Our brother Zafar is facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life behind bars in Pakistan over false accusations of ‘blasphemy’ – and really needs our prayers.
Zafar Bhatti, who is being held in Adyala Jail in Rawalpindi, was sentenced to life imprisonment in May, after he was accused of sending blasphemous text messages from his mobile phone. Five years on from his arrest, he insists he is innocent.
Please pray for our brother in Pakistan who is in distress and needs to know his Christian family worldwide are interceding for him.
Zafar says there have been several attempts on his life in jail, including a near-fatal poisoning in 2013. His health has deteriorated and he now suffers from a heart condition. He now hopes to take his case to appeal at the High Court.
- Please lift Zafar to God and ask Him to comfort and sustain him. Please use the prayer that Zafar sent us to inspire your prayers on his behalf:
‘O my dear Lord Jesus, listen to my prayer; in my difficult times, I come to you. Release me from my captivity.
‘O Lord, forgive me my sins and have mercy on me; O Lord, listen to my prayer. I am your child. Hallelujah.’
- Pray that God will provide for Zafar’s wife, Nawab Bibi, who is struggling to survive financially without her husband’s support. Thank God that Release partners have been able to provide her with some help. Pray that God will provide a good lawyer and funding for Zafar’s appeal.
- Continue to cry out to God for justice on behalf of every member of our Christian family in Pakistan who has been persecuted through its notorious blasphemy laws. Pray that they will be set free from prison and the laws reformed, in the name of religious freedom and justice.
Faced with the threat of arrest would you continue to worship God? That is the challenge being faced on a regular basis by Christian leaders in Sudan.
On Sunday police arrested five Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) leaders after they refused to comply with an order to refrain from worship.
Police officers arrived at the SCOC-Harat church in the Hai Al Thawra West area of Omdurman and ordered the Christians to cancel the worship service. Omdurman lies across the Nile from Khartoum. When the church leaders refused, police arrested them, sources told Morning Star News.
One source said that they were charged with disturbing the public before they were released despite police initially threatening that they would not be freed.
Please pray for those who were detained – pastors Ayoub Tiliyan, SCOC moderator, Ali Haakim Al Aam and Ambrator Hammad and two evangelists, Habill Ibrahim and elder Abdul Bagi Tutu, a member of the SCOC presbytery.
The harassment came after police in Sudan detained and questioned another church leader in Omdurman last month and, in August, seven other church leaders were arrested, interrogated and released on bail. The Government of Sudan is stepping up pressure on Christians as it tries to take over leadership of SCOC.
- Please pray that all those who were arrested on Sunday and in previous weeks would stay strong in their faith and not give in to intimidation.
- Pray for wisdom for SCOC leaders and that congregations would know God’s peace and protection.
- Thank God for the courage and witness of Christians in Sudan and pray that they would be emboldened to share the gospel more and more.
(Source: Morning Star News)
Simon* is a very poor Christian who scrapes together a living by collecting items for recycling and who now finds himself caught up in a blasphemy row – and he’s only 16.
The teenager from Punjab, Pakistan, has been attacked, tortured and arrested in a row that has sparked uproar in his village in Gujranwala district.
Please ask God to keep Simon and his family safe.
Release contacts in Pakistan say the row followed a dispute with another recycler who was not happy that Simon was gathering paper and bottles near the same religious monument as him. When burnt scraps of a Koran were allegedly found at the site last month, Simon got the blame.
Soon after Simon was arrested, a large mob broke into the police station and abducted him. They threatened to kill him and tortured him until local police called for back-up to bring the situation under control. Due to local unrest, Simon was twice transferred to other police stations. He is now being held in jail.
*We’ve changed Simon’s name for security reasons.
- Please pray for justice for Simon and his family: like many of Pakistan’s Christians, they are very poor and Simon’s father labours for Muslim landowners. Pray Simon will be released soon.
- Ask God to fill Simon with His peace and teach him how to trust his almighty Father through this ordeal.
- Pray that Pakistan’s authorities will do more to prevent abuse of the country’s widely misused blasphemy laws. Pray too that they will yield to international demands for legal reform.
(Source: Release contacts)
Our sister Fikadu has died in an Eritrean prison camp within three months of her arrest.
Her three children do not have their father to care for them either: he was detained with Fikadu, along with every single member of their church, as our partners working in Eritreareported in May.
Fikadu was detained during a mass arrest in Adiquala, part of an ongoing crackdown on evangelical Christians across Eritrea. By last week, she had died.
Please ask God to comfort Fikadu’s children and her husband.
The crackdown on Eritrea’s Christians continues. A total of 210 believers have been detained since April, mostly in raids on their own homes. In the first week of August, 23 Christians were arrested in Asmara. In July, 16 teenage girls on national service were detained in the same camp as Fikadu – as were other Christians and relatives who tried to visit them.
There have been reports of female prisoners having their hair shaved off. One woman arrested in June in Nefasit has reportedly become ‘mentally ill’ due to harsh prison conditions. The cause of Fikadu Debesay’s death is unknown but Metkel Abiet, the desert camp where she was held, is known for its extreme temperatures.
- Ask our heavenly Father to comfort Fikadu’s children and her husband, and reassure them of His unfailing love.
- Pray for the release of all 210 Christians detained since April – and the many other Christians behind bars in Eritrea. Some pastors have been detained indefinitely.
- Lift up the Eritrean authorities in prayer, and ask God to touch their hearts. Pray for an end to their restrictive policies.
- Join our Pray173 prayer campaign to help bring freedom for long-term prisoners of faith in Eritrea.
(Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide)
Our Christian family in Egypt has been warned to expect further attacks by Islamist extremists. They’re in urgent need of our prayers.
Intelligence reports have raised fears of a fresh wave of violence specifically targeting believers travelling to summer camps by bus. Officials have asked church leaders to cancel camps and conferences outside church buildings until at least the end of the month.
Please pray for our Egyptian brothers and sisters at this time of heightened threat.
