Displaying items by tag: Christian persecution
How should we respond to a world that is increasingly estranged from Christian beliefs? This is a question that Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola are confronted with. Last year, Ms Räsänen was accused of “hate speech” for publicly voicing her deeply-held beliefs on marriage and human sexuality. The former minister of the interior, mother of five, and grandmother of seven now faces a daunting trial on 24 January in Helsinki. Rev. Dr Pohjola, who was consecrated as a Lutheran bishop in August 2021, assumes his new role at a very challenging time. He faces criminal prosecution with Ms Räsänen for publishing the pamphlet she wrote on human sexuality for his church congregation. Pray for a just outcome of their trial, that no one would be intimidated into silence, but that people would be encouraged to share their beliefs with confidence.
The Nigerian government says efforts are under way to release Leah Sharibu, the Christian teenager who was one of 110 girls abducted in 2018 by the Boko Haram group ISWAP. Her classmates were released, but Leah refused to convert to Islam and was declared a ‘slave for life’ by ISWAP while remaining in captivity. The federal government announced it is using the military to ensure Leah and all captives regain their freedom, and armed groups operating in Nigeria’s northwest are now called terrorists. Reacting to the announcement, Dr Kathaza Gondwe, advocacy director for CSW, said, ‘It is belated news as Nigeria’s president has been promising Leah's parents since 2018 that he would work quickly to ensure her release. But it's a welcomed development. We can only pray the government will honour this commitment.’ CSW believes that categorising ISWAP as terrorists will help in how the armed forces deal with them.
In Somalia, Islam is the state religion, and almost everyone is Muslim. The number of Christians is believed to be in the hundreds. Pray that each of our brothers and sisters will find continued strength and hope in Jesus ‘so that they will not grow weary or lose heart’ (Hebrews 12:3). In Libya Christians who want to stay safe must live a secret life of faith. This is made harder by there not being a centralised government. Laws are not widely enforced, making Christians further exposed to persecution. Pray for the provision of a government that strives to protect all its people. Secret Christians in Yemen live under constant threat because of their faith. Ask God to give them wisdom and boldness as they live out the gospel. Pray, too, for peace and stability in a country that has been engulfed in civil war for nearly a decade.
Throughout the Holy Land, Christians are targeted with frequent attacks by fringe radical groups. Since 2012 priests and clergy have been physically and verbally assaulted and Christian churches and holy sites regularly vandalised and desecrated. There has been ongoing intimidation of Christians who simply seek to worship freely and go about their daily lives. These tactics are being used in a systematic attempt to drive the Christian community out of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land. Russel Rook, director of the Protecting Holy Land Christians campaign, reported Christians being spat at as they walked into a church. For priests, it is having a rock thrown at them and their church vandalised or firebombed. These dramatic, terrible things have caused the Christian population in the Holy Land to drop from 12% at the turn of the century to just 1% today. Persecution forces many to seek refuge elsewhere in the world. See
Buddhist nationalism is strong in Myanmar, and Buddhists continue to persecute the 4.4 million Christians. Christian converts are persecuted by families and communities for ‘betraying’ the Buddhist system. Communities aiming to stay ‘Buddhist only’ make life for Christian families impossible by not allowing them to use community resources such as water. Myanmar is also the scene of the longest civil war in the world, and believers are vulnerable to persecution by insurgent groups and the army. The Covid pandemic has brought added challenges, since many Christians are deliberately overlooked in the distribution of government aid. Also on Christmas Day the charred bodies of at least 35 civilians were found in a Christian village; they had apparently been shot by the army the day before and then burned. At least 23 church buildings and over 350 civilian homes were burned or destroyed in Chin state between August and December.
Despite being called a predominantly Christian country, the Central African Republic (CAR) is a difficult place for biblical disciples to live. Since 2012, Islamic rebel groups, called Seleka, have caused civil unrest. Fighters opposing the Seleka, the anti-Balaka, considered to be mostly ‘Christians’, have carried out brutal revenge killings. As with the Seleka, some anti-Balaka have targeted biblical followers of Christ. In truth, the anti-Balaka are simply non-Muslims. While 85% of CAR’s 5 million people identify as Christians, only 30% are thought to be committed followers of Christ. These believers are increasingly attacked, driven from their homes, and killed. Since the fighting began, over 1.2 million people have been relocated across CAR because of violence. Another 600,000 refugees live outside CAR, and 600,000 live in camps for internally displaced people. Pray for adequate donations to be given to aid agencies providing thousands with food, shelter, and medicine.
Authorities from Siming District raided a Christian school and fined the person in charge of the school 100,000 yuan (£11,619.14). They said that they had discovered religious education training without authorisation, and demanded that all activities stop. Any appeal must be made within three days of receiving the notice and fine. In recent years the government has intensified repression on Christian education, with constant raids and arrests. Also, lawmakers issued new policies to tighten control over homeschooling and private education. In the Family Education Promotion, the government now has authority over education outside and inside the home. Christians constitute the majority of the homeschooling population, so it is anticipated that more Christian schools will face further persecution in the future. Christian churches and church leaders are also being persecuted multiple times.
Despite the pandemic, the Winter Olympic Games hosted by China are expected to go ahead as normal. However human rights groups have raised concern over the religious freedom violations carried out there. US president Joe Biden has already introduced a diplomatic boycott, followed by other nations including the UK. Now Christians are being urged to play their part in standing in solidarity with persecuted brothers and sisters in China. Open Doors and a former US ambassador for religious freedom are calling for action, saying, ‘In the USA people of faith are woefully ignorant of the plight of their fellow believers in China. The persecution of Chinese Christians is rarely if ever mentioned in American megachurches. Raising awareness has been a long, slow struggle for organisations exposing religious persecution in China and elsewhere’. They are calling for Christians to break their silence, pray and fast, and pressurise their politicians to act.
In the wake of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country’s highly secretive Christian community began to experience a rapid increase in threats. Charities began moving the most vulnerable Christians and pastors out of the country, but for those left behind it is a long and uncertain road ahead. International Christian Concern (ICC) continues to rescue Afghan Christians and secure shelter for them beyond Afghanistan’s borders. There are currently about 200 families under ICC’s care - in hiding and protected. In addition, ICC’s advocacy team is giving updates from the ground and telling US and world leaders what is needed to save the Christians left behind. In the early months of 2022, ICC will launch a strategic initiative for a long-term solution for Christians stuck in transit countries without a final destination, while also serving those still in hiding in Afghanistan.
Archbishop Joseph D’Souza said, ‘In Belguam police are not allowing Christian groups to meet in local churches, house groups and halls. This situation will mean the inability to have Christmas services. There have been increasing numbers of attacks against Christians in Karnataka, where Hindu radicals have been disrupting Christian meetings. In many areas, Christians are now afraid because of the way the extremists are taking the law into their hands. There is no place in India’s democracy for incessant campaigns of hatred aimed squarely at the Christian community, its churches, NGOs and schools. We expect protection from the prime minister as the Christmas season approaches.’ Extremists are ‘walking into Christian worship to disrupt it by conducting their own services with Hindu chanting. We have not seen anything like this before and these extremists are not being arrested.’ He is calling on prime minister Modi to engage in the struggle of India’s Christians.