Praying for the Persecuted Church in Lent 2012

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Christians take part in an Easter procession in Pakistan

Welcome
Your prayers for persecuted Christians
In the period before Easter many Christians like to prepare themselves to celebrate the most important events of our faith: the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some do this informally, for a few days or weeks; others like to observe the traditional season of Lent. During this time the sufferings of our Lord at the hands of His enemies naturally bring to our minds the persecution endured by so many of His people today. These brothers and sisters may experience rejection by their families and communities, denial and betrayal by their friends, physical violence and judicial injustice, or even cruel and excruciating death. For them, to follow Jesus in the way of the cross may involve losing their liberty, their livelihoods and sometimes their lives. We invite you to prepare for Easter by joining us in prayer for the persecuted churches, beginning from Ash Wednesday, 22 February. This booklet has been prepared to help you in this vital task. Most weekdays are dedicated to a particular country, with background information and a prayer point, while on the seven Saturdays in Lent we suggest practical actions that you can take to support suffering Christians. On Good Friday we think of those who give their lives for Christ, and on Easter Day we rejoice in the hope of sharing His resurrection. Thank you for your prayers. They mean so much to our persecuted family. With our Lord’s blessings, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo International Director, Barnabas Fund P.S. If you would like to send practical help to persecuted Christians as well as praying for them, please use the form at the back of this booklet. A selection of Barnabas Fund projects are listed at the foot of many pages.

Lent prayer booklet
6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 Afghanistan Algeria Azerbaijan Bangladesh Victims of violence Burma China Colombia Cuba Egypt Eritrea Children Ethiopia Holy Land India Indonesia Iran Iraq Pastors and evangelists Ivory Coast Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Laos Libya 22nd February 23rd February 24th February 25th February 26th February 27th February 28th February 29th February 1st March 2nd March 3rd March 4th March 5th March 6th March 7th March 8th March 9th March 10th March 11th March 12th March 13th March 14th March 15th March 16th March 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 Maldives Women Morocco Nepal Nigeria North Korea Pakistan Russia Converts Saudi Arabia Somalia Sri Lanka Sudan and South Sudan Syria Tajikistan Elderly Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Uzbekistan Martyrs Vietnam Easter Day 17th March 18th March 19th March 20th March 21st March 22nd March 23rd March 24th March 25th March 26th March 27th March 28th March 29th March 30th March 31st March 1st April 2nd April 3rd April 4th April 5th April 6th April 7th April 8th April

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Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version®.

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Wed 22 February

Afghanistan
Choosing to give your life to Christ is a highly dangerous decision in Afghanistan. The government have threatened to use the death penalty against those who convert from Islam to Christianity, and sometimes the Taliban and other illegal armed groups gruesomely murder new believers. Early in 2011 a video was circulated showing the beheading of Abdul Latif by the Muslim Taliban in Herat Province. These dangers constantly hang over the estimated 1,000 to 3,000 Afghan Christians, all of them converts from Islam. Even though the country’s 2004 constitution guarantees religious freedom, sharia is effectively the law of the land. Afghan jurists and government officials interpret a clause stating that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” as superseding all other provisions. Some rare good news from Afghanistan came this year when two Christians, Said Musa and Shoaib Assadullah, who were both in prison facing possible execution for apostasy, were released. Shoaib was arrested in October 2010 for giving a New Testament to another Afghan. Said was detained in May 2010 together with 19 other Christians following a broadcast showing Afghans being baptised. The programme elicited a storm of anti-Christian persecution; President Karzai stated that his government would track down converts. Many were soon released, but Said was detained in a Kabul prison for six months, where he was
Ask the Lord to hide the few thousand Christians in Afghanistan under the shadow of His wings (Psalm 17:8) and protect them from all violence and persecution. Give praise for the release of Said and Shoaib, and pray for Christians who fled the country following the May 2010 crackdown, that they may find a safe refuge elsewhere; pray too for those left in Afghanistan and in danger of

Street scene in Kabul (Source: isafmedia, Flickr)

subjected to torture and abuse. Dozens of Afghan Christians fled the country following the crackdown.
their lives. Pray that Afghan officials and jurists will start honouring the religious freedom provisions in the 2004 constitution and that more rights will be introduced for minorities. Pray for a complete turn-around in the attitude of the government and society towards Christians.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Afghanistan General Fund (Ref. 01-998) • Needy and persecuted Afghan Christians (Ref. 01-901)

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Thu 23 February

Algeria
The Lord has worked in a remarkable way in recent decades in this Muslim-majority country. The Church is growing tremendously as Muslims, young and old, commit their lives to Christ. Many live in the Kabyle region, but new churches are appearing throughout Algeria. It is estimated that there are now at least 50,000 to 60,000 Christians in the country. But threats and attacks against Christians have also been increasing in some areas. Christians enjoyed six years of relative religious freedom following the end of the civil war in 2000, but in 2006 new restrictions were introduced by the government after pressure from radical Islamists. Algerian law now forbids evangelism amongst Muslims, and a fine or imprisonment is the penalty for those who are caught. Anyone who distributes material that could “shake the faith” of a Muslim will also be punished. In May 2011 Siagh Krimo, an Algerian Christian, was sentenced to five years in jail for giving a Christian CD to his Muslim neighbour. Christians are also sometimes harassed and threatened by Islamists and zealous officials. In a wonderful turn of events, the country’s largest Protestant group, the Algerian Protestant Church Association (EPA), received a licence from the government in July 2011 granting all of its affiliated churches the right to meet and worship freely and to manage property for Christian activities. This cancelled out a threatening notice from the police received in May

Interior of a church in Algeria. In recent years the Christian Community of Algeria has experienced remarkable growth

2011 and saying that all unregistered churches would be closed down. Unregistered Christian groups and churches have often faced great problems in obtaining official recognition from the government and local authorities, who sometimes leave the applications pending for more than four years.

Give thanks for the growth of the church in our generation. Pray that Christians will continue to share their faith boldly and that the Church will keep on growing throughout the country. Praise God that the country’s largest Protestant group is now free to worship and have their own property, and pray that more Christian groups will receive official recognition. Pray that those who are opposed to Christians,
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Algeria General Fund (Ref. 02-900)

whether in positions of authority or not, will change their attitude and recognise Christians as a positive influence in Algerian society. Pray for God’s protection to be over our brothers and sisters and that Islamist pressure and violence against them will be resisted by the authorities.

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Fri 24 February

Azerbaijan
Harassment of Christians in Azerbaijan takes several forms. Religious literature is censored; congregations have been warned that they could face “unpleasantness with the law” if they continue to meet; and churches must register in order to rent or own a meeting place. Without such registration, they are likely to face raids, threats and further pressure. Azerbaijan is around 90% Muslim, and the government gives preferential treatment to those religions considered “traditional” (Islam, Russian Orthodox Christianity and Judaism), while other forms of Christianity are actively restricted. Christians often face pressure from government and local authorities. Azerbaijan has repeatedly amended its laws to restrict the exercise of religious freedom and other human rights. The country’s Religion Law, which was first adopted in 1992, has been amended 13 times. In 2011, tough new changes were proposed to legislation affecting people who produce religious literature that has not been vetted by the state. These followed constitutional amendments in January 2010 that forced all religious groups that had already gained state registration (i.e. legal permission to function) to re-register. Some months later, several churches were informed that their re-registration applications had been refused. One such church was the Cathedral of Praise Church in the capital city, Baku. When the church attempted to re-register in 2010 as required by law, its application was refused, and it lost a subsequent
Pray for the churches in Azerbaijan, as they face legal limitations and harsh penalties; pray that the authorities will recognise the right to freedom of religion and that there will be an easing of these restrictions. Give thanks that Christianity is growing in Azerbaijan, but keep praying for greater religious liberty in this
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Azerbaijan General Fund (Ref. 03-979)

Praise the Lord that Christianity is growing in Azerbaijan, despite the harsh treatment of Christians by the authorities (Source: Самый древний, Wikimedia commons)

appeal. In addition, its building was destroyed in a fire. But in 2011 the pastor reported that while being interrogated recently by the authorities on another matter he took the opportunity to ask permission for the congregation to meet in another church building, and this was granted! Despite the harsh treatment Christianity is growing in Azerbaijan, and the number of ethnic Azeri Christians has been increasing in recent years. However, many are converts from Islam and therefore liable to face hostility from family, community and authorities.
country, which is only 2% Christian; pray that the churches may be left alone to worship and witness freely. Pray especially for Azeri converts, that the Lord will enable them to stand strong in their new faith and that Christian witness to the majority Muslim population may be with humility, wisdom and love.

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Sat 25 February

Bangladesh
Last year Biplob Marandi, a Christian evangelist in Bangladesh, was selling and distributing Christian literature near a major Muslim gathering. Incensed by his actions, a group of Muslims handed him over to the authorities, who jailed him for allegedly causing a disturbance. He was later released. Even though the government publicly supports freedom of religion, discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities continues in Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest nations. The country is dominated by Islam; nearly 90% of its population are Muslims (over 140 million people), and there is also a sizeable Hindu minority. Christians comprise less than 1% and suffer persecution, discrimination and sometimes violence at the hands of Muslim and Buddhist extremists. Bangladesh was a secular state until 1988, but in that year an amendment to its constitution declared Islam to be the state religion. However, in the most recent elections in 2008, the main Islamic party was heavily defeated, while in 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that political parties must stop using religion in their names and campaigns. Political corruption, social instability and economic weakness have facilitated the growth of extremism in Bangladesh in recent years, particularly in rural areas. Religious minorities often have a low social status and wield little political power. Thus they have no defence against
Praise God for Biplob’s courage and faithfulness to the Lord and give thanks that he was released a few months after his arrest. Pray for Bangladeshi Christians under pressure from Muslim and Hindu extremists as they suffer discrimination and violence, that the Lord will give them strength to remain faithful to Him. Pray for all those who have yet to hear the Gospel in Bangladesh, that the Lord will Over 350 needy Christian children are receiving an education in a loving, Christian environment in Bangladesh, supported by Barnabas Fund

radical Muslims who have lobbied against them. Muslim extremists have also demanded the introduction of blasphemy laws; in Pakistan, such laws have proved to be very dangerous for Christians and other minorities. Prepare a presentation on the persecuted Church for your small group Barnabas Fund produces many resources that highlight the needs of God’s persecuted people and what we are doing to help. These can be ordered or downloaded from our website, www.barnabasfund.org/resources. Why not get hold of one or two of the DVDs, show them to your home group, prayer group, women’s meeting, men’s breakfast or other church group, and encourage people to discuss the issues raised? Or you could use a few of our Suffering Church Sunday resources to share your passion for supporting suffering Christians. If you lead your group, perhaps you could use the Bible study on persecution in a recent edition of Barnabas Aid.
SATURDAY ACTION POINT

provide opportunities for Christians to share their faith and that He will raise up more local leaders and church workers to enable continued church growth in Bangladesh. Ask the Lord to guide and empower His people and pray for freedom and justice for the country’s Christians.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Scriptures distribution (Ref. 04-653) • Winter relief (Ref. 04-854) • Christian primary schools (Ref. 04-933)

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Sun 26 February

Victims of Violence
“He is the God who … saves me from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me. Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.” (Psalm 18:47-49) The last year has been a time of testing for Christians in many nations where they are in the minority. Across North Africa unrest raged and long-standing leaders were toppled. In Egypt, the second Arab country to lose its president, there was a sudden and sharp upsurge in anti-Christian violence. Clashes on the streets of Cairo left at least 13 people dead when Muslims attacked a Christian demonstration in March 2011. And in October, twenty-five people were confirmed dead and hundreds injured when Christians were attacked as they held a peaceful protest against the destruction of a church. Following the re-election of Christian president Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria in April 2011, tensions have been high and Christian communities have come under more frequent attack than usual, particularly across the volatile Plateau State. In September alone, dozens of Christians were murdered when Muslims attacked their villages. Where Christianity is the minority faith, Christians can face grave danger from extremists in the majority faith communities. This ranges from

Shouwang Church, Beijing, China, has worshipped outside for months in all weathers despite persistently harsh treatment by the authorities (source: www.chinaaid.org)

destruction of their homes and church buildings to physical violence, imprisonment, murder and judicial execution. Christians may also experience unjust arrest and detention. In Beijing, China, members of Shouwang Church have been meeting in the open air every week for months after the church was evicted from their meeting place in April 2011. As a result, many church members have been detained, placed under house arrest or deprived of their homes and jobs. Barnabas Fund helps victims and their families, providing safe refuges, medical care, training or small business start-up costs to enable them to rebuild their lives, and many other needs, including support for wives and children if the breadwinner is in prison.