Egyptian intelligence wrote to church leaders this week warning that Islamic State suicide bombers were planning to attack buses taking Christians to conferences. Hundreds of thousands of Christians of all ages attend such conferences at this time of year.
As one Release partner says, the move to cancel conferences ‘just adds to the oppression Christians experience in Egypt’.
The threat remains real, however. In Alexandria, a church guard was attacked with a knife last weekend.
- Pray that our brothers and sisters will find ways to enjoy fellowship and discipleship if they are forced to abandon plans to attend conferences and camps.
- Pray that God will teach our Egyptian family how to trust Him completely and remain steadfast in their faith, so He will keep them in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
- Ask God to heal Mina, the church guard injured in Alexandria.
- Ask God to grant wisdom to those in authority in Egypt, as they try to tackle extremism. Pray the Government will do more to protect and reassure Christians.
(Sources: Middle East Concern, Release partners)
Please pray for our Iranian brothers Yaser Mosibzadeh, Saheb Fadayee and Mohammad Reza Omidi. They have just been given ten-year prison sentences for their involvement in house churches. Mohammad has also been sentenced to two years’ exile in Borazjan, southern Iran, far from his family in Rasht. The three men have still to hear the outcome of their appeal against a sentence of 80 lashes for drinking communion wine. (Source: Middle East Concern)
Thank God that Algerian Christian Slimane Bouhafs has received a partial pardon and has had his three-year sentence for blasphemy reduced by 16 months. He was imprisoned last September in connection with a Facebook post. The presidential pardon on Algeria’s national day (July 5) was given to several prisoners for good behaviour. His family have again requested his release on health grounds. (Source: Middle East Concern)
I was able to visit a refugee camp on the northern border between Ethiopia and Eritrea a few years ago. It was a long trek up from the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, involving multiple short flights and then what felt like an endless drive through the Ethiopian mountains. The van we took was suitably rickety, the driver suitably blasé, and the roads suitably ancient having been laid by the Italians during the colonial era of the beginning of the 20th century -and left alone ever since.
I’ve read and heard a lot of stories about persecution. Some are dramatic and recount tales of deliverance from extreme circumstances; some are quiet, soft tales of persistent faith in difficult circumstances; many are long-term, daily grinds of patient, difficult trial; some are the total uncertainty of camp life.
The women that I met there stuck with me the most. Their experience is of course very different from the male experience – no more or less valuable, but very different. They continue to make a home for their families, raising children, providing what food they can, supporting their husbands. Or without husbands, keeping the family afloat, working in the various entrepreneurial outlets. (On that note, they were a very entrepreneurial bunch with businesses cropping up everywhere – my favourite was the bar that showed the Premier League and therefore gave them more access to English football than I have at home!)
While we were there meeting with Christian leaders in the camp, hearing their stories of escape from Eritrea and the limbo life of the refugee – displaced from Eritrea, but not sure of their future in Ethiopia – the women quietly went about supplying us with food, chatting to us about their experience and introducing us to their children. It wasn’t until we were about to leave that I realised one of our hosts was mid-way through a second pregnancy.
I think it’s this that sticks with me most – this lovely, gracious, generous, pressured woman was preparing to bring a new baby into the world … in a refugee camp. It wasn’t an awful camp, it was fine compared to some of the horror stories we hear of some camps, but it was a camp. It was limbo, displaced, lacking identity. What does that child say later in life about where it was born? Which nation does it belong to? What identity does it have?
And that’s all assuming that the child arrived safely, born into a camp with basic facilities and basic care. None of us would choose to have a baby in a camp, and we can be sure that for this lady, a camp was not her maternity ward of choice.
Except, of course, it was. Kind of.
She did choose to have a baby in a camp because she chose to follow Jesus. She didn’t have to do that – she could have denied him and probably gone about a relatively normal life in Eritrea. It wouldn’t have been what we’d experience in the UK, but it wouldn’t have been a makeshift camp in the Ethiopian desert.
But she didn’t deny him. She knew that her saviour was more precious than her birth plan, her hope for her baby, even than her baby itself.
When remembering that woman, a lady who’s name I don’t even know, I remember something of the daily grind of persecution; the daily grind of saying “Jesus is Lord” and life panning out from there.
I pray for that lady, for her family, for her baby. I pray that she found safety; I pray for her family’s security, I pray for her faith.
I pray that I would make the same choice: to say “Jesus is Lord”.
A Czech national who was captured and imprisoned with brutal ISIS militants recently shared the story of his harrowing ordeal and how God gave Him strength and renewed his purpose.
CBN News reports that Petr Jasek grew up in Czechoslovakia under Communist rule. As a child, his parents were persecuted for their faith. As an adult, Petr followed God’s call to serve with Voice of the Martyrs in Sudan.
While there, Petr was arrested and charged with being a spy. He was given a 20-year prison sentence and imprisoned with ISIS extremists.
“One of the ISIS members was a Libyan guy who at the age of 12 was a personal guard for Osama Bin Laden in Tora Bora and later on when he returned to Libya he was one of the murderers who slaughtered the 20 Egyptians on the Libyan shore,” Petr shared.
“He took out a fishing string, quite a strong fishing string from his pocket and he was showing how he could kill a person within a few seconds with this fishing string. He told me if I was an American or Russian that he would break my neck immediately and kill me.”
Petr was subjected to beatings and name-calling from the extremists, but God gave him the strength to stand by his faith.
After a few months of being imprisoned, Petr began to realize that God still had a plan and was making good come out of this horrific situation.
He ended up leading some fellow prisoners to Christ. “And I suddenly started to realize that there is a purpose, the Lord has a purpose for me to be in prison to share the Gospel with those people,” Petr explained.
After 14 months of being in prison, Petr was released. He credits the Czech government for negotiating his release, and also expressed gratitude to the many believers who prayed for him.
