still witnessing and God is doing miraculous things. Jews are coming to Jesus. So they said they very much value our prayers.
The Not forgotten event unfolded into a well-rounded day of information, prayer and encouragement. We were blessed in many ways as we engaged with persecution.
Update on the persecuted church 2017
Much has happened since the last overview of persecution in the church. In some places things have intensified and increased. In some places things have changed. We thank God for all the prisoners that have been released and all the prayers answered.
The last year saw Christians targeted by the self-proclaimed (IS), as well as other radical Islamic groups.
Christians continue to be abducted, many are harmed and killed.
IS fighter were allowed to rape non-Muslim women.
Half the population is displaced and others are now refugees, this includes half a million Christians.
- For peace
- Wisdom for leaders
- Strength and protection for Christians
- For support and help for 6 million refugees
- Continue to thank God for the faithful witness of brothers and sister still there in Syria
It is still the hardest place to be a Christian.
Thousands of Christians in labour camps and thousands of others keep their faith secret not even their family know they believe in Jesus so they don’t put their family in danger or someone does not tell the authorities.
Many Christians risk their lives to smuggle food and Bibles from China into North Korea.
- Kim Jong-un will come know one true God
- The power of evil will be broken
- There will be regime change
- Protection for the secret Christians
- Strength and endurance for those in labour camps
- Protection for secret workers smuggling food
- Thank God for all those still coming to faith in Jesus
It was hoped that the election of Hassan Rouhani would lead to a decline in persecution however it has increased amongst those believers from a Muslim background.
In August 2016, 43 Christians were detained across Iran.
However there have been releases of some prisoners which have been prayer points.
Praise God that church leader Pastor Behnam Irani has been released!
And Maryam Naghash Zargaran has also been final released.
- Ask God to watch over and protect church leaders and Islamic converts
- For His grace and comfort for those who are imprisoned, tortured and kept for long periods without been given legal help
- Give thanks that despite every effort by the authorities to stop the spread of Gospel the church is continuing to grow
- For help and healing for those released to adjust to life outside prison
The main form of persecution was the misuse of Blasphemy laws to falsely accuse Christians of blasphemy, but now also there is abduction of girls and women. As many as 700 Christian women and girls have been abducted in 2016. They are often raped, forced to marry and convert to Islam.
Pakistani culture is becoming even more Islamic. Militants such as the Taliban and Islamic State target Christians.
Discrimination continues. School textbooks portray Christians and other non-Muslims as inferior.
There is still a lack of justice for Christians to appeal against blasphemy accusations or crimes committed against them.
- Special protection for converts from Islam
- Protection from abduction and attacks on Christian girls and women
- That the Pakistani government will pass laws that will protect Christians and minorities
- For repeal of blasphemy laws
- Remember Aasia Bibi whose appeal has been delayed again. Pray for her release and protection for her and family and all connected with her blasphemy case
- Thank God for those girls who have been restored back to their families after been abducted
There have been recent developments in the past year to reduce the freedom of believers. In May 2016 a further crackdown started in the eastern province of Zhejiang. It started with the removal of crosses from some churches, demolition of church buildings and then arrests of church leaders and the lawyers who tried to represent them.
- For the Christians in Zheejiange
- For the welfare of leaders, lawyers, and others imprisoned for their faith, that they will withstand the hardship and torture
- That the government will allow its citizens freedom to practice their faith openly
- Give thanks that the church is still growing despite the strengthening of state opposition
At least 5 Sudanese Christians were killed and 12 imprisoned in 2016.
Christians are afraid to even talk about their faith in case it is construed as an ‘act that encourages apostasy’.
More churches have been demolished and bible colleges and centres are been targeted to for repossession by the government.
Three prisoners were released after international pressure a pardon was granted to Czech national, Petr Jasek.
- The leader’s hearts will be changed
- Those in prison will be sustained by His grace and will soon be freed
- Church demolition will be thwarted
- The regulations against building new churches will be overturned
- Praise God for the release of prisoners
The situation in Eritrea remains dire for many Christians. There have been more arrests in 2016 and to date, including families and children. Sadly some Christians have died in custardy.
Thousands of Christians have fled the country, but many have been exploited or kidnapped by human traffickers. Some are believed to have been drowned at sea.
- For Gods comfort and strength for those in prison in terrible conditions, many facing torture too
- That the repressive power within the government will be broken
- That believers who have fled will reach safety
- Thank God for the witness of Christians in Eritrea
Since 2016 IS (so called Islamic State) has been driven back.
Christians have started to return to some areas but it is still dangerous to live there.
The Christian population is now a few thousand from the one and half million.
In IS controlled areas churches have been demolished, made into jails or Islamic centres. The punishment for breaking the strict laws enforced by IS range from cutting off hands to public executions.
No public gatherings are allowed unless they are organised by IS.
Overall Iraq has become more Islamic in culture, Christian have been forced to veil outside to feel safe and greater pressure was put on them to observe Ramadan.
- For help from the Lord for those displaced
- Renewed courage and hope and healing for those who remain or go back to homes as they face an uncertain future and have experienced terrible trauma
- Provision for needs and re- establishment of Christian communities without fear
- God will continue to change the hearts of IS members and they will give their lives to Christ
- Wisdom and protection for those who are still living under IS rule
Central African Republic (CAR)
Since February 2016, when Faustin- Archange Touadera who is a Christian was elected as president Seleka Islamist militants have increased their violence and killing of Christians are they refuse to accept the results of the election.
In September over 200 men, women and children were killed in Kouango. They have destroyed a Bible training centre, targeted churches with grenade attacks.
- An end to the violence
- Stable government to be established under President Touadera
- God’s help for Christians living with the fear of attack, to be able to worship without fear
- For those who have been displaced due to the violence
- Give thanks that all the efforts to rebuild the church in CAR are starting to bear fruit
Hundreds of Christians were killed in northern Nigeria in 2016.
Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram attacks have decreased as the Government forces have engaged with them however Hausa-Fulani herdsmen killings and attacks on churches and Christian communities have increased.
There was some good news with the release of the girls kidnapped from their school in Chibok.
- For the protection of Nigerian Christians, particularly women who are in danger of being abducted and forced to marry Muslim men
- Comfort for the thousands of Christians displaced
- Provision of vital resources for Christians in Northern states
- Give thanks for the women and girls released by Militants. Pray more will be released.