Pray for comfort in the Lord Jesus and peace for all those who have been left bereaved or injured following anti-Christian violence. Pray that they will have grace to forgive their enemies (Matthew 5:44). Pray for calm in the countries where extremists use violence against the Christian minority. Pray too that the authorities will act to protect their Christians citizens and pursue
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Victims of Violence Fund (Ref. 00-345)

justice for those who were killed or injured. Give thanks that the Church is growing across the world, even in countries where our brothers and sisters must face violence and persecution. Praise God that Barnabas Fund can bring hope and comfort to victims of anti-Christian violence themselves or whose family members have been affected.

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Mon 27 February

Burma (Myanmar)
Nearly two dozen worshippers – mostly women and elderly people – had gathered for a Sunday morning service on 16 October 2011 when the Burmese army attacked their church in Kachin State, Burma (Myanmar). The soldiers seized control of the church in Namsan Yang village, Waimaw township, and when a minister tried to talk to the soldiers, he was hit on the head with a rifle butt. The troops torched the whole northern part of the village and destroyed two church buildings. In one township severe restrictions have been imposed on Christian activities, including reading the Bible, conducting a Bible study and holding Sunday school, while in another village the Burmese army uprooted a large cross from a hilltop where villagers had planned eventually to construct a church; the soldiers used the Christian symbol as a stand for their weapons. The army launched its offensive in Kachin State, which is over 90 per cent Christian, in June 2011. Soldiers have raped, tortured and killed civilians, used forced labour, set homes alight and plundered villages. “We are afraid the Burmese soldiers will be attacking our village at any time. We had to leave everything behind. We don’t know when it will be safe to go back,” said one villager from central Kachin. Most Christians in Burma are members of non-Burman ethnic minorities; they are frequently targeted by the ruling military junta, partly for their
Lift to the Lord our brothers and sisters in Burma, who have endured so much harassment and violence because of their faithfulness to the Lord Jesus. Give thanks for their courage, and pray that they will continue to rejoice in the Lord despite their trials (Habakkuk 3:18). Pray for Christians in Kachin State, that they will find comfort in Christian children in Burma from an orphanage supported by Barnabas Fund make their way to school

ethnicity and partly for their faith. The army raid their jungle villages, destroying churches and houses and killing those who do not manage to escape in time. Many children are orphaned in this anti-Christian violence. The junta also makes use of Buddhism, the majority faith, as a weapon against Christians. In Chin state, Buddhist monks are sent into towns and villages to control them, and they report any disobedience to the army.
Christ at this difficult time and pray for the children who have lost one or both parents in anti-Christian violence; pray that they may receive love, support and protection. Thank the Lord for those who distribute aid to the families who have been forced to flee their homes.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Aid for persecuted Christians (Ref. 75-763) • Christian orphans (Ref. 75-821)

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Tue 28 February

China
Shouwang Church, one of the largest unregistered churches (“house churches”) in Beijing, was evicted from its leased meeting space by the government in April 2011. The authorities had repeatedly blocked the church’s attempts to rent or buy premises for holding services. So the Christians took the bold decision to worship in public, and at the time of writing they have been meeting in an open-air plaza for eight months. As a result, many church members have been detained, placed under house arrest or deprived of their homes and jobs. The Chinese government regard the house churches as “unstable social elements” that threaten the building of a “harmonious society”. Often their leaders are arrested and thrown into jail for extended periods, where they may be beaten or tortured. Their members may also be subject to violent attacks. A report published in 2011 showed that persecution of the country’s Christians increased every year between 2005 and 2010. The authorities permit the practice of Christianity only under the authority of the national, state-controlled churches, and the activities of these denominations are subject to tight control and arbitrary treatment. In late 2011 developers began to demolish a church belonging to the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Tai’an, Shandong province. The government had approved the action despite the building having protected
Praise the Lord for the remarkable growth of the Chinese churches in recent decades, and pray that this may be maintained. Pray for our brothers and sisters as they face discrimination and restrictions, and especially for those who suffer more acute forms of persecution. Pray for the release of house church leaders and other Christians in detention. Earlier

Christians from a church in Tai’an sit in the rubble of their ruined building (Source: www.chinaaid.org)

status. Moreover, because religious belief is seen as incompatible with Communist Party membership, even Christians in the state churches are denied access to almost all high-level jobs. Yet despite the restrictions and persecution, the Chinese churches are growing very rapidly. Reliable figures are unavailable, but even the authorities admit that there are over 50 million in the unregistered churches, in addition to the same number in the official denominations. The real number may be twice as high.
this year house church pastors petitioned the Chinese parliament calling for religious freedom. Pray that the authorities will respond positively by relieving the pressure on the country’s Christians. Pray especially that Shouwang Church will find somewhere to meet in safety and that the harassment of its members will stop.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • China General Fund (Ref. 09-780) • Support for family of Alimujiang Yimiti, a convert from Islam in prison for his Christian activities (Ref. 09-879)

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Wed 29 February

Colombia
In this fifth most violent country in the world, Christians are not only caught in the crossfire of a decades-long conflict but are also deliberately singled out and persecuted for their faith. It is estimated that approximately 200 churches are forcibly closed down and 20 to 30 church leaders assassinated every year. Most of the problems occur in rural areas that are controlled by illegal armed groups and drug lords, who are still powerful despite the government’s success in recent years in regaining some of the territory previously lost to them. These groups target Christians because a Christian lifestyle contradicts their ideologies or agendas. Sometimes all Christian activity is forbidden; sometimes it is severely regulated and monitored. Those who resist orders, for example by holding secret prayer and Bible meetings in the jungle, risk being murdered or being forced to flee and live in a different part of the country. Entire Christian communities have been displaced as a result. Pastors are frequently targeted for extortion, kidnapping and murder, often because of their work amongst the downtrodden. Early in 2011 a pastor and his daughter were murdered by right-wing paramilitaries outside a church where a Sunday morning service was going on. On 12 September 2011 the body of a church leader was found in his house in Capurganá covered with stab wounds, just hours after the conclusion of a “Week of Peace”. Nothing in the building had been disturbed or stolen.
Pray that the government will start addressing the underlying causes of the decades-long conflict, so that true peace can come to this war-torn country. Pray that illegal armed groups will continue to demobilise under a government amnesty. Pray for wisdom for pastors working in areas where armed groups are active and that God will guard them with His holy angels. Pray for the safety of

An Amerindian mother and daughter in Colombia. Amerindians who become Christians can experience harassment from their indigenous leaders

Many Amerindians who find Christ have to pay a high price for their new faith. Some have reported that when they refused pressure from their indigenous leaders to reconvert to their ethnic religions they were beaten, denied access to medical care, forced to stand all day in the sun or banished from their lands. The state does little to help them.
members of armed groups who have become Christians and are consequently outlawed by other group members. Pray also for strength and protection for Christian children who are forced to join these armed groups as child soldiers.

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Cuba
“We are taking measures and will continue to take measures, the hands of our authorities will not waver.” Caridad Diego Bello, the top Cuban official in charge of religious affairs, was heard explaining the government’s strategy to crack down on a Christian group in a film released on the internet in 2011. Communist societies do not accept Christianity or other religions. This is why Cuba’s Marxist authorities try to limit the churches’ growth and activities as much as possible. Cuban Christians often face discrimination in schools and in the workplace because they are not considered “trustworthy”. Some new Christian groups have grown very large and are meeting in overcrowded houses. They may be blocked from building new churches. Often they are obstructed from registering and risk harassment from the authorities. Large, growing churches often face oppression, intimidation and government restrictions. In April 2011 a 1,000-strong church, active in local ministry, was visited by provincial officials and told that their buildings would be confiscated on a permanent basis by the state authorities. In recent years the government, possibly in an attempt to deflect international attention, has changed its tactics, from overt persecution such as long prison terms and the destruction of churches, towards shortterm detentions and the more targeted harassment of pastors. In 2011 two prominent pastors, Yordi Toranzo and Homero Carbonell, were removed
Give thanks for the growing Church in Cuba, and pray for the pastors and churches that experience so much harassment, that they will rejoice in the Lord even in the face of persecution. Pray that imprisoned Christians will have endurance and boldness to continue living out their faith in Jesus even in degrading

Thu 1 March

A class is underway at a theological school in Cuba. Barnabas Fund has supported some of these pastors in their daily living costs

or stepped down from their post because of government pressure. Carbonell reported that he and his church had come under severe duress after he refused to expel families of political prisoners from the church. Prison conditions for incarcerated pastors are very bad. They can suffer periods of solitary confinement and are sometimes prohibited from reading the Bible and other literature. At least one has been housed with violent criminals who were permitted by prison officials to attack him physically.
and appalling conditions. Pray for Christians who experience discrimination in school and work life after making the choice to follow Jesus, that they will be firmly rooted in their faith. Pray for greater respect for Christianity among the Cuban authorities.

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Egypt
Egypt was wracked by turmoil in 2011, leaving the country’s Christians in a state of grievous distress. The toppling of former President Mubarak in February seemed to offer some prospect of greater freedoms, but subsequent events have largely dashed these hopes. Since the revolution there has been an alarming surge in violent attacks on Christian individuals and communities. Christians have been killed and injured by Muslim mobs, and their churches have been damaged or destroyed. The military government has done little to protect them, and in one incident on 9 October, Christians came under brutal attack from security forces, Islamists and violent thugs as they protested peacefully in Cairo against an attack on a church. At least 25 people, most of them Christians, were killed in the violent clashes. On Monday 28 November 2011 Egyptians began voting in the first stage of an election process that will extend until March 2012. Early results of the first stage of the parliamentary elections indicated a decisive victory for Islamist parties, as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) appeared to emerge with the largest share of the vote: around 40% with its coalition partners. Another bloc headed by the more hard line Islamist Salafist party al-Nur looked set to take as much as 25%. The newly-formed, secular liberal parties were unable to compete successfully with the Islamists, who were already well established and organised.

Fri 2 March

Barnabas has funded solar panels to provide electricity for a desperately needy Christian community living in a “garbage village” in Cairo, Egypt

Egyptian Christians have suffered centuries of discrimination, and most of the wealthier Christians left the country in the last few decades. Those who remain – an estimated 8 million people (10% of the population) – largely live in extreme poverty. They struggle with crippling restrictions and injustice, as well as violence related to the construction and repair of church buildings. Converts from Islam are acutely vulnerable. It is estimated that up to 300,000 Christians have emigrated since January 2011. Last year’s events suggest that the Christians’ plight is unlikely to be relieved in the near future.

Pray for the Christians of Egypt in the midst of such upheaval and political change. Ask the Lord to rule over the country’s elections, which are expected to be completed in March 2012; pray that Egypt will not become an Islamic state and that all citizens will be fairly represented in the new political order. Ask the Lord to encourage all

His people in that land, and pray that they will be treated justly. Pray that the authorities will take action to protect Christians from violent attacks and to bring those responsible to justice. Pray too that the Christians will respond to hostility in a Christ-like way, loving and forgiving their enemies in His Name.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Egypt General Fund (Ref. 11-910) • Feeding needy families (Ref. 11-220) • Agricultural training and job creation (Ref. 11-926) • Solar panels for garbage village (Ref. 11-1001)

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Eritrea
Thousands of Christians are believed to be imprisoned without trial in Eritrea’s detention system, which is notorious for its cruelty. Prisoners may be shut up in underground pits or metal shipping containers, and many are subjected to hard labour, torture and beatings. In an attempt to pressure Christians into renouncing their faith, the authorities sometimes withhold medical treatment from them; at least three are reported to have died for this reason in the last two years. The government of Eritrea regards Christians as a threat to national unity because they give their ultimate allegiance to God. Only four Christian groups are officially recognised, and members of non-registered groups are relentlessly harassed. All their churches have been closed; some of their leaders and members have been imprisoned for more than eight years; and they lose their jobs and are prevented from leaving the country. Even the recognised churches are subject to extensive control. The country is ranked among the few worst persecutors of Christians. Contact your MP on behalf of persecuted Christians It is important to draw the suffering of persecuted Christians to the attention of our political leaders, and one way of doing this is to write to your Member of Parliament or other elected representative. Your letter need not be very long: just ask your MP if s/he is aware of the persecution experienced by Christians in many parts of the world
SATURDAY ACTION POINT

Sat 3 March

Many persecuted Eritrean Christians try to flee across the Sinai desert to find refuge in Israel (Source: Marc Ryckaert / Florian Prischl)

Every month hundreds of Eritrean Christians leave their homeland to escape this persecution and make the arduous journey across the Sinai desert to seek safety and freedom in Israel. Some die along the way; others are shot dead at the border; still others are taken hostage for ransom by nomads; and those who are caught may be sent back to Eritrea. Those who claim asylum in Egypt may be thrown into prison, while others end up in the hands of traffickers. They can suffer rape, harassment, torture, beatings or even slavery. (perhaps you could include some of the examples in this booklet), and request him/her to approach the relevant government ministers on their behalf. Ask for a reply telling you what s/he has done. UK readers can find out who their MP is by visiting http://findyourmp. parliament.uk/. They can write to him/her at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
in custody. Remember also before God those who have fled into Egypt in the hope of reaching Israel, particularly those who are in jail or captivity, that they will know His presence with them. Pray that Eritrea’s rulers will relieve the pressure on the churches and give them freedom to worship and share the Gospel.