“When you come through this situation you realize that everything you have is the grace of God and it is on His strength that it is in prison, it is not your own strength that you can survive. Being humble and being faithful to the last moment, this is the moment when we can be more than conquerors when we go through difficult situations because of our faith in Jesus Christ,” Petr said.
BY VERONICA NEFFINGER AT WWW.CROSSWALK.COM
Christians in eastern India were beaten and abused and instead of receiving justice were given an order to stop worshipping.
Hindu women raided Pastor Samuel Karjee’s church in Odisha, dragged outside the 12 Christians present and handed them over to a 300-strong mob. The crowd beat them with sticks, kicked and insulted them. Police resolved the issue by closing down the church.
Please pray for justice for our brothers and sisters in Abasing village.
A 24-year-old Christian, Rajata, suffered serious internal injuries and is still receiving hospital treatment. The casualties included 13-year-old Madhusmita who was punched in the stomach. The Christians’ Bibles and devotionals were snatched.
Police did arrest 25 Hindus – and five injured Christians. They were all set free after police and Hindus reached an ‘agreement’ which amounts to a ban on church services. Four Christian detainees were bullied into signing it, despite having had no say in its wording.
Under the ‘agreement’, Christians are allowed to worship only on their own at home. Christian ‘events’ can be held only with advance permission from the police. Any further disturbances will be dealt with by local police, not the courts.
There have been no worship services in Abasing since the June 18 attack, says Pastor Samuel. ‘I can’t tell you how dry and barren we feel,’ he says. ‘Our hearts yearn to pray and worship together.’
- Lift up in prayer our brother, Pastor Samuel, and his fellow believers in Abasing. Ask God to comfort, protect and strengthen them.
- Pray that God will touch the hearts of individual police officers in the Abasing area and convict them of the need to uphold religious liberties.
- Continue to pray for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Government: pray that they will take firm action to stamp out growing intolerance and persecution. There has been a sharp rise in attacks on Christians since Hindu nationalists tightened their grip on power in March elections.
(Source: Morning Star News)
The Eritrean government started a fresh crackdown against Christians in May 2017 and it is continuing. What makes this persecution different is that whole families are now being arrested and whereas in the past most were picked up at Bible studies or Christian services now believers are being arrested at their homes.
Security officials accompanied by an Orthodox priest are turning up at homes and questioning people over their religious affiliation. All except Muslims, Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran are liable for arrest.
So far about 160 Christians have been arrested, including families with children. In the capital Asmara 49 people were arrested from Enda Korea during a wedding celebration. Christians in the northern Red Sea region have also been rounded up.
According to our partner, 12 children, one as young as two months, are now in prison with their parents in Adi Quala. One Christian who tried to ask about the Adi Quala prisoners was also arrested.
Unbelievably more than 30 children have been left without parents or guardians and the security police are monitoring them to make sure they do not get support from the Christian community.
Christians are also being detained and sent to the desert island of Nakhura in the Red Sea, where weather conditions are extreme.
Please pray now for all those who have been affected by these arrests, especially for the children in prison and those left to fend for themselves.
Pray for an end to this cruel treatment of believers.
Join our Pray 173 Prayer Campaign to help bring freedom for long-term prisoners of faith in Eritrea.
It’s hot enough here but imagine living in Uttar Pradesh, India, where temperatures can reach 40C. Then imagine your neighbours had cut off a vital water supply… just because you were a Christian.
Our brothers and sisters in a village in the northern state are being denied access to water for their crops – to force them to deny Jesus. They have steadfastly refused.
Please pray that God will strengthen our Christian family in Jalalabad village in Ghazipur District, as they come under intense pressure to recant their faith.
Local Hindus are refusing to sell water from their boreholes to four Christian families, and their crops are dying as a result. Even local police and the village chief have not intervened to restore the water supply, despite the Christians’ appeals for help.
Neighbours accuse the Christians of converting people by force. Yet, on one recent occasion, a mob forced every local Christian to take part in Hindu rituals and declare that they denied Christ. Some younger Christians reportedly felt they had no option but to give in to these demands. Those who resisted were beaten – and now find themselves without water for farming.
‘They have all joined together and are conspiring against us,’ says one of the Christian women.
- Pray that God will strengthen and provide for His people in Jalalabad.
- Pray that Jesus will comfort and speak clearly to those Christians who felt compelled to deny Him. Pray that they will know His acceptance, just as the apostle Peter did, and will be restored in their faith.
- Ask God to build and strengthen His church in India amid mounting intolerance and hostility towards non-Hindus.
- Pray that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take decisive action to curb Hindu extremism and anti-Christian violence.
(Source: Morning Star News)
Suzan went missing last week, as she walked to the church where she works in Egypt. Local Christians fear the 22-year-old (pictured) has been kidnapped – just like two other young women who vanished from the same Cairo suburb just days before.
Women in Al Khosous, a mainly Christian town just outside Cairo, are said to be too frightened to leave their houses: a women’s meeting at Suzan’s church, which she attended, has been cancelled.
Please pray for the safe return home of our three Egyptian sisters in Al Khosous.
The suspected abductions follow an incident in which a Muslim was accidently shot and killed during a dispute over money. A Christian man was taken into police custody and is expected to be charged with manslaughter.
Since then, there has been a sharp increase in attacks on Christians, especially women, in Al Khosous. But this persecution is nothing new: several local women have had acid thrown in their face, for not wearing veils.
Christians across Egypt remain under intense pressure. Extremists shot dead at least 29 Christians whom they pulled off a bus in Minya Province on May 26. Church bombings in Tanta and Alexandria in April, and in Cairo in December, killed at least 68 people.
- Pray for the safe return of Suzan Ashraf Rawy and the two other missing women. Pray that they would know God’s protection and that his peace will fill them and their families and guard their hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).
- Pray for our Christian family across Egypt, that they will stand firm in their faith and put their complete trust in almighty God.
- Pray for wisdom, boldness and firm resolve for the Egyptian Government in resisting the spread of Islamist extremism in their nation and protecting the Christian community.
