Persecution and Prayer Alert, Voice of the Martyrs
EGYPT: Fate of Kidnapped Christians Unknown
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Source: Morning Star News
Travelling to Libya to be a migrant worker is considered “a quest for the insane” because of the extreme danger involved, according to Ezz Tawfik, a Coptic journalist in Upper Egypt. Yet, in spite of the potential harm, crushing poverty in Egypt drives many, like Bakhit Nageh Efrank Ebeid, 21, to risk their lives in hopes of providing food for their families. That’s why he set out from Kom Badar, Egypt, for Tripoli, Libya.
Bakhit was travelling with two other Christians, Adeola Ibrahim of Nigeria and Sekyere Kofi Frimpong of Ghana, as well as a group of Muslims. His family last heard from him on July 10th. “He told them…that he is with a group and it would be safe,” Ezz reports. Apparently, it was not the case, for that same day ISIS militants stopped the travellers in Sirte, Libya, and the three Christian men were taken captive.
On July 17th, Libyan affiliates of the notorious terrorist group released evidence claiming the kidnapping of the three Christians. Conflicting rumours concerning the status of the abducted men continue to spread in the Egyptian media. In the midst of this, Bakhit’s Coptic Christian family say they have turned to God, hoping that Bakhit is still alive. They attempted to contact him via his cell phone, but the call was intercepted by a member of ISIS who announced that the “infidel” was beheaded. During a subsequent call, the family learned that Bakhit was required to pay a ransom, convert to Islam, or be killed. They offered to pay but were not told an amount. Nothing is known concerning the other two Christians.
The inhumane operations of ISIS in Libya have precipitated the kidnapping and killing of innocent Christians, as revealed in posted graphic videos. One depicts the gruesome beheadings of 21 men, consisting of 20 Egyptian Christians and a man from Ghana. (A VOMC report on the situation is available at this page.) Another reveals the killing of approximately 30 Ethiopian Christians thought to be migrant workers.
Impoverished, uneducated, unemployed and engaged to be married, Bakhit’s options were limited: travel to Libya, starve or become a thief. He took a chance in hopes of reaching the relative safety of Tripoli.
Please pray for God’s divine intervention and deliverance on behalf of Bakhit, Adeola and Sekyere, and for His comfort and peace to be upon their concerned loved ones. Additionally, ask the Lord to adequately provide for these impoverished families’ needs. Meanwhile, may the authorities be granted wisdom as they stand against ISIS and strategize the rescue of the abducted men. Also, let us be mindful of the need to intercede for the members of the terrorist group, that their hearts be so dramatically transformed by Christ they become ‘militant’ in the reflection of His love, extension of His mercy, and bold proclamation of the Gospel!
SUDAN: Women Needing Protection From Flogging
Sources: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Amnesty International
According to a report issued by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 12 female Christian students were arrested by the Public Order Police after attending a ceremony on June 25th at the El Izba Baptist Church in Khartoum. After spending some time in custody, two of the women were released. The remaining 10, although granted temporary release on bail, were charged with “indecent dress,” under Article 152 of Sudan’s 1991 Criminal Act. If found guilty, these women could receive 40 lashes, a fine, or both.
All of these young women, ranging in ages from 17 to 23, were wearing standard blouses with trousers or skirts. One student, 19-year-old Fardos Al Toum, appeared in court wearing similar attire which the judge deemed indecent. Immediately, she was fined 500 Sudanese pounds (the equivalent of approximately $83 U.S.) or a month in prison. Activists and others supporting Fardos paid her fine. She is now awaiting trial for the original charge, along with the rest of the remaining students.
When the 12 women were initially arrested, they experienced the degradation of having to remove their clothing in order for Sudan’s notorious Public Order Police to “inspect” the garments. One of the country’s Christian leaders claims, “They have targeted these girls because of their faith and their race.”
The mistreatment of believers is common in Sudan, with women of the Christian faith being particularly targeted. Another example of this involves the case of Meriam Ibrahim whose story can be found at this page. Since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, the persistent persecution of Christians has intensified. “President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law), and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.”
We invite you to join us in praying that the charges against the 10 young Christian women will be immediately dismissed. May God’s will, way and truth penetrate the hearts, minds, motives, moods and attitudes of those operating in judgement and injustice against them. Pray that these persecuted believers in Sudan will be greatly strengthened by the promises of His Word (Proverbs 22:8, 24:23; Habakkuk 2:12), empowering them to overcome any fear and intimidation caused by the increased demands of sharia law. Instead, may they experience the Lord’s peace and protection as the Holy Spirit mediates as their “Advocate” during the court hearings.
IRAN: Religious Freedom in Decline
Sources: Mohabat News, World Tribune
Despite Iran’s promises to maintain the rights of the country’s religious minorities, persecution is still a matter of tremendous concern for various faith groups. However, it seems that the Islamic regime has a particular interest in the systemic persecution of Christians.
A report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom indicates that Iranian authorities continue to raid churches, threatening their members and also imprisoning them. The same report states that more than 500 Christians have been arrested since 2010.
While it’s encouraging to know that in these past few weeks some Christian prisoners were granted release prior to their completed term, VOMC’s sources indicate that there are others who have been arrested. Among those imprisoned are 18 Christians who were tried and convicted in recent months for evangelizing, facilitating home churches, and speaking out against Iran’s Islamic Republic. The combined sentences of their trials totalled almost 24 years in prison.
The Iranian government’s persecution of religious minorities stands in direct contrast to President Hassan Rouhani’s promise to protect religious freedom which he made while campaigning in 2013. Todd Nettleton, spokesperson for VOM USA, explains that President Rouhani, who perceives Christianity as a direct threat to his government, “is still someone who wants to protect the Islamic Republic of Iran.” For more information on persecution in this restricted nation, and to review previous reports, go to VOMC’s Iran Country Report.
Please take a moment to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Iran. May they be strengthened by the empowerment of God’s Spirit, and may their hearts be encouraged by the hope we have in Christ. Ask that a hedge of protection would surround the country’s Christians and members of other religious minorities. Let us also continue to lift up the Iranian government and its authorities, asking God—in His infinite mercy—to move their hearts toward repentance, so that many will come to know Him and the glory of His mighty presence.
If you would like to post a prayer regarding any of these concerns, you may do so at our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.