Pray for Eritrean Christians as they follow Christ at risk of their liberty or even their lives. Pray especially for those imprisoned in appalling conditions in their own country, that He will sustain them in their ordeal and that they may soon be released; pray too for the families and churches of the believers who have recently died

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Eritrea General Fund (Ref. 12-996) • Aid for prisoners’ families and pastors (Ref. 12-863) • Eritrean refugees in Egypt (Ref. 12-954)

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Children
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Children are among the most defenceless members of a family. They are vulnerable and can be easy targets, in particular for physical persecution. Children can also suffer in education, and may face hostility and discrimination at school because of their faith, or even be marked down or failed in exams. In some countries abject poverty, caused at least in part by discrimination, forces Christian families to choose between food and education for their children. Worse still, when anti-Christian violence forces families to flee, they become refugees and leave behind their homes and jobs; finding a new school for the children and paying for their books, uniform and fees is often out of the question. In the Gospels, Jesus strongly affirms children when He says, “...whoever welcomes a child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5). Thus churches seek to nurture and teach their children, so that they may grow up to become lifelong disciples of Christ. Barnabas Fund partners with churches to support and encourage our Lord’s little ones. Where Christian children have witnessed horrific anti-Christian violence, we have helped to provide shelter and education facilities to support them, as in Burma (Myanmar) and trauma counselling, as in Orissa State, India.

Sun 4 March

Christian children get a Christian education in Sudan thanks to support from Barnabas Fund. We also pay for a daily nutritious meal for them

A child sponsorship programme enables over 6,500 Christian children to attend Christian schools in eight different countries where Christians face pressure from other faiths, including Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and the Holy Land. We also help to provide Christian children’s magazines in the Arab world and Central Asia, to encourage Christian children where they are in the minority and help strengthen their faith.

Pray for those Christian children who are forced to deal with much more pain and suffering than many of us will ever experience in our lifetime, and to count the cost of following the Lord Jesus. They may experience isolation, discrimination, mockery, kidnap, rape, abuse and sometimes even murder because of their love for Christ.

Pray that He will keep them strong in their faith and that He will pour out His blessings on them. Give thanks to God for the work Barnabas Fund is able to do to support Christian children around the world, and pray that the children will continue to grow in their knowledge and faith.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Children’s Fund (Ref. 00-665) • Christian Schools for Christian Children (Ref. 00-794) • Christian orphans in Burma (Ref. 75-821) • Children’s magazine in Central Asia (Ref. 80-664) • Children’s magazine in Arabic (Ref. XX-207) • Trauma care for children in Orissa, India (Ref. 21-967)

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Ethiopia
Thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes in Asendabo, Jimma Zone, western Ethiopia, in early March 2011 when Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating a copy of the Quran. In the following days, a mob rampaged through five districts in the predominantly Muslim area, looting property and torching at least 69 churches, scores of homes and a Bible school. Three Christians died, and dozens more were injured. Ethiopia has considered itself a Christian nation since the fourth century, and today it is the only Christian-majority country in the Horn of Africa, surrounded by a “sea” of Islam. Muslims comprise around a third of the Ethiopian population and have generally lived quite peacefully with the Christian majority. However Muslim extremism has become increasingly influential in Ethiopia, as Islamists (for example, from Afghanistan and Somalia) come into the country to spread anti-Christian teaching and discourage local Muslims from having any contact with Christians. In addition, money from external Islamic sources has been used to build mosques and Muslim schools. In addition, Muslims are becoming increasingly radicalised by preachers who are promoting aggressive forms of Islam from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. One Christian leader said that Ethiopia was being targeted by Muslim fanatics with a strategy to Islamise the country and there was a campaign to “clear Christianity from the land by [the] sword”.
Give thanks for the Christian community in Ethiopia and for the number of converts from Islam to Christianity. Pray that the increase in the influence of extremist Islamic ideologies will be stopped and that the Church will have strength and wisdom to counter the growing Islamisation of the country. Pray for those

Mon 5 March

Barnabas Fund has supported a school in Ethiopia for Christian children aged 7 to 11 whose parents are extremely poor and unable to afford school fees and materials for their children

Before the violence in Jimma, an Islamic conference was held where a four-fold plan to Islamise the area was outlined: burn the churches, kill the men, marry the widows and send their children to Islamic schools. Yet in this context, Muslims are coming to Christ.
Christians living in Muslim-majority contexts, that they will feel the Lord’s presence and know that He is their strong tower (Psalm 61:3). Pray for comfort for those who have suffered violence because of their Christian faith; pray that they will be able to show Christ’s love and forgiveness to their Muslim neighbours.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Ethiopia General Fund (Ref. 13-920) • Support for Ethiopian missionaries (Ref. 13-146)

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Holy Land
The familiar story of the life of the infant Jesus and His family’s desperate flight to escape King Herod’s plans to destroy Him resonates today in the experience of Christ’s people in Bethlehem, and throughout the Holy Land. Their homeland has long been racked by wars and uprisings generated by competing claims to the territory, and they are caught in a conflict that is not of their making. In many places they live amidst violence and acute insecurity. For example, in the 1950s, 90% of Bethlehem’s population were Christian, but today, the Christian population is estimated at only 30%. The economy of Bethlehem is heavily dependent on the tourist trade, but after the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) began in 2000, tourist numbers dropped. Many Christians were employed in the tourist trade and therefore lost their jobs. Tourism has now begun to pick up in Bethlehem, and at present, more Christians have employment than at any time since 2000. Despite this, living conditions in the Bethlehem area are not easy, and Christians can also face discrimination and other pressures. Prices are also continuously rising. Christians living in the Gaza Strip have been under the rule of the Islamist group Hamas since 2007. Their daily lives are extremely difficult. Several Christian stores and schools have been vandalised by Muslim extremists, and Christians are regularly harassed and intimidated. The Hamas government says it is committed to protecting the Christian minority, but

Tue 6 March

Barnabas provides food parcels to help Christian families meet their basic needs in the land where our Lord Jesus Himself lived

no arrests have been made, and so crimes against Christians go largely unpunished and under-reported. The number of Messianic Jews is small but growing and is estimated at approximately 10,000. They can experience violence, harassment and discrimination from Orthodox Jewish groups.

Pray that peace and justice will be established in the Holy Land and that hatred and violence will cease. Remember especially the Christian minority, and thank the Lord that more Christians in Bethlehem now have employment. Pray for protection and faithfulness for them in their unstable surroundings. Pray for the

Christians in Gaza whose future in the Holy Land is so bleak that they feel forced to leave. And pray for those remaining, that they will find strength to persevere in living out their faith. Ask the Lord to give the Christian community patience in their trials.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Christian school in Bethlehem (Ref. 65-420) • Needy Christians in the Holy Land (Ref. 65-377)

19

India
“Persecution against Christians has become a daily occurrence... There is great fear among the people because of the threats they received from the extremists.” A pastor in Orissa State expresses the apprehension that many Indian Christians have been feeling this past year. In the first half of 2011, 64 cases of violent attacks against Christians were recorded in India. The police are often slow to respond; sometimes they even take action against the Christian victims or force them to accept a compromise with their attackers, such as agreeing to demands to leave their village, not holding worship services in their homes or paying a fine. Most of the violence comes from followers of Hindutva, a militant form of Hindu nationalism, who strive to make India into a religiously “pure” nation. In April 2011 an angry mob of 150 Hindu extremists attacked a Christian worship meeting in Delhi. They beat up participants indiscriminately, including women and children, and destroyed furniture and vehicles. Two Christians required hospital treatment for head injuries. Hindutva’s political wing now holds or shares power in ten states and has been instrumental in the adoption in several states of anti-conversion laws that forbid religious conversions that use “force”, “fraud” or “inducement”. The laws are regularly misapplied, and Christians are falsely accused and arrested on charges of “forcible conversions”.

Wed 7 March

Christian children stop on their way to their school, which is supported by Barnabas Fund

Much of the Hindu extremist activity has been prompted by the remarkable growth of the Church in India in recent generations, especially amongst the Dalits. At present, two-thirds of India’s 27 million Christians are Dalits, who suffer discrimination in employment and live a hand-tomouth existence because they are the lowest level of the caste system.

Pray that God’s protecting hand will rest over Christians in India and that God will sustain the 17 million Christian Dalits living in extreme poverty. Pray that the plans of Hindu extremists intent on using violence against Christians will come to naught. Pray

that the influence of Hindutva, an extremist and nationalistic form of Hinduism, will decrease and that anti-conversion laws introduced by its supporters will be repealed. Pray that the police will start upholding justice and treat Christians fairly.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Christian schooling in India (Ref. 21-510) • Houses for persecuted homeless Christians in Orissa (Ref. 21-723) • Trauma Care for Children in Orissa (Ref. 21-967)

20

Indonesia
On Sunday 25 September 2011 a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a church in Solo, Central Java, as the Christians were leaving the building, and 28 people were injured. The bombing may have been a response to clashes earlier that month in Ambon, sparked by false rumours among Muslims in the area that Christians had killed a Muslim taxi driver. Islamist groups who want to eliminate Christianity from Indonesia and bring the whole country under the rule of sharia have been waging an often violent campaign against Christians and churches in recent years. More than 50 churches have also been shut down or demolished by the authorities since the start of 2010, often after protests from radical Muslim groups. The authorities have encouraged Muslims to migrate into Christianmajority areas; once they outnumber the Christians, they can press for the imposition of sharia. Various Muslim-majority provinces have enacted sharia regulations, and some of these apply to Christians as well as Muslims. The churches are also burdened with restrictions on evangelism, the construction of buildings and involvement in public life. A church in Jalan Abdullah bin Nuh street, Bogor, West Java, had its building permit revoked in 2008, and the local mayor refused to comply with a Supreme Court order of 2010 that the church be re-opened, saying that churches should not be built on streets with Islamic names. The
Pray that Indonesia’s Christians may have wisdom and courage as they serve Christ in the face of violence and restrictions. Pray that the government will uphold religious freedom and take firm action against local authorities and Islamist groups that threaten the property and safety of Christians or that want to make Indonesia into

Thu 8 March

The church-planting ministry of this Indonesian couple is sponsored by Barnabas Fund

congregation had been holding its services on the street, but in November 2011 security forces and Islamists blocked all access roads to the church to prevent them from gathering. The Christians were forced to meet in the home of a church member.
an Islamic state. Ask that the churches that have been attacked will be able to resume their worship in peace. Pray too that the church in Bogor will be allowed to re-open. More Muslims live in Indonesia than in any other country; pray that they will not seek to impose sharia on the Christian minority.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Church planters (Ref. 22-828) • Prayer ministry (Ref. 22-1017)

21

Iran
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is on death row in Iran at the time of writing after being convicted of apostasy. He was born to Muslim parents but converted at the age of 19. In court he was repeatedly called to renounce his faith, but he steadfastly refused. He had been active in ministry among a network of house churches. His case has been referred to Iran’s Supreme Leader, the country’s ultimate political and religious authority, but it seems that a decision has now been deferred for some months. There has been only one execution for apostasy in Iran since the 1979 revolution, but converts face other forms of severe persecution from the authorities of the Islamic Republic. They are subject to arrest and detention without charge, sometimes accompanied by intense interrogation and verbal and physical abuse. Some are eventually prosecuted, while others have to pay exorbitant sums for bail. The government is concerned at the number of Iranian Muslims turning to Christ, and these draconian measures seem designed to stop the flow of converts and intimidate believers into renouncing their faith. Nevertheless the Church is growing fast. Christians in Iran are subject to serious discrimination in various areas of life, and their churches are closely watched and strictly regulated. Church leaders are particularly vulnerable. Pastor Vahik Abrahamian, his wife Sonia and another couple (Arash Termanjani and Arezo Teymouri)
Give thanks to the Lord for the large number of conversions among Iranian Muslims, and pray for them as they face persecution for their new faith and have to worship mainly in secret house churches. Pray for strength and courage for all our brothers and sisters in Iran, serving Christ faithfully in the midst of discrimination and restrictions, that they may be protected

Fri 9 March

Left: Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Right: Arash and Arezo were imprisoned for eight months without charge and were then attacked on their release

were arrested in September 2010. Vahik was imprisoned for nearly a year, despite being cleared of all charges in April 2011; Sonia and their friends were released earlier, but as they left the prison, motor-cyclists rode alongside their car throwing bricks at it. Evangelism among Muslims attracts harsh reprisals: a Christian student who was arrested in June 2011 for sharing his faith remains in custody in an unknown location.
from harm and grow in the knowledge and love of God. Pray for a Christian couple whose adopted child was taken hostage by security forces to coerce them into testifying against believers in prison, that the child may be restored to them. Pray too that Pastor Nadarkhani will be released unharmed.