(Source: Morning Star News)
Eritrean security officers have arrested all members of the Kale Hiwot church in Adiquala, near the Ethiopian border, including 12 children, the youngest of whom is just two months old.
According to our partner, they were picked up one by one from their homes.
Please pray for these dear brothers and sisters especially the children. Pray that they would know God’s presence with them and that they would be freed soon.
Please pray for our Christian family in north-east Kenya who fear an imminent attack after a renewed outbreak of violence against non-Muslims in the region.
Al-Shabaab militants appear to have stepped up their campaign of violence in areas bordering Somalia – and Christians in the city of Mandera believe they could be the next target.
‘The Christians living in Mandera are living in great fear of an imminent attack,’ one church leader said. ‘We have to think whether to continue with the Christian mission work or to leave the place. We cannot pretend that all is well.’
Please pray that our Christian family in Mandera and across Kenya will stand firm in their faith.
Al-Shabaab militants are suspected of involvement in a gun attack on quarry workers in El Wak, 105 miles from Mandera, on May 12. Two people died, including a Christian named Dalama Otieno. It’s believed the group were targeted because they were non-Muslims.
Three days later, government official Dekow Abbey Sirat was shot dead at his home in Mandera County. Al-Shabaab said it carried out the attack.
The same group killed six Christians in a grenade and gun attack on a residential compound in Mandera last October. Previously, in late-2014, it had killed 38 non-Muslims at a quarry in nearby Kormey and shot dead 19 Christians after hijacking a bus near Mandera.
- Ask God to protect and strengthen His people in Mandera: pray that they will look to Him, their ‘refuge and fortress’ (Psalm 91:2)
- Pray that God’s people in Kenya will stand firm in their faith. Pray that attacks will only strengthen their resolve to build God’s kingdom in their nation and that their hearts will not grow cold (Matthew 24:12).
- Pray for Al-Shabaab militants, that their plans will be thwarted and that they will renounce violence.
(Sources: Morning Star News, Reuters)
[IMAGE: Nabeel Masih, 16, appearing at a court hearing in October (Photo: The Voice Society)]
A Pakistani Christian boy accused of blasphemy for “liking” and “sharing” a Facebook post which “defamed and disrespected” the Kaaba in Mecca – the building at the centre of Islam’s most sacred mosque – has again been refused bail.
In February 2017, 16-year-old Nabeel Masih was refused bail by a local magistrate, despite his lawyers’ insistence that, as a child with no prior convictions, he should be released. But now a Districts and Sessions judge, Naveeb Iqbal, has come to the same decision, saying the boy committed a “heinous and odious act by defiling the religious feelings of Muslims and their holy place of worship”. It was Judge Iqbal who in 2010 convicted the Christian woman Asia Bibi of blasphemy. She has been on death row ever since.
Riaz Anjum, from human rights group Pakistan for All, told World Watch Monitor the judge had acted in contravention of the law because, under Section 196 of Pakistan’s Code of Criminal Procedure, courts are prevented from hearing cases relating to blasphemy without the approval of the central or provincial government. (This is because the State perceives blasphemy to be a crime against the State.)
Nabeel was arrested on 18 September last year. After his arrest, many Christians living in the area went into hiding fearing reprisals, though they later returned. In October, his lawyers reported being intimidated by the complainant’s supporters, as they made their Appeal Court appearance. Aneeqa Maria Anthony said she was told by a lawyer for the complainant to “watch herself and stay away”. She also said about 80 people at the hearing threatened Nabeel’s family.
Ms Anthony added that she was “confident [Nabeel] has committed no crime and that is why we are representing him… “Nabeel is innocent: the accusation against him has not yet been proven”.
Other social media cases
- In July 2016, Pakistani Christian Nadeem James and his family fled their home in the religiously conservative city of Gujarat after he was accused of committing blasphemy by sending an offensive text message from his mobile phone.
- In May 2016, Imran Masih, a 30-year-old road sweeper, was attacked and had a fatwa declared against him after a work colleague said he’d found an anti-Islamic video on Masih’s phone.
- In 2014, lawyer Rashid Rehman was threatened in court while he represented a man accused of ‘liking’ a ‘blasphemous’ message posted on Facebook. Rehman was later murdered at his office.
Pastor Judoon, our brother in Pakistan, has not been seen since Sunday and his family fear he’s been kidnapped.
They’re worried because Judoon has been supporting a Christian accused of ‘blasphemy’ – the type of case which causes tensions to run high in Pakistan.
Please ask God to keep Pastor Judoon safe and bring him back to his family.
Judoon is an elder of Kamahan village near Lahore. It was there that Babu Shahbaz was accused last month of writing his name on a copy of the Koran, then ripping up its pages. Babu is reported to be a Christian evangelist – and illiterate.
Judoon’s family say he left the house at 6pm on Sunday, without saying where he was going – then disappeared. Locals have searched the area in vain. The police have since found his bag and motorbike a short distance from Kamahan.
Babu remains in police custody. Sources say local Christians believe his accuser is a business rival motivated by jealousy. Release partners are supporting both Judoon’s and Babu’s families.
- Please pray that God will protect Pastor Judoon and his family. Extremists in Pakistan do not discriminate between those accused of blasphemy and those who support or defend the accused.
- Pray that Babu will be released and charges against him dropped. Pray that he and his family will be able to rebuild their lives in safety.
- Continue to pray for the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Pray for a radical shift in attitudes towards religious minorities in Pakistan, where intolerance appears to be growing.
(Source: Release partner)
Christian books can be a huge encouragement to us – and we take it for granted that we can buy them freely. But what if they became a reason to persecute us? What if singing ‘Onward, Christian soldiers’ made us guilty of treason?
Pastor Bakhrom is behind bars today because secret police found songbooks and Christian literature during a raid on his church in Tajikistan last month. They claim these books are ‘extremist’ and appear to be pinning the same label on him.
