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)
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