Barnabas Fund supports a number of projects to help Iranian Christians. We cannot mention them individually, but donations to the Iran General Fund (Ref. 19-940) will be used for these projects.

22

Iraq
“The attacks on Christians continue and the world remains totally silent. It’s as if we’ve been swallowed up by the night.” These are the words of a Christian in Iraq following bomb attacks at five churches in Kirkuk in August 2011. Iraq’s beleaguered Christian community faces a desperate situation. Since the Gulf War in 1990-1, Christians have increasingly been targeted by Muslim extremists. When Iraq was plunged into chaos following the US-led invasion in 2003, there was a huge surge in anti-Christian threats, kidnapping and murders. Much of the violence has been centred on church buildings and church leaders, a clear message to the Christians that they are being persecuted because of their faith. Many Christians have received messages telling them to convert to Islam, leave or be killed Since the bloody siege at a Baghdad church in October 2010 that left more than 50 people dead, even more Christians have been murdered and Christian buildings and neighbourhoods targeted. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Christians have been forced to flee their homes; the number of Christians has fallen from 1.5 million in 1990 to perhaps as low as 400,000 today. Most of the displaced Christians have fled to neighbouring countries such as Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, where they represent a disproportionately high percentage of the Iraqi refugees. Many live in desperate circumstances, because they struggle to obtain legal status and are not allowed to work.
Pray for protection for Iraq’s Christian community and pray that they will find strength and support in our faithful Saviour. Pray that they will continue to affirm their faith in Christ and meet together to worship Him in spite of the recent attacks on their churches. Pray

Sat 10 March

An Iraqi Christian refugee receives her monthly food parcel supplied by Barnabas Fund

Organise an Easter offering for persecuted Christians Why not suggest that your church takes up a special collection this Easter to help Christians persecuted for their faith? Barnabas Fund supports projects that bring hope and aid to our suffering brothers and sisters in most of the countries in this booklet; some of these are listed at the foot of the pages. Just pick a country, copy the text of that page for everyone to read, and invite them to make donations for a specified project. Or maybe you could raise money for our General Fund (Ref. 00-000), which is used wherever the need is greatest, including urgent projects and those too sensitive to publicise.
SATURDAY ACTION POINT

that those who have been bereaved by the violence will find peace and comfort in the Lord Jesus. Pray for peace and stability, law and order in Iraq and that our brothers and sisters will be able to live without fear of being targeted.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Feeding Iraqi Christians in Iraq (Ref. 20-246) • Feeding Iraqi Christian refugees (Ref. 20-383)

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Pastors and evangelists
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3 Unnoticed by the world a quiet, steady work of God is going on in many remote places around the globe. Evangelists, church-planters and pastors have obeyed the call to serve the Lord in their own homeland and are building up the Church and bringing the Gospel to those of other religions. Many have given up the possibility of a comfortable life to work in poverty and anonymity. Often their ministry is very lonely. They may experience hostility and antagonism from the majority religion. Last year an evangelist couple, among 481 pastors and evangelists who were supported by Barnabas, moved to a remote, impoverished area of their Central Asian country where everyone is Muslim. Soon afterwards, nine people in their village accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, news that was met with much resistance from Muslim neighbours and the authorities. The couple can visit the new believers only secretly at night, and the village committee has already tried to evict them twice. Governments can also greatly hinder the work of these full-time Christian workers. In many Muslim countries they risk heavy fines, long prison sentences or even being killed if they are found out. Harsh religion laws in some Central Asian countries forbid sharing and teaching about one’s
Pray for pastors, church-planters and evangelists labouring in unseen places around the world, that they may find their strength in the Lord and be continually refreshed in their faith when they turn to Him. Pray that their work will bear much fruit and that the hearts of many will turn to the Lord. Pray especially for the 481 pastors and evangelists supported by Barnabas Fund last This evangelist couple, supported by Barnabas, are bringing the Gospel to Muslims in a remote area of their Central Asian country

Sun 11 March

faith. Some states in India have anti-conversion laws that place many obstacles in the way of Christian evangelism. In Nepal a newly proposed penal code is currently before parliament that may make it very difficult for Christians to talk about their faith to non-Christians. In November 2011 an Indian pastor was arrested in Jammu and Kashmir State after a YouTube video appeared showing him baptising seven converts from Islam. He was also called before a sharia court to explain the “forced conversions” and threatened by the Grand Mufti of Kashmir.
year, that the Lord will provide opportunities for them to support themselves financially. Pray that governments will be persuaded to change laws that forbid sharing and teaching about one’s faith, so that these faithful brothers and sisters can continue their ministry in peace.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Evangelists’ Support Fund (Ref. 00-478) • Pastors’ Support Fund (Ref. 00-477) • Practical help for leaders (Ref. 00-316) • Leadership Training Fund (Ref. 00-430)

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Mon 12 March

Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast came to international attention in 2011 when at least 1,500 people were killed following disputed presidential elections in November 2010. Fighting broke out between forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim from the predominantly Muslim north, and supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, a Christian from the mainly Christian south who had been president since 2000. Ouattara has sought the naturalisation of all immigrants, which would create a Muslim majority in the electorate. Ivory Coast’s Constitutional Council declared Gbagbo the winner based on valid votes cast, and he therefore refused to relinquish power; however, Ouattara was widely considered to have won the poll, and this result was backed by the UN. Gbagbo now faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. Christians were particularly targeted in the post-election violence: churches were torched, and Christians were kidnapped, beaten and killed. In late March, between 800 and 1,000 people who were seeking shelter at a Christian mission compound in Duékoué were killed. On 29 May, two peasant brothers were brutally crucified after “the example of Christ” by forces loyal to Ouattara. The pair were badly beaten and tortured before being crudely nailed to cross-shaped planks by their hands and feet with steel spikes. Raphael Aka Kouame died of his injuries.
Pray for the family and friends of the brothers who were crucified and the Christians who were killed in the post-election violence. Pray that they will know the Lord’s comfort and that He will provide for their emotional, practical and spiritual needs. Uphold in prayer the parliamentary, municipal and regional elections taking place between December 2011 and April 2012, which are seen as crucial
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Ivory Coast General Fund (Ref.10-950)

Christians make up 34% of the population of the Ivory Coast, yet they still experience some hostility and discrimination (Source: Axa, Wikimedia Commons)

Both Islam and Christianity have been growing in Ivory Coast over recent decades, with the north and south becoming increasingly marked out along religious lines. The country’s Muslim population (including immigrants) has increased from 5% to around 42% in the last hundred years, and from 2002 to 2007 some Muslims in the north were in armed rebellion against Gbagbo’s government. The number of Christians has also increased over the last 30 years to nearly 34%. Although religious freedom is protected, some Christian groups have reported discrimination against them by government officials and hostility at the local level.
steps towards recovery after so much conflict and political turmoil. Pray that just and righteous leaders will be elected who will strive for the restoration of peace and order in this troubled nation. Pray that Christians may be salt and light and that they will not become marginalised but will be allowed to practise their faith in peace.

25

Kazakhstan
In June 2011 a pastor in Kazakhstan, Yerzhan Ushanov, was charged with harming the health of a sick man who visited his church. He had prayed for healing but was later accused by the man’s wife of using hypnosis. Church members say that officers planted evidence against the pastor in his home; they also warned him to leave town for good. The authorities seem to be targeting the church: a secret police officer visits it regularly. Other churches from the same denomination have also been harassed this year. Churches in Kazakhstan face severe restrictions. All are supposed to register, but this enables the authorities to interfere with their churches. Thus many congregations remain unregistered, but then they may suffer harassment and judicial penalties for unauthorised religious activities. Twice in the last four years the government has attempted to clamp down further on the country’s Christian community, before being forced to give way. However, in October 2011 the country’s president signed a new law introducing even tighter controls over religious groups. These include stricter registration requirements, further limitations on children’s ministry and the distribution of literature, and the provision of detailed information about churches’ leaders and beliefs. In an early move to enforce the new law, the authorities have moved to close down churches in prisons and to confiscate religious literature,
Give thanks for the spread of the Gospel in Kazakhstan. Pray for new believers, especially those from a Muslim background, that the Lord will establish them firmly in their faith. Pray too for those who proclaim the Word to them. Pray that the new restrictions on Christian activities will not be implemented strictly, and that the

Tue 13 March

A group of Christian children in Kazakhstan, where churches face severe restrictions on their activities

including Bibles and New Testaments, from prisoners. There were also reports of pastors being denied access to jails to hold services. Yet despite these hindrances, the churches are experiencing sustained growth, with thousands of converts among ethnic Kazakhs, a traditionally Muslim people group. But converts may face pressure from their Muslim neighbours to return to Islam.
government will give greater freedom to Christians to practise their faith, including to those in prison. Pray too for the churches that are currently experiencing harassment, and for Christians who have been falsely accused of crimes, that justice may be done for them.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Kazakhstan General Fund (Ref. 24-775) • Children’s Christian magazines in Central Asia (Ref. 80-664)

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Wed 14 March

Kyrgyzstan
For Kyrgyzstan, the turbulent year of 2010 brought a revolution and a new constitution guaranteeing more religious freedom. Yet in 2011 the country’s Christians continued to experience restrictions and discrimination. Kyrgyzstan’s repressive religion law, passed in 2009, requires each congregation to apply for registration, a cumbersome process that can take several years to complete. It also forbids the distribution of religious literature and materials in public locations and places significant restrictions on evangelism. However, the new central government established after last year’s revolution is weak and does not have the power to enforce the law consistently. Although many Christian groups have experienced severe problems due to the law, others have enjoyed more freedom than they expected. In rural areas the power vacuum is often filled by Muslims, who strongly influence village elders to make life hard for Christians. Despite a law obliging villages to allocate land for Christian burial, local Muslims and village councils regularly refuse to allow converts from Islam to Christianity to be buried in their villages. In one particularly distressing event a Christian widow tried to bury the body of her deceased Christian husband three times in three different locations but was blocked and threatened by Muslim leaders and villages at every attempt. A resting place was finally found 105 miles (170 km) away from their home. Since then the widow

Yurts form an important part of Kyrgyzstan’s heritage and are sometimes used for outreaches and Christian youth camps. Barnabas has funded the purchase of several yurts for this purpose

and her five children have been forced to leave their village after Muslim neighbours repeatedly intimidated and blocked them from grazing their cattle. Leaving Islam is seen as betraying one’s Kyrgyz identity and family, and ethnic Kyrgyz who convert from Islam to Christianity often face severe pressure and threats from family and local communities.

Many Christians are leaving Kyrgyzstan owing to chronic poverty and unemployment. Pray that Christians strong in the Lord will be raised up to lead the churches. Pray that the new government will repeal the religion law and uphold its commitment to freedom of religion. Pray for peace between the different ethnic groups,

especially the ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks, and that Muslims will allow family members to become Christians without harassing them. Pray that local Muslim authorities will adhere to the law and allow Christians to bury their dead in their own villages.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Kyrgyzstan General Fund (Ref. 26-849) • Church buildings (Ref. 26-895)

27

Laos
Pastor Seng Aroun and three other Christians were arrested at a house church gathering in the Luang Namtha province of Laos on 10 July 2011. They were charged with assembling for worship without approval, and the local villagers were ordered to stop worshipping in private homes. They have faced persecution since around 400 residents became Christians in 2002, and they have been meeting in homes since the authorities destroyed their building two years ago. The churches of Laos operate in a challenging context. They are a very small minority (only some 2-3%) and are acutely mistrusted by the Communist authorities, who regard Christianity as a Western import. This suspicion leads to various kinds of intolerance, repression and harassment. The government controls or interferes in many of the churches’ activities. They are subject to restrictions in their worship and evangelism, in the construction and use of church buildings, and in the importing and distribution of Christian literature. Only certain Christian denominations are recognised by the government, and independent congregations are subject to more severe limitations than the official churches. Intense and brutal persecution of Christians may be initiated at local levels, and rural churches are particularly vulnerable. In some places Christians are threatened with expulsion from their villages, lose their livestock or land, or are denied access to education and medical care.
Give thanks to the Lord that despite the many difficulties that they face the churches of Laos are enjoying rapid growth. Pray that this may continue, and that the believers will stand firm in their faith. Pray that the authorities will look more favourably on the country’s Christians and will relieve the persecution that they
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Laos General Fund (Ref. 90-740)

Thu 15 March

The National Assembly building in Laos. The government controls or interferes in many Christian activities

Sometimes they are arrested and detained on false charges and may face harsh treatment in prison. Some local people join in attacking them, though others are sympathetic. In 2010 about 65 Christians from Katin village in Saravan province were forced from their homes and told they could return only if they abandoned their beliefs. They have been living on the edge of the jungle ever since, vulnerable and living mainly on roots, as they are mostly farmers and unable to hunt.
suffer, giving them greater freedom to practise their faith in peace. Pray especially for the Christians of Katin village, that they will be protected from further harassment and may find a permanent place to settle.