Please pray for Pastor Bakhrom as he waits to hear whether Tajik police will press criminal charges related to ‘extremism’.
Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov leads the Sunmin Sunbogym Protestant Church in Khujand, the capital of Sogd region in the north of the country. Police have been raiding other congregations in Sogd, which are part of the same church, since early February.
Officials closed down a congregation in the town of Konibodom in March after they interrogated, intimidated and beat church members. Some Christians in Konibodom also reportedly lost their jobs, after the secret police put pressure on employers to dismiss them.
Tajik officials frequently use criminal charges related to extremism to persecute those who worship outside state-approved religious communities. Meanwhile, officials in Dushanbe have closed down two kindergartens. One was closed apparently because Protestant Christians worked there and the other was shut because officials found a book of Christmas carols.
- Pray that Pastor Bakhrom will be released immediately. Ask God to protect him, his congregation and other congregations linked to them.
- Pray for Christians in Sogd region and across Tajikistan. Pray that they will draw their strength from God and look to Him for wisdom and guidance.
- Pray that God will touch the hearts of secret police officials involved in raids on Sogd churches: pray that He will speak to them through His people and their witness.
(Source: Forum 18)
Protestant church leaders in Turkey have called for a day of prayer for Turkey today. While this date has been designated as a global day of prayer for Turkey since 2009, this day of prayer comes at a time of huge significance for Turkey.
On April 16 a referendum was held to decide if Turkey should change from a parliamentary system to an executive presidential system with sweeping powers for the president. The proposal was approved by 51% to 49%. The referendum has polarised the Turkish people and violent responses in different parts of the country are being reported.
President Erdogan issued Easter greetings to the Christian community in Turkey. However, Easter celebrations were conducted quietly because of tensions arising from the referendum.
Today is the tenth anniversary of the murder of three Christians in Malatya. In 2007, five men entered the Zirve publishing house in Malatya where they tortured Ugur Yuksel, Necati Aydin and Tilman Geske before cutting their throats. This event had a profound impact on the Christian community in Turkey, highlighting their vulnerability. Remembrance services will be held in Turkey, but these will be muted because of the present security situation.
Christians continue to be targeted in Turkey. Pastor Andrew Brunson has now been detained for over six months on supposed links to an armed terrorist organisation that has been blamed by Turkey for the attempted military coup in July 2016. The US administration is seeking his release.
Church leaders in Turkey request prayer for their country and for Turkey’s small Christian community at this critical time. Please pray:
- That peace will be prevail following the referendum and that Christians, especially church leaders, will respond wisely to ongoing events
- As the church in Turkey remembers the brutal deaths of the three Christians in Malatya, that it will be strengthened in its resolve and faith and that God will continue to comfort the families and friends of the victims
- That God will have mercy on the country and people of Turkey, and that his truth and righteousness will prevail
- That Andrew Brunson and his family will be upheld by God, and that this unjust detention will soon end with his release
- God will touch the hearts of those in leadership and that they will work for the ultimate good of Turkey.
Solitary confinement tempts you to endless brooding over your past life. The apostle Paul writes, “Let a man examine himself ” (1 Corinthians 11:28). How should one proceed?
There is no specific instruction in the Bible, but Christian experience of hundreds of years has taught us at least one thing: Do not be too thorough in self-examination. A little creature in the laboratory can be examined so extensively that it dies from overexposure. Rather than examining all the details of your own life, try to fathom the depth of your faith in the value of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Once a man was greatly concerned about the state of his soul. No sermon or religious book could satisfy him. Finally, he heard about a hermit who was reputed to have great wisdom. The man
took a horse and rode to the mountaintop where the sage lived. He found the sage in meditation at the entrance to his cave. The sage asked the man what he desired. “I seek salvation,” said the man.The sage was silent for a long time. Then he said, “Why don’t you seek a horse instead?” “I have a horse,” the man replied. Turning toward the rear of the cave, the sage remarked, “So that is it,” and said no more. As the man rode down the mountain on his horse, he thought and thought about his meeting with the sage. All at once he was enlightened: Why should he seek a horse? He had one. He was riding on it. Therefore, why should he seek salvation? God sent His Son into the world that the world might be saved through Him. Salvation had already been purchased. A man riding on a horse should not bother to seek a horse unless he had overtired or killed the one he has. The Savior cannot be exhausted. His salvation is available to all who receive it. Jesus has come to seek and to save what is lost. His desire for us to be in paradise is much greater than our own. His desire to forgive our sins is much greater than our desire to be forgiven. Salvation cannot be earned, but only accepted. When the man arrived in the valley, he understood.
Christians often say, “I was saved five or fifteen years ago.” This cannot be so. Christ bought salvation for all of us 2,000 years ago, when He died for us on Golgotha. Perhaps it was only five or fifteen years ago that we realised it and accepted His offer. When we approach the Lord’s Supper, the main thing we must ask ourselves is, “When I hear the words, ‘This is My blood, shed for you and the remission of your sins,’ do I understand them as clearly addressed to me? Do I know, as surely as a rider knows he has a horse under him, that my sins are forgiven and forgotten and dealt with?” If I understand this, I have examined myself well and am worthy of communion.
