Persecution and Prayer Alert, Voice of the Martyrs
Update: Execution orders may have been issued for Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani
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(Source: American Center for Law and Justice)
According to contacts in Iran, the execution orders for Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani may have been issued. Pastor Youcef’s situation—an innocent man convicted and sentenced to death for becoming a Christian—has reportedly not been this dire since his story was first reported (for more on his case, click here).
It is unclear whether Pastor Youcef would have a right of appeal from the execution order. The head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, must approve publicly held executions, but only a small percentage of executions are held public—most executions in Iran are conducted in secret.
Please pray that the Lord will intervene and that Pastor Youcef will be freed from prison. Pray that Youcef and his family will remain faithful to the Lord in all situations. Pray that the Lord will be exalted through Pastor Youcef, whether in life or in death (Philippians 1:20).
Go to the Iran Country Report for more on the trials Christians in Iran face.
Evangelist in Pakistan harassed and under attack
An evangelist supported by The Voice of the Martyrs in the Afghan-Pakistan border region says he is being harassed by a local Muslim leader and is also under attack by spiritual forces.
After some local Muslims attended a church service last Christmas, the evangelist received a letter warning him that his congregation was not respecting the Muslim call to prayer. Police have monitored the Christian man’s activities, and the local mullah—a Muslim man trained in religious law and doctrine—has said the evangelist’s Christian activities “must be stopped.” The evangelist says the region has been difficult for mission workers in the past, and that he is impacted spiritually when he goes on prayer walks.
Please pray that God will grant supernatural strength to this brother and to his church. Pray that the Muslims who attended the Christmas church service will be fertile soil for the seeds that have been planted. Pray that the gospel will spread and flourish in this hostile area.
Christians abducted by militia groups in Sudan
(Source: Compass Direct News)
Christians in Sudan are under threat by South Sudanese militias rebelling against the new South Sudan government. South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July 2011 (for more on the secession, click here). Christians in the primarily Islamic Sudan said that abductions are increasing as the government supports militias as part of an effort to rid the country of Christianity. The militias have been forcibly conscribing South Sudanese into rebel militias loyal to Sudan’s Islamic government. Christian sources say hundreds of young men have been forcibly conscripted, while older men are either killed or ransomed.
Two priests who were abducted at gunpoint last month in Rabak, Sudan, have been released. The assailants, South Sudanese militants loyal to Sudan, accused the Rev. Joseph Makwey and the Rev. Sylvester Mogga of ties to South Sudan’s military. The kidnappers demanded 500,000 Sudanese pounds for their release (approximately $186,000 CAD), but press reports said no ransom was paid. The kidnappers tortured the two priests, who are now receiving medical treatment.
Please pray that Joseph and Sylvester will fully recover from their injuries and that the Lord will flood their hearts with forgiveness and peace. Please pray that God will command His angels to guard our brothers and sisters who have been abducted or fear abduction (Psalm 91:11).
For more information on persecution in Sudan, visit the Sudan Country Report.
Harsh new punishment enforced in Kazakhstan
(Source: Forum 18 News Service)
A shoe repairman and father of 10 in eastern Kazakhstan has been fined the equivalent of 18 months’ average monthly salary. Aleksei Asetov was fined for leading the small congregation that meets in his home. The judge also banned the congregation.
Aleksei is the fifth member of a religious community known to have been fined since the harsh new Religion Law and associated punishments were adopted (for more information on the new law,click here). However, he is the first to be tried under the new penalties.
Please pray that Aleksei and his family will find joy in their sufferings (Romans 5:3). Pray that God will provide for all their needs. Please pray that God will intercede in Kazakhstan, softening the hearts of the political powers and causing them to cease their persecution of Christians.
Go to the Kazakhstan Country Report to learn more about the trials believers face in Kazakhstan.
Man charged with blasphemy in Pakistan
Dildar Yousaf, 28, was arrested and charged with blasphemy after defending his eight-year-old nephew who was being attacked by a group of Muslim boys last June. Dildar’s nephew, Ehtasham, was passing by a “madrassa,” a school where Islamic students study the Qur’an, when seven boys surrounded him and tried to force him to say, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” Ehtasham refused, and the boys began to verbally and physically assault him. Dildar happened by and pulled his nephew away and took him home.
A rumour then spread that Dildar had disgraced the Muslim proclamation of faith. Crowds gathered and began to demand his death. Police picked up Dildar from his workplace, put him in protective custody and charged him with blasphemy. This particular charge carries a potential three-year sentence with the possibility of parole, unlike other blasphemy charges in the country that can result in a death sentence.
Dildar’s wife, Naseem, and their two children, as well as Ehtasham and his family, have all had to leave their village. VOM is supporting the family and providing legal assistance to Dildar. Dildar’s village has a history of persecution. In the past, a Christian’s house was burned, a pastor was killed, and another believer was charged with blasphemy.
Please pray that Dildar and Ehtasham’s families will be able to safely return to their homes with God’s protection. Please pray that the charges against Dildar will be dropped. Please pray that God will reach out to the seven young boys who attacked Ehtasham so that they will hear and heed His call.
For more on the persecution of Pakistani Christians, go to the Pakistan Country Report.