28

Libya
Libya was much in the news during 2011. The uprising against its long-time leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, was initially hailed by some commentators as another triumph of the so-called “Arab Spring”, heralding the advent of religious freedom. But these hopes are threatened by the powerful influence of Islamists upon the new regime. Supporters of Al-Qaeda, previously held in check by Gaddafi’s regime, are already assuming prominent roles. A draft constitution, published recently, makes Islam the religion of the state and sharia the principal source of legislation. Although it also offers a measure of religious freedom for non-Muslims, the rights to share one’s Christian faith with a non-Muslim or of a Muslim to convert are not included, nor any guarantees against other restrictions. The leader of the Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalili, has emphasised the central role Islam will play in the new order: “We are an Islamic country. We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government.” He added that laws contradicting sharia would be nullified. The churches of Libya are composed almost entirely of expatriates, many from sub-Saharan Africa. They had been free to worship largely without harassment, but when the violence erupted, thousands of Christians tried to flee the country; some churches in Tripoli lost more than 95% of their members. Many were left stranded at the coast, in danger from rebel gunmen who assumed they were supporters of Gaddafi, while some of
Pray for the restoration of peace and stability to Libya, and that the tumultuous political changes of 2011 will not produce an Islamist regime but will bring greater freedom to all citizens. Pray for the churches as they seek to worship and witness with much reduced numbers, that the Lord will make His power perfect in
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Needy Christians in Libya (Ref. 30-973)

Fri 16 March

Benghazi, the main stronghold of the rebel forces during the Libyan uprising of 2011. An Islamist government will further endanger Libya’s vulnerable Christians

those who remained became virtual prisoners in their own homes. The churches may lack the capacity as well as the freedom to grow under the new regime.
their weakness. Pray too for the protection of Christians who have fled their homes and are trapped inside Libya or living as refugees in other countries. Ask the Lord to bless and strengthen Christian converts from Islam, that they may stand firm in Him in the face of danger and insecurity.

29

Maldives
Behind the island “paradise” lies a darker reality for all Maldivian residents who are not Muslims. In terms of religious freedom the collection of over 200 islands south-west of India is one of the most restrictive countries in the world. The country’s law requires all citizens to be Muslims; non-Muslims may not vote or hold public positions. All government regulations are based on its interpretation of sharia. The media is banned from producing or broadcasting any programme “that humiliates Allah or his prophets or the holy Quran”. In October 2009 Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed, state minister of Islamic affairs, said that places of worship for non-Muslim religions could not be built in the country: “We will not accept it under any circumstances. It cannot be done. All Maldivians are Muslims.” The very small number of indigenous Christians are ostracised, discriminated against and carefully watched. They practise their faith individually and in extreme secrecy for fear of being discovered. In 2010 a handful of Maldivians identified themselves as Christians in blogs. Christians among the 100,000 foreign workers and 675,000 tourists who visit the island annually are allowed to practise their faith only in private. They may not share their faith with Maldivians or worship with them, and are immediately deported or arrested if caught. It is also illegal to carry or display in public books on religions other than Islam. In October 2011 a Christian teacher from India who was working in a school on Raa Attol
Ask the Lord to strengthen the few Maldivian Christians, who are living out their faith in secrecy. Pray that they will find ways to grow in that faith and to tell the Good News to their neighbours. Pray too for expatriate Christians, who are also severely restricted, that they may be encouraged in their faith and find ways of sharing it

Sat 17 March

One of over 200 islands that make up the Maldives (Source: Sarah Ackerman, Flickr)

was arrested for transferring Christian songs on to a school laptop and keeping a Bible in his home. At the time of writing he was still detained in prison. Collect signatures for our Barnabas Fund “Proclaim Freedom” petition We are called to speak out against the injustice and cruelty that is suffered by many of our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world. This year Barnabas Fund has launched a petition called “Proclaim Freedom”, which speaks out on behalf of vulnerable and marginalised Christians who cannot speak for themselves. There is a petition form in the March/April edition of Barnabas Aid, or you can download one from our website, www.barnabasfund.org/campaign. Could you take this to your small group or to church and ask ten of your friends to sign it? The more signatures we can get, the better!
SATURDAY ACTION POINT

with Maldivian Muslims. Pray that the growth of Islamism in the last seven years will stop. Pray that God’s truth and light will shine into the hearts of all Maldivians and that the government will cease its repression and allow Christians to live in peace and freedom.

30

Sun 18 March

Women
“Rather, [your beauty] should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.” (1 Peter 3:4-5) Many Christian women in Sudan, some of them young mothers together with their babies, are in jail for not following the version of sharia law prescribed by the government. This includes being fully covered and having a male escort when in public. In some countries, especially Pakistan and Egypt, it is common for Christian girls to be kidnapped by Muslims, who often beat and rape them. Often the intention is to force the girl to embrace Islam and coerce her into a marriage with a Muslim man. Women have an important place in God’s family, and Jesus considered women of equal worth to men, often inviting them into His circle of followers. He had a number of important encounters with women, praising Mary for listening to Him rather than joining Martha in preparing food (Luke 10); speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4); defending the action of the woman who anointed Him with expensive perfume (Matthew 26). After His resurrection, He showed Himself first to a woman, Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18).

Widowed Christian “Alima” was thrown out of her home in Kyrgyzstan by her mother-in-law because she refused to renounce her faith in Christ and return to Islam. Barnabas funded the purchase of a new home for Alima and her five children

Sharia law teaches that women are of less worth than men, and Christians are of less worth than Muslims; thus Christian women are greatly despised in many Muslim societies. Barnabas Fund assists Christian women in countries where they are vulnerable and oppressed. We support programmes to educate and equip women, including literacy classes and health courses and projects to help with income generation to enable them support their families, such as teaching sewing skills. Barnabas funds camps and conferences for Christian women to meet together for teaching and fellowship. We also provide safe refuges for persecuted Christian women in a number of countries and practical care, especially food, for widows in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Pray for our Christian sisters facing persecution because of their faith, that they will know that they are dearly loved by the Lord Jesus and are precious to Him. Pray that the Lord will heal the emotional and physical wounds of those Christian girls and women who have been victimised, and pray that they will remain close to their Father

even in their distress. Pray that they will know His love in the midst of their trials. Pray too that the attackers of young Christian women may be brought to justice. Give thanks for the work that Barnabas Fund is able to do to support those women who suffer because they love the Lord Jesus.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Refuge for Christian girls and women, Pakistan (Ref. 41-465) • Cana Girls Rescue Home, Kenya (Ref. 25-663) • Goats and sheep for women, Niger (Ref. 38-929)

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Mon 19 March

Morocco
In some respects Morocco seems one of the most modern and secular of Muslim countries. A popular tourist destination, it allows the sale of alcohol and permits women to dress much as they wish, at least in the cities; among Arab nations it has one of the most liberal laws on women’s and family rights. Not only does the country’s constitution guarantee religious liberty; the authorities are also fairly tolerant of non-Muslim religious practice. But the freedom experienced by Christians in Morocco is very limited and insecure. All Moroccans are considered to be Muslims, and so the government does not officially acknowledge the existence of Moroccan Christians. There are in fact a few thousand indigenous believers, who have converted from Islam, and they can meet together largely without harassment so long as they are discreet. But sharing one’s Christian faith with Muslims is punishable by a fine or imprisonment, and converts can face pressure from their communities and local authorities. There is a small expatriate Christian community in Morocco. They too are free to gather and worship, but are liable to expulsion if they try to convert local Muslims; more than a hundred were deported on such charges in 2010. They risk being accused of this even if Moroccan Christians simply attend their worship services. The government also restricts the distribution of Christian literature.

The royal palace in Meknes, Morocco. The King of Morocco is a direct descendant of Muhammad and wields great political and religious power (Source: Bernard Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons)

During the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2011, unrest in Morocco was quietened by the king’s promise of reform and the issuing of a new constitution. But the monarchy, which is believed to be sacred (the king is a direct descendant of Muhammad), has retained most of its status and power, and no concessions have been made to Christians or other minorities. The new arrangements require the king to appoint the prime minister from the largest party in parliament, and in elections held in November an Islamist group, the Justice and Development Party (PJD), won the most seats.

Give thanks for the Christian presence in Morocco and for the relative lack of harassment that the churches are enjoying at present. Pray for the indigenous Christians, especially for those in rural areas, who are often isolated without opportunities for fellowship, asking that the Lord will build them up in their faith. Pray
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Morocco General Fund (Ref. 36-850)

too that He will raise up more trained leaders to teach and care for the churches. Pray that the recent political changes will not give the country a more Islamic character, and that Christians will be given greater liberty to share their faith with their Muslim neighbours.

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Nepal
In November 2011 an extremist Hindu group, the Nepal Defence Army, detonated a bomb beside the offices of a Christian mission agency in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. Pamphlets were found demanding that Nepal become a Hindu state, that all churches be closed within 50 days, and that all mission organisations should leave the country. Although anti-Christian violence is rare in Nepal, the same group bombed a church in Lalitpur two years earlier and has also killed a pastor and attacked other Christians. Nepal has a large Hindu majority (some 75%), and until 2006 it was a Hindu kingdom with Hinduism as its national religion. A long period of Maoist insurgency and political instability led to the establishing of a secular state in 2006. An interim constitution was issued the following year, which guaranteed freedom of religion and expression to all citizens. But Hindu extremists want to turn the country back into a Hindu nation, and they see the churches as a threat, especially in light of their rapid growth. (Before 1950 no Christians were officially allowed to live in Nepal; official figures suggest that there are now more than half a million.) Converts to Christianity face social ostracism from their communities and occasional hostility and discrimination. Persuading others to change their religion is illegal, and Christians suspected of encouraging conversion can be reported to the authorities and may be fined or imprisoned.

Tue 20 March

Church leaders in Nepal who received training supported by Barnabas Fund

A new civil code proposed by the Maoist-dominated government now threatens further to restrict evangelism and undermine religious liberty. Some church leaders believe that the legislation could make it illegal for Christians to act or behave in any way that might lead others to convert. Other clauses would ban “undermining any religious feeling” or obstructing “religious rituals that have been in existence since time immemorial”. It is feared these may be used to stifle free expression and protect Nepal’s traditional religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, against any challenge from Christianity.

Give thanks to the Lord for the growth of the Nepalese churches and for the freedom that they now enjoy. Pray that this will be increased and not diminished by the authorities, and that Christians will be able to share their faith without risking reprisals. Ask that the pressure from Hindu extremists to turn the country back into

a Hindu nation will be successfully resisted, and pray that Christians will be protected from further violent attacks. Nepal is one of the world’s poorest nations and prone to natural disasters; pray for relief for all living in poverty, especially Christians.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Nepal General Fund (Ref. 89-992) • Bible training by correspondence course (Ref. 89-946)

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Wed 21 March

Nigeria
As a prayer meeting drew to a close at a church in Tabak village, Kaduna State, Nigeria, on 3 November 2011, gunmen burst into the building and fired on the congregation, leaving two worshippers dead and twelve injured. Then on Christmas Day a co-ordinated series of bomb and gun attacks on churches and other targets left more than 40 people dead. These were just the latest attacks against Christians in the North and Middle Belt of Nigeria, who have found themselves on the receiving end of yet more hostility and violence following the re-election of Christian president Goodluck Jonathan in April 2011. Enraged supporters of the defeated Muslim candidate from the North, Muhammadu Buhari, went on the rampage, claiming the poll was rigged, though international observers called this election the fairest in decades. Scores of people were killed in the unrest, but the violence has raged on ever since, with Christians and churches coming under sustained attack across the volatile Plateau State. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which is fighting to establish an Islamic state in the North, has claimed responsibility for much of the violence. More than 280 people died in their violent campaign in 2011. Their spiritual leader, Abubakar Shekau, has urged followers to carry out more assassinations and bombings, saying, “Whomever we kill, we kill because Allah says we should kill and we kill for a reason.”

A cross lies in the ashes following anti-Christian violence in Malumfashi, northern Nigeria, in May 2011

Nigeria is a nation divided between a strongly Muslim (about 93%) North and a mainly Christian (about 80%) South. The population of the Middle Belt states is more evenly mixed. Christians in the North have suffered discrimination for many years, with restrictions on church buildings and poor treatment of their children in schools. Elements of sharia have been introduced in twelve Northern states, and Christians have to submit to it in certain respects.

Pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria who experience so much targeted violence. Pray that they will stand strong in their faith in Christ Jesus and that the Lord will rescue them and protect them. Lift to the Lord those who have been injured or lost loved ones in anti-Christian violence, and pray that they will be

comforted in their grief and be given grace to forgive. Give thanks for the courage of the Christian communities and pray for peace between Muslim and Christians in Nigeria. Pray that President Jonathan will govern with justice and righteousness.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Nigeria General Fund (39-970) • Victims of anti-Christian violence (Ref. 39-772)

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North Korea
North Korea is extremely isolated and oppressed. The strict Communist regime oversees a country that is cut off politically from the rest of the world. The population is shockingly poor, and suffering is rife. Most people do not have enough food for each day, and many die of starvation. Religious activity is tightly controlled, and everyone is expected to adhere to the official ideology of Juche (self-reliance). Christianity is particularly feared by the authorities. It was first introduced to Korea by missionaries in the late 18th century, and Korea was once one of the most Christianised countries in Asia. However in 1945 the north of the Korean Peninsula was occupied by the then Soviet Union, and this territory soon became the new nation of North Korea, under Stalinist rule. In 1948, President Kim Il-Sung introduced the principle of Juche, and although the constitution and other laws and policies claim to protect religious freedom, in practice religious activity is severely restricted by the government. Genuine religious freedom does not exist. Today, it is illegal to be a Christian or take part in any Christian activity in North Korea. Christians live under constant threat of imprisonment, torture or execution if the authorities discover their Christian faith. Those who are considered to have acted against the state ideology may see their whole families placed in prison labour camps, notorious for brutal treatment and torture of inmates, sometimes to death. In May 2010, three leaders of an underground church were executed. Christians also share in the poverty,
Pray for our brothers and sisters in North Korea, who suffer so much for their faith. Pray that they will remain faithful to the Lord as they endure harsh and repressive conditions. Pray that the Lord will continue to sustain the hundreds of underground fellowships that exist in the country. Pray for strength and courage for those who are
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Christian bakery project (Ref. 86-642)

Thu 22 March

Christian bakeries in North Korea provide Christians with a job. The bread is given away free to schools and kindergartens

malnutrition and shortages suffered by the general population. Yet remarkably, the Church is growing, and there are thought to be at least 400,000 Christians in North Korea.
in prison camps. Pray that all Christians will continue to be able to meet together and share fellowship and encouragement with each other, and that the Lord will grant them protection. Pray for Christians following the death of President Kim Jong-Il and that any resulting political change will be for their benefit.

35

Pakistan
Amber, a 12-year-old Christian girl, was kidnapped by two armed Muslim men in Lahore who held her hostage for eight months. Her captors raped her, tricked her into marriage and tried, without success, to compel her to convert to Islam. In September 2011, Amber was able to escape. When her parents tried to register the crime with the police, they were told that, as Amber had married and converted to Islam, she should go back to her husband. An estimated 700 Pakistani Christian girls are kidnapped annually and forcibly married to their Muslim captors. As with Amber, the government does little to protect them, and few perpetrators are brought to justice. This lawlessness is part of a larger picture of social and legal discrimination against the 5 million-strong Christian minority in Pakistan. As a result, most can get only menial and low-paid jobs, living in poverty and despised by their Muslim neighbours. Discrimination also happened during the distribution of aid after the catastrophic floods of 2010 and 2011, when Christians were sometimes left out. Sharia has a significant place in public life. Those who stand up for the rights of Christians do so at the risk their lives. On 16 November 2011 Jameel Sawan, a preacher and champion of minority rights, was gunned down in Karachi. He had previously received death threats, and the attackers are suspected to be Islamists.
Pray for the large, downtrodden Christian minority in Pakistan, that they will be able to run with perseverance the race marked out for them (Hebrews 12:1). Pray that the government will repeal the blasphemy laws and start protecting Christians. Pray for Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother on death row, and other Christians unjustly imprisoned under the blasphemy laws, that the Lord will

Fri 23 March

Barnabas Fund supports the Christian school in Pakistan that this Christian girl attends

Religious extremism and violence against non-Muslims are growing in Pakistan, often fuelled by the notorious “blasphemy laws”. In September 2011 a Christian girl accidentally misspelled a word in class, which was interpreted by her teacher as a deliberate insult to Muhammad. After hearing about the incident, enraged Muslims demanded her expulsion from school. Her family were forced to move away to another area because of threats.
strengthen and sustain them. Pray for the protection of Christian girls who are targets of sexual assaults by Muslim men, that they may experience God’s nearness through their ordeal and that justice may be done for them. Pray for the thousands of Christians recovering from the floods.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Christian lawyers helping abused Christians (Ref. 41-645) • Support for Pakistani full-time Christian workers (Ref. 41-432) • Primary schools for deprived Christian children (Ref. 41-948) • Sponsorship for Christian flood victims (Ref. 41-919)

36

Russia
Many Christians in Russia are not enjoying the freedom they had hoped for after the fall of Communism. The law imposes major restrictions on the ministry of non-traditional churches (those other than the Russian Orthodox Church). Registration is compulsory but can be very difficult, and unregistered groups may be dissolved by the authorities. Non-traditional churches are often unable to buy or rent venues for worship or to obtain construction permits, and much of the property confiscated from them in the Soviet era has yet to be restored. Some groups are subject to harassment and raids; the police may confiscate their literature and other property. A number of individuals and churches have been verbally or physically attacked. Write to your local paper about anti-Christian persecution Your local newspaper is an excellent forum for publicising the plight of the persecuted churches. Editors usually welcome new subjects for their letters page. For example, you could say: that 200 million Christians live under the shadow of persecution around the world; that one in ten Christians worldwide live with discrimination or persecution; that thousands are killed every year because of their faith; that Easter is often a time of
SATURDAY ACTION POINT

Sat 24 March

Russian Christians at worship

The unstable North Caucasus region of Russia is being rocked by a growing insurgency driven by radical Islam. Militant Islamists are fighting to establish a separate state ruled by sharia, and in 2011 their suicide bomb attack at Moscow’s busiest airport killed 36 people. Christians face frequent harassment, intimidation and discrimination at the hands of the Muslim majority. Wahhabism, an extreme and puritanical version of Islam that is dominant in Saudi Arabia, is spreading in the region.

increased anti-Christian violence in some countries; that pastors and other Christian leaders often face jail; and that in some countries it is illegal to convert from Islam to another faith. You could also use some of the stories in this booklet or a recent issue of Barnabas Aid to illustrate the points you make. Keep your letter short and end with some kind of challenge to the readers, such as writing to their MP about anti-Christian persecution (see Saturday 3 March). And if you receive Barnabas Fund’s email news releases, why not try forwarding them to the paper or your regional news channels?

Pray for Christians in the North Caucasus as they face the growing power of radical Islam; ask that the Lord will keep them safe, and that the region will not become a Muslim state. Pray especially for converts from Islam and those who share their faith with their Muslim neighbours. Pray for greater freedom for all Christians in

Russia, and that the authorities will cease to discriminate against non-traditional churches. Pray that Christians throughout this vast country will be strong in their faith, and that the light of the Gospel will shine out through them.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Ministry amongst Muslim Central Asian immigrants (Ref. 43-1030)

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Sun 25 March

Converts
“Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13) The Bible warns us many times that choosing to follow Jesus can come at an enormous cost. For many new believers around the world, especially those converting from a different religion, this is a stark reality. They can lose the love and respect of their families, neighbours and communities, and lose their jobs, houses or possessions. Some are even jailed or killed for converting to Christ. Believers from a Muslim background will often be disowned by their family and pressured to go back to Islam. Some have to go into hiding because of the risk of being killed by relatives or zealous Muslims, as sharia prescribes the death sentence for those who leave Islam. In 2011 converts experienced as much persecution as ever. (See articles on Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Nepal, Saudi Arabia and Somalia in this booklet for more details.) Although Muslim governments rarely carry out the death sentence on converts, they sometimes imprison or torture them. Noorollah Qabitizade, a house church leader in Iran, has been in prison since 24 December 2010, when he was arrested during a Christmas celebration. The authorities have repeatedly put him under intense pressure to renounce Christ in return for his release. But Noorollah has stood strong and has even tried to share his faith with other prisoners.
Pray that converts around the world will experience such joy, peace and love from God that all their sacrifices are worthwhile in comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17). Pray that the Lord Jesus will empower them to be able to endure their sufferings. Pray for situations where relatives and neighbours are putting new
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Convert Fund (Ref. 00-113)

Baptism of a man from a remote Muslim area in a Central Asian country

Converts who have lost everything need their new Christian family to support and love them. Barnabas Fund helps to meet their practical and spiritual needs by providing safe accommodation, vocational training or small business start-up costs, discipleship training and other assistance.
believers under pressure to reconvert, that the Christians will be given the words to witness to their faith. Pray that Noorollah Qabitizade will be released from prison. Pray that governments who are putting pressure on Christians to reconvert will be moved to change their laws and attitudes towards Christians.

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Mon 26 March

Saudi Arabia
The Saudi government will not allow any un-Islamic religion to be practised in public in their country, according to a tradition from Muhammad. All the country’s citizens must be Muslim, and all nonMuslim places of worship are forbidden. Conversion to Christianity is punishable by death, so the small number of Saudi Christians are forced to practise their faith in extreme secrecy. Members of the mutawaah (religious police) patrol the streets enforcing restrictions on behaviour based on the government’s extreme and puritanical version of Islam, known as Wahhabism. The 2011 uprisings in the Middle East prompted King Abdullah to announce a number of economic and political reforms, but none of them involved religious freedom. Despite international pressure the government has hardly taken any steps to curb the expression of extremist views. School books for 2010/2011 still educate children to hate other religions and sometimes even encourage the use of violence. Some textbooks label Jews and Christians as “enemies of the believers”. Also some government-approved Wahhabi Muslim clerics issue fatwas (religious edicts) and preach sermons that justify violence against Jews and Christians, reportedly sometimes praying for their death. More than a million expatriate Christians are thought to be living in Saudi Arabia. They are supposedly allowed to worship in private, but in practice the mutawaah sometimes disrupt and raid private Christian meetings.
Pray for Eyob Mussie, a Christian man from Eritrea, who was arrested on 12 February 2011 after going to a mosque in Jeddah to meet and talk with local Muslims. First threatening to execute him, the Saudi authorities decided in July 2011 to deport Eyob back to Eritrea, another very hard place to be a Christian. Pray for his safety

Muslims walk around the Kaaba in Mecca, Islam’s most sacred site (Source: Wikimedia Commons, omar_chatriwala)

In January 2011 two Indian Christian men, Yohan Nese and Vasantha Sekhar Vara, were arrested after the religious police raided a private home where they were attending a prayer meeting. Officials physically abused them during interrogation and put pressure on them to convert to Islam. A Saudi court sentenced the two men to 45 days in prison, but they were released only on 12 July after six months of confinement. Soon afterwards they returned to India.
and that of the million Christian expatriates living in the country. Pray that isolated Saudi believers will find opportunities to connect with other Christians and that the government will relax its strict repression and let Christians in Saudi Arabia serve the Lord in peace.

39

Somalia
Somalia is currently Africa’s most failed state, and a harsh and highly dangerous place to be a Christian. In the absence of an effective central government since the fall of former dictator Siad Barre in 1991, the country has been mired in chaos, anarchy and violence, ruled by insurgents, warlords and clan-based militias. The tiny Christian minority, all converts from Islam, meet in secret or follow Jesus in isolation. The weak and corrupt Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has control only over the capital, Mogadishu, and remote pockets of some other regions. But as it has adopted a version of sharia, including the death penalty for apostasy, conditions for Christians are bad even in these areas. Most abuses against Christians are carried out by al-Shabaab, a radical Islamist militia group that has claimed affiliation with al-Qaeda since 2007 and controls most of southern Somalia. Their goal is to turn Somalia into an Islamic state. They impose an extremely strict version of sharia in these regions and aim to “cleanse” Somali society of so-called “moral pollution”. Many converts from Islam are martyred for their faith. The body of a Christian man, whose head had been severed and put on his chest, was found in September 2011. Also last year, a Somali teenage girl was repeatedly tied to a tree by her Muslim parents for converting from Islam to Christianity and was beaten severely when she refused to recant
Pray for protection and fellowship opportunities for the Christians in Somalia. Ask the Lord to establish a wise, just and strong government that will restore order and guarantee freedom of religion for Christians. Pray for Somalis who have
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Somalia General Fund (Ref. 47-840)

Tue 27 March

Many Somalis have been displaced within their own country because of the ongoing violence. The few Christian converts are especially vulnerable (Source: International Relations and Security Network, Flickr)

her Christian faith. Three months later she was shot and killed by two unidentified men at the home where she had taken refuge.
been suffering from the worst drought in the country in six decades and acute food shortages since the summer of 2011, and pray that crops will be successful in the coming years. Pray that the spread of epidemics amongst famine victims will be halted.