– BY RICHARD WURMBRAND, TAKEN FROM THE BOOK 100 PRISON MEDITATIONS
In prison, I come to the lowest level of poverty. I possess nothing, which makes me look in a new light at this verse: “Do not rob the poor because he is poor, nor oppress the afflicted at the gate” (Proverbs 22:22). Do not rob the poor of his only wealth, that precious jewel, poverty itself. St. Francis of Assisi spoke about sorella poverta, sister poverty. Ascetics and saints of all ages have abandoned earthly joys for this valuable friend. Moses preferred the poor life of a pastor to being grandson of Pharaoh. Christ, possessor of heaven, chose birth in a stable, life as a carpenter among oppressed people, and death among thieves on a cross. He said, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). By what right do I take away the source of a man’s blessedness? If I deprive him of poverty, I may deprive him of the kingdom of heaven. Imagine how it would have been had the rich man of the parable (Luke 16:19–31) been what is usually called goodhearted and divided with poor Lazarus his purple robes and fine linen, and invited him to dine sumptuously with him every day. He would have called Lazarus into future hell. Poverty of the soul is the entryway to the kingdom of heaven. The ugly embryonic stage when we look like frogs is the prologue to manhood. Destroy a caterpillar because it is a repugnant worm and you will have destroyed the future butterfly. Taking away a man’s poverty, we take from him the source of eternal happiness. But must we not help the poor? We surely must—by sharing his poverty, by demonstrating our regard for his high estate. Mother Theresa of Calcutta set an example. By our sharing the experience of his poverty, a poor man is given the sense of his dignity before God and other men, whereas a few pennies thrown to him degrade him. We commonly confound the unpleasant with the bad. Poverty is unpleasant, but it is a Christian’s trial of love. What girl is not seduced into admiring a handsome boy who offers her rings and bracelets and cars and castles? Would she choose to live with that same young man in a humble cottage?
It was easy for Job to love God with his family and cattle and gold secure. But what was the nature of his love? A trial had to be made in order to strengthen Job’s faith. Before I went to prison, my own social and material situation was very comfortable. In moments of self-examination, I asked myself whether I really loved God or loved rather the many outward and inner gifts with which He had endowed me. Then, in solitary confinement, hungry, trembling for cold, without even shoes—then I could really check whether I loved God or His gifts. How I rejoice to discover that songs of praise flew from my lips under those circumstances! My faith had been tried. Christians do not fear hunger and would not readily rob the poor man of this experience. For Jesus says even to the rich, who are familiar with black caviar and other dainties, “I have food to eat of which you do not know” (John 4:32). The angel Raphael supposedly said to Tobit in the apocryphal book of this name (12:19), “It seemed, truly, as if I ate and drank with you. But I used an invisible meat and a beverage which men cannot see.” The meat of the angels, of which men also can partake, consists in seeing God, in loving Him even in times of affliction, and in doing His will in all things. You cannot sit luxuriously in restaurants, listening to jazz music, being served by half-naked waitresses, and eating from an endless menu, and at the same time participate at the heavenly banquet. No one can have both worlds. Heavenly food is reserved for those who are hungry. Kierkegaard spoke truly when he said, “To represent a man who by preaching Christianity has attained and enjoyed in the greatest measure all possible worldly goods and enjoyments, to represent him as a witness to the truth is as ridiculous as to talk about a maiden who is surrounded by her numerous troop of children” (Attack Against Christendom). After years of preaching, a pastor should be poorer than before he began his ministry. Our God is that of the narrow gate and of the needle’s eye. If, Cries of Truth from Behind the Iron Curtain 19 because of your social position you are not among the hungry, this is a simple matter to remedy: you can fast. But do not rob the poor of poverty. Do not rob the hungry of heavenly manna. Your well intentioned acts of philanthropy can be robberies.
– BY RICHARD WURMBRAND, TAKEN FROM THE BOOK 100 PRISON MEDITATIONS
Jesus taught us to “cry out day and night to God” (Luke 18:7). However, God should not be likened to some unrighteous judge from whom justice can be obtained only by wearing him out with insistent pleas.
Why is it written, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38)? If He is full of love, why does He not simply provide the laborers without waiting for our prayer?
We pray in order to obtain clarity. Only a life of prayer will teach you that neither questioning God nor theology have any part in prayer. Prayer will teach you to pass your life in silence, at the bosom of a God whom we cannot fully understand.
When extreme need or threat arises, it is good to cry out. Nobody whispers when threatened by a dragon. God says to Samuel, “Their cry has come to me” (1 Samuel 9:16). If the cry is missing, the realization of our great danger in this valley is missing. But after the cry the silence returns. It was a biblical custom to ask for signs from God. Jonathan tells his armor bearer, “If [the Philistines] say thus to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place…But if they say thus, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up. For the Lord has delivered them into our hand” (1 Samuel 14:9,10). Ask for certain
concrete things, as Jonathan asked for guidance in initiating a battle against his enemy. Make it clear what sign you wish and consider receiving the sign as guidance. You can even ask for answers to
concrete questions as David does in 1 Samuel 23:10–12. Let prayer for others, even for great sinners, be one of defense. Rabbi Nehemiah said, “When the Israelites constructed and worshiped
the golden calf, Moses sought to appease God’s anger, saying,
“Lord of the universe, they have made an assistant for You.
Why should You be angry with them? This calf will assist You: You
will cause the sun to shine and the calf will cause the moon to
shine; You will take care of the stars and the calf will take care of
the planets; You will cause the dew to fall and the calf will make
the winds to blow; You will cause the rain to fall and the calf will
cause vegetation to sprout.” The Holy One, praised be He, said to
Moses, “You are making the same mistake that the people are making!
This calf is not real!” Moses then replied, “If that is so, why
should You be angry with Your children?” (Exodus Rabbah).
Let your words with God also be wise and convincing. A man can pray in any decent bodily position. For instance, Elijah put his face between his knees, which is possible only after much physical exercise (1 Kings 18:42). Use your eyes in prayer. I do not know how the custom of closing your eyes in prayer arose. Jesus’ habit was to lift them. The bridegroom in Solomon’s song says to his bride, “You have ravished my heart with one look of your eyes” (4:9). (“Having ravished the heart” is expressed by the single Hebrew word levavtini, which is the strongest word for uniting two hearts.)
Jesus is attentive to our eyes while we pray. He observed that a tax collector “would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven,” knowing his own sinfulness, and says, “This man went down to his house
justified” (Luke 18:13,14). At other times, believers show God great love through the expression in their eyes. Learn to use your eyes correctly in your communion with God and with men.
– BY RICHARD WURMBRAND, TAKEN FROM THE BOOK 100 PRISON MEDITATIONS
Paul quarreled with Peter and Barnabas in matters involving doctrine and church leadership. He taught us to reject heretics (Titus 3:10). The apostle John likewise advises us not to
receive into our house anyone who brings a false doctrine (2 John 10).
In later ages the difference between Christian truth and heresy became blurred. At Interlaken, Switzerland, two rivers merge, one thick with salt and mud and the other pure. For a time they run in
the new bed without mingling, as if there were a border between them. But finally they merge. The mud triumphs, invading everything. It is difficult to distinguish water from mud, but this filtration
must be made. Truth alone frees us. Theological error only compounds bondage. Debates and clashes on religious issues were not avoided in the time of the apostles and they cannot be avoided
Immediately after the Reformation, the newly founded Protestant church was torn by four main theological quarrels:
1) The fight against antinomians led by Agricola. Nomos is the Greek word for law. The antinomians asserted that law should be the business only of magistrates, and should play no role in
religion. Luther opposed them, saying that law comes from God and must be respected under the new covenant.
2) Schwenkfeld and Osiander did not believe that Christ’s righteousness can be ascribed to us. They believed that in order to be justified before God, we must have an essential righteousness of
our own, and that Christ cannot manifest Himself fully in us because of our inherent sinfulness. Luther taught to rely totally on Christ for our salvation.
3) Professors Major and Amsdorf went so far in denying any human merit in salvation that they declared good deeds as harmful for those who wish to obtain eternal life. Luther believed
that good deeds are the natural fruits of faith.
4) The great synergetic quarrel was started by Melanchthon who granted the human will a part in our salvation. Our will for the good, he said, is not dead, but only sick, and can still cooperate with the Holy Spirit. In opposition to him Flavius believed that fallen man can only oppose divine endeavor, and God forces us to be saved. Luther kept the golden middle with his doctrine that our will plays no active role in salvation, but can participate by suffering, receiving, and accepting it. We have to endure theology and pass beyond it to love our brethren.
Theology can only be endured. It is repugnant to make the Word of God a matter of debate, most often of low quality. But there are many repugnant things a man cannot avoid. We have to orientate ourselves among the different tendencies in religious thought. If we are unable to recognize heresy, neither will we be able to discern the truth. We therefore have to accept the strife among believers both in
the past and those today, but in this, as in all other matters, right measure is the most important Christian value.
– BY RICHARD WURMBRAND, TAKEN FROM THE BOOK 100 PRISON MEDITATIONS
Paul writes to the Romans, “Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you” (Romans 16:23). An inscription was found in excavations at Corinth, “Erastus, procurator, aedile, laid the pavement at his own expense.” According to archaeological evidence, the pavement is from the middle of the first century. The identity of name, location, and date make it likely that the subject is the same person. To receive a greeting from such a person, one who does not profit from his position to enrich himself, but, on the contrary, spends from his pocket for a public need, would be an honor indeed.
Gamaliel is the only New Testament name also celebrated by the Talmud, a book commonly opposed to Christianity. It is believed that Gamaliel’s father, Simeon, was the old man who took the baby Jesus in his arms and said the prayer, “Nunc dimittis” (Luke 2:25–35). His grandfather was the renowned Rabbi Hillel. Gamaliel was so honored that he is one of seven Jewish teachers to whom the name “Rabban” was given, a title also born by Jesus. Unlike other Pharisees, he was not a bigot. It is said that he once bathed in Greece in a place where a statue of a heathen goddess
stood. Reproached for this, he silenced his critics by saying that the bath was not built for the goddess, who does not have the habit of washing herself, but for men, the statue serving as ornament.
Gamaliel was Paul’s teacher of religion. He also undertook the defense of St. Peter when persecuted.
His attitude toward Christianity fluctuated. After a period of mild tolerance he became its passionate adversary. He composed a prayer against the Hebrew Christians which is still recited three times daily in Orthodox synagogues: “Let there be no hope to them that apostate from true religion, and let heretics, how many so ever may be, all perish as in a moment. And let the kingdom of pride be speedily rooted out and broken in our days. Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, who destroyest the wicked and bringest down the proud.”
Archaeologists, however, discovered that Gamaliel’s tomb bears a Christian inscription, suggesting that toward the end of his life he may have received Christ as his Saviour.
– BY RICHARD WURMBRAND, TAKEN FROM THE BOOK 100 PRISON MEDITATIONS
As Christians, we should know something about flowers. Jesus taught, “Consider the lilies” (Matthew 6:28). He calls Himself “the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys” (Song of Solomon 2:1). Without this biblical teaching, we would never have had Masefield’s lyric at the end of “The Everlasting Mercy.”
O lovely lily clean,
O lily springing clean,
O lily bursting white,
Dear lily of delight
Spring in my heart again
That I may flower to men.
We can learn from flowers not to be disturbed that the Christians are constituted of so many denominations. There are 35,000 varieties of orchids alone. The number of Christian denominations has to increase even more. Our ultimate hope is for every believer to be an Abraham, a friend of God and a man under God’s direct guidance, each to be his own denomination. Men differ from each other. Each person will have his own gifts and visions, and uniting them will be a profound love that transcends their differences of view.
Flowers do not quarrel with each other. The right relationship between denominations and believers is mutual admiration. Secondly, every flower is wisdom personified. God has given orchids a masterly variety of shapes for the purpose of multiplication. The Mediterranean’s Ophrys resembles a female wasp and emits a similar odor to attract the male wasp. In the wasp’s attempt to mate with the plant, he picks up pollen masses, which eventually brush off onto another flower. The Santa orchid has a platform which resembles a nectar-bearing flower, so it attracts bees in search of nectar which it does not have. Australia’s flying-duck orchid springs a trap when an insect lands on its lips. With a jerk, the orchid tosses the intruder into a cup formed by petals around a green column. The escaping insect
carries away pollen masses to deposit on the next flower. Other orchids display other curiosities to attract specific pollinators (National Geographic Magazine).