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Wed 28 March

Sri Lanka
Early on a Sunday morning in June 2011 a pastor and other Christians found their church building in western Sri Lanka smeared with human waste. After they had cleaned up the mess and started the morning service, a 200-strong mob forced their way into the church shouting threats and demanding that the service be stopped. The intruders also beat up one of the assistant leaders. When police arrived, rather than dealing with the aggressors, they asked the pastor to end the service. Sporadic but intense attacks like these, mainly on churches and Christians in rural areas, are often organised by Buddhist extremists, although Christians may also face pressure from Hindu or Muslim extremists. Cases are rarely investigated, and the attackers are seldom charged for their crimes. Christians also experience discrimination in taxation, employment and education. Even though the Sri Lankan constitution upholds freedom of religion, it gives Buddhism “the foremost place” and states that it is the “duty of the state to protect and foster Buddhism”. A Sinhalese Buddhist and nationalist lobby demands privileges for itself at the expense of the Christian minority and campaigns for laws to control religious conversion. During the 26-year long civil war, and its bloody conclusion in 2009, many churches and Christian homes in the north were damaged and destroyed, reducing the Christians there to desperate poverty and need. Local
Give praise that an anti-conversion bill put forward by the Sinhalese lobby, which could have been used to prevent Christians from sharing the Good News, has been deferred, and pray that its supporters will not bring it forward again. Pray that the daily needs of our suffering brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka will be met and that

Dedication of a new church building in Sri Lanka to replace one destroyed in the war. Barnabas Fund covered the costs, and also those for a pastor’s house

authorities are now actively engaged in erecting Buddhist temples and statues in traditionally Christian areas, and are preventing the rebuilding of churches.
those affected by the civil war will soon be able to rebuild their lives. Pray that the hearts of Sri Lankan extremists will be moved to stop persecuting Christians, and that those responsible for recent attacks will be brought to justice.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Bible college students support (Ref. 85-673) • Rebuilding Christian homes and churches (Ref. 85-961 for homes, 85-927 for churches)

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Sudan & South Sudan
South Sudan became the world’s newest nation on 9 July 2011, amid much hope and optimism among its mainly Christian population. They are looking forward to greater freedom and peace after the 21-year civil war that ravaged their region as the North fought to Islamise and Arabise it. Yet the new country faces formidable challenges. Its basic infrastructure was destroyed in the war; millions of its people were killed or displaced to the North and surrounding countries, and many of those who remain live in acute poverty. Violence and insecurity continue: rebel fighting has caused the deaths of some 1,500 people this year. Christians in the predominantly Muslim North of Sudan were under severe pressure even before the South became independent. Sharia is already in force there, and the churches endure discrimination and many restrictions. But the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, has declared his intention to reinforce its hard-line Islamic and Arab character. In October 2011 Bashir declared his intention to adopt an entirely Islamic constitution and strengthen sharia law. Declaring that Sudan will become a “Muslim state”, he said, “Ninety-eight per cent of the people are Muslims, and the new constitution will reflect this. The official religion will be Islam and Islamic law the main source [of the constitution].”

Thu 29 March

Many Christian women in Sudan are in jail for not following the government’s version of sharia law. Barnabas supports a prison ministry there

Some pastors have been warned not to conduct church services, on pain of death, while some churches are closing their schools and considering emigration to the South. Moreover, Southerners still living in Sudan are now treated legally as foreigners; they have lost government jobs and now need to obtain work and residency permits, which is a complicated process. The Sudanese military have also attacked the border regions of Abyei and South Kordofan in what some church leaders believe to be a campaign of ethnic cleansing. The Northern forces have carried out air strikes, attacks on churches and homes, arbitrary arrests and executions. Pastors have been singled out and tortured. One Christian leader described this as a “war of horror”.

Give thanks for the independence of South Sudan and for greater freedom for its Christian citizens, and pray that their hopes for their new nation will be fulfilled. Pray too for the establishing of a viable state in the South, for the relief of poverty and an end to the current bloodshed. Pray for the Christian minority

that remains in Sudan, especially for those who have been brutally attacked in the border regions, asking the Lord to protect His people and turn the hearts of the Sudanese government to show them greater respect. Pray that the North will not become a more strictly Islamic state.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Christian schools for displaced children (Ref. 48-344) • Christian prison ministry (Ref. 48-575) • Medical needs in South Sudan (Ref. 48-133)

42

Syria
In September 2011 a Syrian sheikh issued a chilling threat that all those who are opposing the current uprising in the country will be “torn apart, chopped up and fed to the dogs”. His words may well have been aimed partly at Syrian Christians, who have been well treated and enjoyed a good measure of religious freedom under President Bashar Assad, who is a follower of the minority Alawi sect of Islam. In recent years it has perhaps been easier to be a Christian in Syria than anywhere else in the Arab world, and the country has also thrown open its borders to hundreds of thousands of Christian refugees fleeing the antiChristian violence in neighbouring Iraq. The churches have been able to worship and practise their faith largely without interference, and they have received various benefits from the government. Syrian Christians have not been immune from restrictions under the current regime. Churches have to register with the government, which subjects them to close surveillance. Evangelism among Muslims is strongly discouraged and conversion from Islam forbidden. Although sharia is not generally in force, the laws of inheritance and personal status are mainly based upon it. But Christians are concerned that a post-Assad Syria could be a much more menacing place. Rule by the Sunni Muslim majority could lead to suppression of the country’s minorities, including Christians, and the
Pray for Syria’s Christians as they seek the Lord’s wisdom in these challenging and difficult days, that they may know how best to respond to the developing crisis in their country. Pray that He will protect them from harm during the present unrest, and also the Iraqi Christians who have found refuge in the country. Pray too that

Fri 30 March

These Iraqi Christian children, who receive food parcels from Barnabas, have taken refuge in Syria from persecution in Iraq

growing influence of militant Islamists could generate hostility and violence against the churches. The worst-case scenario is that the country goes the way of Iraq, where militant Islamists were left free to launch a vicious campaign of attacks against the country’s Christians. Iraqi Christians who fled to Syria are once again facing an uncertain future. A Syrian church leader said, “[The Iraqis] are lifting their prayers for a safe and secure Syria and for it to continue to be a safe haven.”
any political change will be for the better, leading to a relaxing of restrictions on Christian activities. Pray that the benefits that the churches enjoy will not be withdrawn and that Islamists will not wreak havoc on the Christian community.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Emergency aid for Christians in Syria affected by 2011 crisis (Ref. 49-1022) • Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon (Ref. 20-383)

43

Tajikistan
Tajikistan’s government tries to control all religious activity in the country, mainly in an attempt to stem Islamic extremism, but by default the small Christian minority are also greatly affected. A strict 2009 religion law has jump-started a period of tight government control, and laws newly introduced in 2011 only increased the repression; on 15 June 2011 the lower house of parliament passed a bill that effectively bans children under the age of 18 from participating in church worship. The sharing of one’s faith is also forbidden, and all imported religious literature is strictly monitored. Unregistered churches are illegal, but obtaining registration is often hindered by authorities or even made impossible. On 17 March 2011 a Baptist congregation in Khatlon province, which has been trying to obtain registration since 2004, received another refusal. Several months before, secret police had surreptitiously filmed a service at the church and also summoned two of the church leaders, ordering them to stop their church Organise a prayer meeting for suffering Christians This booklet contains lots of suggested prayers on behalf of our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters. Could you devote a church prayer meeting to interceding with the Lord for them, or perhaps set up a special prayer event? You could order further copies from your national office (addresses on back cover), photocopy some of the pages, or download and print them from our website (www.barnabasfund.org/ Act/Pray), and invite different people to read out the text and lead in
SATURDAY ACTION POINT

Sat 31 March

Women pray at a Christian leadership training event, part of a oneyear course funded by Barnabas

activity. A government spokesperson later said that the church was refused registration because it had failed to provide all the necessary documentation and that the church was now banned because “it was conducting unregistered activity”. prayer for each country or group. Additional prayer points can be found in our bi-monthly prayer diary Barnabas Prayer and our monthly Prayer Focus Update, which are also available from the website or by calling your local Barnabas office. If you would like to start a regular prayer group for the persecuted Church, please contact your national office for a prayer group start-up pack. We can also refer to you any supporter in your area who is interested in joining a prayer group.
reconvert. Pray that the Christians will be able to resist coercion and be shining witnesses to their faith. Pray also that the government, rather than further tightening its control on religious activity, will start giving Christians freedom to live out their faith in peace.

Pray that the Lord will lift Tajikistan, currently the poorest of the former-USSR states, out of poverty and provide opportunities for Christians to support themselves. Families of Christians who have converted from Islam may put pressure on them to

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Tajikistan General Fund (Ref. 50-770) • Small business start-ups (Ref. 50-884)

44

Elderly
“Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.” (Isaiah 46:4) Where Christians are under pressure, one group who can often go unnoticed are the elderly. When people are living in poverty and hardship they often age more quickly than those in more comfortable situations, especially if they cannot afford medical care. In contexts of persecution, struggling families may not be able to care for needy older relatives or to afford specialised medical care for them. The elderly may be unable to flee from attacks or natural disaster owing to their physical weakness. The Bible holds elderly people in a position of high regard, even stating that “grey hair” is “attained in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31). The Israelites are instructed to respect and honour older members of their community (Leviticus 19:32) and Timothy is told not to speak harshly to an older man, but to encourage him as a father (1 Timothy 5:1). Christians are expected to care for others out of love for Christ, and we should embrace our responsibility for caring for the elderly, whether they are our own family or simply older Christians in more need than we are (1 Timothy 5). Barnabas Fund assists Christian families in caring for their elderly relatives in contexts of poverty or persecution by providing direct support to the older members of the Christian community. In Lebanon, Barnabas
Pray for the vulnerable older generation in countries where Christians are persecuted and mistreated or where they and their families live in situations of poverty. Pray that our Lord and Saviour will be close to elderly people who put their hope in Him and that He will bring them comfort and peace in their remaining years. Pray
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Care home for the elderly, Iraq (Ref. 20-1024)

Sun 1 April

In countries where Christians are living in poverty, the elderly often suffer even more as families are unable to care for their needy older relatives. This lady is a beneficiary of Barnabas Fund’s feeding programme in Pakistan

recently helped to fund the costs of general site preparation, excavation and foundations for a care home that will accommodate 75 elderly Christians. We have also supported care homes for Christians in the Holy Land, India, Iraq, Lebanon and Zimbabwe.
that they may be able to rejoice despite their trials as their faith is proved genuine and Christ is glorified in them (1 Peter 1:6-7). Pray for the wider Christian community as they seek to support elderly people in times of distress and persecution and learn from their wisdom and experience.

45

Tunisia
It was in Tunisia that the so-called “Arab Spring” was launched in January 2011, when the authoritarian President Ben Ali was ousted by violent protests. As the transitional government promised democratic reforms, hopes were raised of real freedom for the country’s people, including its tiny and vulnerable Christian minority. But subsequent developments in Tunisia have dashed these hopes and may foreshadow even greater trials for the churches than they experienced under Ben Ali. A few Christians who sought to take advantage of the revolution to share their faith were forced to flee the country or move to a safer location after receiving threats from Islamists. There were reports of an increasingly public imposition of Islam, including condemnations for apostasy. In September a group of Muslims attempted to turn a Christian church building in Kef into a mosque. Then in October the main Islamist party, Ennahda, emerged from the first elections since the revolution as the largest party in the national constituent assembly. Outlawed under Ben Ali on suspicion of planning an Islamist takeover, Ennahda will now have a dominant role in shaping the new Tunisia. Its opponents are concerned that it may not respect the country’s secular and progressive traditions. Christians in Tunisia are widely scattered. In a population that is more than 99% Muslim, there are only a few hundred indigenous believers, and only about a third of these can meet with each other for worship. The
Pray for the indigenous Christians of Tunisia at this time of massive political change. Pray that their limited freedom to practise their faith will not be threatened further, and that they may be protected from attacks by radical Muslims. Ask the Lord to overrule in the shaping of Tunisia’s new government, that the Demonstrations in Tunisia launched the “Arab Spring” in 2011, but the success of Islamists in recent elections threatens the security of the country’s Christians (Source: CC BY 2.0 by cjb22)

Mon 2 April

rest are scattered, and many are secret believers, as they face the usual problems of harassment and discrimination endured by converts from Islam in Muslim-majority contexts. If the Tunisian government becomes more definitely Islamic, their freedom and safety is likely to be jeopardised even further.
influence of Islamist groups will be restricted and the country will not impose sharia law. Pray too for the country’s expatriate Christian community, that they may find ways to support their Tunisian brothers and sisters.