Christians also wish to multiply. Paul writes, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;
to those who are without law, as without law. . .to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:20–22).
Christianity has an amazing multitude of approaches, all of them correct so long as we pursue the one aim: ever to increase the Church of Christ.
– BY RICHARD WURMBRAND, TAKEN FROM THE BOOK 100 PRISON MEDITATIONS
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5) is not the same thing as brooding about the state of your soul. Man is simply what he is just as every other element in nature. If you simply are what God created you to be, a creature in His image, nobody will ever call you to any account.
“There need be no accounting made” with those who worked at the repair of the temple in Jerusalem “because they deal faithfully” (2 Kings 22:7).
Man began to judge his own state and to discover that he was naked only after he had listened to the serpent in the garden of Eden instead of obeying God. The same danger lies in the self-examination and dissection of one’s soul. The more one is sensitive to sin, the more one will be aware of it—as opposed to one whose heart is hardened toward sin. However, too much self-examination can lead to self-love and selfrighteousness. A thorough self-examination is not even possible, because you cannot be a judge in your own cause. This is an elementary rule of justice.
According to Gödel’s incompleteness theory, no system can explain its own consistency without recourse to concepts that the system itself cannot generate. The criterion upon which you judge
yourself must come not from your own mind, but from outside. But it remains your own mind that decides which outside criterion to adopt. Thus any attempt to judge yourself is futile. Men of different
opinions judge themselves according to various criterions. Hitler was sure he did well to exterminate the Jews. Jesus’ judges were sure that they did well to sentence Him. A sinner sins even in
trying to determine his own sin and to evaluate true repentance. Examine yourself only whether you have faith, as the Scriptures enjoin: whether you believe there is a greater intelligence than your
own who has thought about everything, who shapes and directs your life; then enter into a calm attitude of mind.
The Hebrew word avon means “sin” as well as “punishment.” The very fact that you are a sinner is punishment enough, causing you to miss the inexpressible joys of righteousness. Do not add useless
self-flagellation to your punishment. There is a secret in your sinfulness. Cain, after killing his brother, said Gadol avoni minso, which, literally translated, is, “My sin is great by its being borne” (Genesis 4:13).
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). The sins become white through the greatness of the sin-bearer. Because sin is in itself such a terrible punishment,
Jesus took it upon Himself. It was His joy to do so. To be a sinbearer is His most beautiful crown. By entrusting your sins to Him, you add a jewel to His crown.
Examine yourself only to see if you are in faith, if you believe your sins to be white as snow because they now belong to Jesus, and, with this, enter into peace.
– BY RICHARD WURMBRAND, TAKEN FROM THE BOOK 100 PRISON MEDITATIONS
JUBA, South Sudan, April 5, 2017 – A church elder on Monday (April 3) died from injuries sustained in a raid on an embattled Christian school by supporters of a Muslim business interest in Omdurman, Sudan, sources said.
Younan Abdullah, an elder with Bahri Evangelical Church, died in a hospital after being stabbed while he and others were defending women at the Evangelical School of Sudan, Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) sources told Morning Star News.
Christians had staged a protest against the attempted seizure of the school by a Muslim businessman, they said. Police from the Omdurman Central Division along with a group supported by Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment arrived first at the school and arrested all the men in an attempt to hand it over to the businessman, they said.
Advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC) confirmed that after the arrests, about 20 men, including members of a committee the government has illegally imposed on the SPEC, arrived at the school with knives and other weapons and began to beat the women.
“Several men from the nearby Bahri Evangelical Church rushed to the church to try and protect the women,” MEC leaders said in a statement. “The armed men attacked them, and two church members were stabbed.”
Elder Abdullah later died of his injuries, and a second church member, Ayoub Kumama, was treated at a nearby hospital and has been released, according to MEC. Abdullah is survived by his wife and two young children.
Since 2013, the illegally imposed committee has been selling church properties to businessmen aligned with the government, the advocacy group stated. Police were present during the attack on the school but failed to intervene, according to MEC.
“They also failed to help Younan after he was stabbed,” MEC leaders said in the statement. “Following Younan’s death, the police arrested Mr. Shamshoun Hamoud, a member of the illegal committee who was identified by eyewitnesses as the person who stabbed Younan. None of the other attackers have been arrested.”
Christians held a funeral service for Abdullah yesterday (April 4) at the school, which had declared three days of mourning. The U.S. Ambassador to Sudan and the Second Secretary of the British Embassy were present, according to MEC.
Police in Omdurman, across from Khartoum on the Nile River, on March 27 had arrested 12 staff members of the Christian school and the next day prevented others from leaving the campus, they said.
They were taken to Omdurman’s central division police station and released at about 8 p.m., accused of obstructing the work of Education Vision, which is trying to take over the school. The institution is still functioning as a Christian school, but representatives of Education Vision are regularly disrupting classes, school personnel said.
On March 16 about 20 policemen aboard a truck forcefully entered the school compound, arrested three Christian teachers including the headmaster, Daud Musa, and took them to Omdurman’s central division police station, sources said. Also arrested were Christian teachers Yahya Elias and elder Abdullah, all of the SPEC.
They were released on bail after eight hours, charged with obstructing the work of those attempting to take over the school.
The arrests came nearly a month after authorities arrested and held overnight four educators from the same school, including Musa, before releasing them on bail. They were accused of destroying a sign belonging to Education Vision. The Christians strongly denied the accusation.
The Evangelical School of Sudan is one of several SPEC schools throughout Sudan. The leadership of the SPEC remains in the hands of government-appointed committee members even after a court ruled in November 2016 that the appointments were illegal, sources said. That case is separate from an Aug. 31, 2015 ruling by the Administrative Court of Appeal saying the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments interfered with SPEC’s Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church by imposing committees on the church in order to enable Muslim investors to take it over.
Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2016 report.
Photo: Evangelical School of Sudan in Omdurman. (Morning Star News)