Barnabas Fund projects include: • Practical help for needy Tunisian believers (Ref. 53-1026)

46

Turkey
“The rhetoric employed by some of the [country’s] leaders, besides the prejudices formed by the public, deeply saddens us.” (A church leader in Van, Turkey) Despite having the veneer of a modern, free and secular state, Turkey is not an easy place for Christians to live out their faith. Christians face much societal discrimination and occasional violence. They must also deal with suffocating bureaucratic restrictions from the government, which severely impede the growth of the small Christian communities. Some of Turkey’s Christian groups have a rich heritage dating back to Biblical times. But now Christians comprise less than 0.1 per cent of the total population, while the overwhelming majority is Muslim. “Turkishness” is held to include being a Muslim, and so Christians are viewed with suspicion. They are often portrayed very negatively in the media. Christians who shared their faith or taught Christianity to children have sometimes faced harassments, even though freedom of religion is upheld in the constitution. Several pastors have reported received threatening telephone calls or messages, necessitating police protection. Converts from Islam are especially vulnerable to harassment, and Islamism is also gaining strength. The government restricts Christians and churches in their rights to own property, conduct services, and open schools, hospitals and other
Pray that the government will be inspired to reform its laws on religious minorities, so that Christians will be free to have their own places of worship, educate their children and talk about their faith. Give thanks that the congregation in Van received a licence and pray that more congregations will do so. Pray that the media will stop broadcasting inaccurate allegations against Christians and that
Barnabas Fund projects in Turkey include: • Turkey General Fund (Ref. 54-750)

Tue 3 April

A team of Christian doctors and a nurse provided free medical care to poor and needy Christians in Istanbul for one week in the summer of 2011, thanks to Barnabas Fund

institutions. Some theological schools have been closed down, which makes it almost impossible for some Christian groups to provide themselves with new church leaders. In August 2011, after a long battle with the authorities, a congregation in the eastern province of Van finally received a licence that recognised its church building as a place of worship. However, despite this victory, the group continue to experience much hostility from the authorities. In 2011 the government promised to return some of the property previously confiscated from Christian groups and has indicated that Turkey’s constitution will give better protection to Christian minorities.
the general atmosphere in society will become more accepting towards Christians. Pray for perseverance for believers from a Muslim background under pressure to return to Islam. Pray that the government will follow through on its recent promises to return confiscated church property and protect the rights of Christians.

47

Turkmenistan
Even though persecution has eased slightly after the death in 2006 of President Niyazov, an eccentric, megalomaniac dictator, the Turkmen authorities still do their best to suppress Christian activity. The internet is strictly monitored and emails searched for coded words; emails considered to be suspicious and most international Christian websites are blocked. The printing of religious books is forbidden, and ethnic Turkmen Christians who have converted from Islam are put under pressure to return. The constitution provides for freedom of religion, but a Religion Law passed in 2003 contradicts all those liberties. It forbids any activity by unregistered religious groups, and official hostility against them is intense. Those who meet together anyway face police raids, court-imposed fines or exile; they may also lose their jobs or homes. Unregistered groups cannot obtain meeting places and worship at home is banned. Applying for registration is an arduous process in which minor clerical errors are a pretext for rejection. Very few churches are registered, and those that are undergo extreme scrutiny by the government; they must provide detailed information about their meetings and activities and are subject to financial restrictions. Pastors are sometimes exiled, beaten, heavily fined or imprisoned. In October 2010 Ilmurad Nurliev, pastor of an unregistered church in Mary, was falsely accused of swindling and sentenced to four years’
Ask the Lord to sustain Christians in Turkmenistan and help them grow in their faith despite the harassment by the government. Pray that the current President Berdymukhamedov and his government will be moved to ease the harsh measures in the 2003 Religion Law so that Christians can live out their faith in

Wed 4 April

Turkmenistan’s eccentric dictator Sapamurat Niyazov, who died in December 2006, subjected the country to repressive rule and created the world’s most extreme personality cult after North Korea’s (Source: Flickr, Simon Bradshaw)

imprisonment. He is held in a notorious prison camp and has been denied his diabetes medication and even a Bible. Early in 2011 his wife Maya was dismissed from her job at a factory where she had worked for a long time without being given any explanation. In one incident in 2011, 17 Christians in Turkmenabad were each fined up to US$140 (£89, €105) for participating in unregistered religious activity. In comparison, the average monthly wage in Turkmenistan is US$100 (£64, €75).
freedom. Pray for good health and strength for Pastor Nurliev and that he may survive his prison ordeal and develop in his faith. Pray for all Christians who have lost their jobs because of their Christian faith, that the Lord will take care of them.

48

Uzbekistan
“I have prepared an axe for you, which will be flying after you, observing you, and if need be get you.” This was the threat made by a senior police officer last year to Anvar Rajapov, a Christian in Uzbekistan. Mr Rajapov was fined 80 times the minimum monthly wage for evangelising and holding illegal religious meetings following a raid on his home in Tashkent. Local Christians believe Mr Rajapov was targeted because he had left Islam to follow Christ. Uzbekistan is officially a secular state, but a strict religion law severely limits all religious activities, making it one of the most restrictive countries for religious freedom in Central Asia. Churches have to register, but the process is difficult and does not guarantee freedom from harassment. Christians are not allowed to share their faith with Muslims or to teach Christianity privately. In the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan, where persecution is especially severe, it is even illegal to own a Bible. Police frequently raid all types of Christian gatherings, from those held in churches to meetings taking place in private homes. In one example from 2011 a Baptist church in Tashkent was raided, Bibles were seized and the Bible Society of Uzbekistan was fined over the importing of Bibles, and a Christian woman was fined for giving a children’s Bible to a work colleague. Some 85% of the population of Uzbekistan is Muslim, and the government provides them with some official support. Churches that contain many Muslim-background believers are therefore especially vulnerable, and
Pray for Christians in Uzbekistan as they endure harassment, threats and raids. The latest incidents of anti-Christian activity confirm that the authorities’ hostility to the churches has entered a new and even harsher phase. Pray for an end to the persecution, for compassion from the authorities and for a change in the law so that

Thu 5 April

A minaret in Uzbekistan, where religious freedom is severely restricted and Christians experience harassment and restrictions (Source: Nikolaus, Wikimedia commons)

converts are often ostracised from their communities or threatened and beaten.
Christians will be allowed to meet together for fellowship without fear of punishment. Pray for the safety of Muslim converts to Christianity as they stand for Christ in a hostile context and ask for the Lord’s protection over His people in this country. Pray too that the Church will continue to grow.

Barnabas Fund supports a number of projects to help Christians in Uzbekistan. We cannot mention them individually, but donations to the Uzbekistan General Fund (Ref. 57-776) will be used for these projects.

49

Martyrs
In October 2011 a 17-year-old Christian, Ayman Nabil Labib, was beaten to death by Muslim classmates at his school in Egypt. His Muslim teacher told him to remove or cover up the cross on his wrist, but Ayman bravely refused; instead he revealed that he wore another cross under his clothes. Incited by the enraged teacher, some of the students then beat him savagely, and he died at the scene. At the time of writing two of the students have been arrested and charged, but not the teacher or any other staff. Ayman was described by other Egyptian Christians as a “Martyr of the Cross”. Every year many Christians are killed because of their faith in Christ. And throughout the Christian centuries, many of God’s people have been called to follow their Lord in the way of the cross, even to violent death at the hands of others. Good Friday, when we remember the suffering and death of Christ for our sins, provides an opportunity to give thanks for these martyrs and to reflect on their example. The Biblical word for “martyr” can also mean “witness”. Those who give their lives for the sake of Christ bear witness to their Christian hope, of vindication through His blood and resurrection through His power. When Muslims asked Nigerian pastor Isma Dogari and his travelling companions in April 2011 “Is there any pagan among you?” he replied, “I am not a pagan, but a servant of the living God. You need Jesus in your life.” They

Fri 6 April

Ayman Nabil Labib was beaten to death by his Muslim classmates in Egypt when he refused to conceal his cross

told him to renounce his faith, and when he refused they beat him and gouged out his eyes; but he persisted in his testimony: “You need Jesus.” Finally they stabbed him and burned him to death. Other Christians, who were with him, described him as a great hero of faith.

As we praise God today for the sacrifice of Christ for us, let us also give thanks to the Lord for the faithfulness and bravery of those who have died for Christ in the past year. Pray that their example may inspire us in whatever pressure or persecution we may experience because of our faith. Pray especially for the families
Barnabas Fund projects include: • Victims of Violence Fund (Ref. 00-345)

of Ayman and Isma as they face the future without their loved ones; may they find comfort and strength in the Lord at this difficult time. Pray that those who persecute and kill Christians will be prompted to believe in Christ by their victims’ patient endurance.

50

Vietnam
On 13 November 2011 a violent gang attacked an unregistered house church in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. Twelve Christians were seriously injured, and the pastor was threatened with death and beaten unconscious. Such attacks are believed to be part of the Vietnamese authorities’ sustained efforts to harass and intimidate the country’s Christians, who make up only some 9% of the population. All churches are supposed to register with the government and submit to its direction, and unregistered groups are particularly vulnerable to persecution. Officials break up meetings, confiscate religious literature and threaten Christians with arrest. Police have even destroyed church buildings or imprisoned members on charges of violating national security. The Communist government has also been increasing pressure on Vietnam’s hill-tribe Christians, such as the Degar, imprisoning members, closing churches and pressuring believers to renounce their faith publicly. Hundreds have been sentenced to long terms of custody or are languishing in prison awaiting trial. In one incident police attacked an open-air congregation, beating men, women and children with sticks and electric batons. Registered churches have to accept extensive regulation of their membership, leadership and ministry. Although they do have a measure of freedom to gather and worship, they too are not immune from attacks.
Give thanks to the Lord for the courage and perseverance of Christians in Vietnam as they continue to worship and serve Him despite the authorities’ attempts to control and intimidate them. Pray for those who have suffered in recent raids and attacks or are unjustly imprisoned, that God will comfort and strengthen them.

Sat 7 April

Christians from Vietnam’s hill-tribes suffer pressure and persecution from the authorities

Collect subscribers for Barnabas Aid Could you introduce three of your Christian friends or family to the work of Barnabas Fund and encourage them to take an interest in it? Barnabas Aid, our free magazine, contains interesting news and informative articles about persecuted Christians and reports on what we are doing to help them. Why not show it to a few people in your church or small group who share your concern for the suffering churches (we are happy to send you extra copies if you would like them) and ask if you can send us their names and contact details? Send the details to your national Barnabas office (addresses on back cover of this booklet).
SATURDAY ACTION POINT

Pray especially for Degar Christians and others who belong to ethnic minorities, that the pressure on them will be relieved. Pray for greater freedom for Christians in Vietnam and that the government will cease to regard them as a threat to national security.

51

Easter Day
“Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26). Two days ago, on Good Friday, we reflected on two brave Christians who were killed last year for their bold witness to Christ. They are typical of so many, from New Testament times to our own day, who have lost their lives for His sake. But what is it that inspires Christians with such courage and faithfulness in the face of intense hostility and even death? In the passage above, Paul proclaims the resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate today, as the firstfruits of a greater harvest. Christ has already been raised from the dead, and all those who are “in Christ”, who belong to Him, will also be raised at His coming. Then all the powers that oppose Him and oppress His people – even death itself – will be destroyed, as the Kingdom of God is finally and fully established. It is this hope that enables persecuted Christians to face death at the hands of others. And it can sustain us in our own trials and sufferings for our Lord.
Burmese Christian children, supported by Barnabas, rejoice in worship

Sun 8 April

Give thanks for the glorious Good News of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and for the promise it holds of our own resurrection to eternal life. Pray that this great hope will inspire all God’s people who face discrimination, harassment and

persecution for His sake. Pray that they may be able to rejoice in the risen Lord at this Easter time, and that their patient endurance will turn the hearts of their persecutors. Rejoice too in the promised coming of God’s Kingdom and final destruction of evil and death.

52

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LENT 12

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Please fill in the whole form using a ball point pen and send it to: Barnabas Fund, 9 Priory Row, Coventry CV1 5EX Name and full postal address of your bank or building society Service User Number

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Reference (Barnabas Fund to complete) Instruction to your bank or building society: Please pay Barnabas Fund Direct Debits from the account detailed in this instruction subject to the safeguards assured to by the Direct Debit Guarantee. I understand that this instruction may remain with Barnabas Fund and, if so, details will be passed electronically to my bank/building society. DD18

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LENT 12

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Children at a Christian school in Pakistan built with support from Barnabas Fund

International Headquarters The Old Rectory, River Street, Pewsey, Wiltshire SN9 5DB, UK Telephone 01672 564938 Fax 01672 565030 From outside the UK Telephone +44 1672 564938 Fax +44 1672 565030 Email info@barnabasfund.org Australia Postal Suite 107, 236 Hyperdome, Loganholme QLD 4129 Telephone (07) 3806 1076 or 1300 365 799 Fax (07) 3806 4076 Email bfaustralia@barnabasfund.org

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