The Persecution & Prayer Alert: Voice of the Martyrs
NIGERIA: Churches Attacked on Christmas Eve
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Sources: CNN, Reuters, Release International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide
While the majority of Christians around the world were peacefully celebrating our Lord’s birth on Christmas Eve, vicious attacks took place during two church services in northern Nigeria that have resulted in the deaths of at least 12 innocent people. This is the third year in a row that violent attacks have been launched against Christians in Nigeria at Christmas. For more information on the challenges facing Nigerian believers, go here.
Gunmen opened fire at the Church of Christ in Nations located in a small village of Yobe state, killing a total of six people, including the pastor. The perpetrators also set the church on fire and left several congregants seriously injured. That same night, a deacon and five other Christians were killed at the First Baptist Church in the city of Maiduguri (Borno state). Although no one has claimed responsibility for this year’s attacks, an Islamist terrorist group known as Boko Haram is widely suspected. Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan has issued a statement promising improved security for Christian communities.
Please lift up those who have been greatly impacted by the attacks, asking God to overshadow them with His comforting presence and perfect peace. Also pray that He will powerfully minister healing to the injured and bereaved, and that all surviving Christians in northern Nigeria will receive an extra measure of His grace and strength to remain faithful in the midst of persecution. Thank the Lord for His promise to remain close to the brokenhearted and to save those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). May He impart wisdom and courage to the country’s authorities as they take necessary steps to end the violence caused by extremism.
IRAN: Pastor Youcef Imprisoned Again
Sources: CBN News, Fox News, Release International, Christian Post, Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Having served three years in prison, Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released after posting bail in September of 2012, the result of a court appearance in which he was acquitted of a previous charge of apostasy although still considered guilty of evangelizing Muslims. However, the director of Lakan Prison in Rasht recently ordered his return to prison claiming that the release came about prematurely and without the proper completion of necessary paperwork.
The recent order was a huge disappointment for Pastor Youcef, his wife and their two sons, who were eagerly looking forward to spending Christmas together as a family after almost three years of separation. They have all been through a great deal of emotional turmoil throughout the duration of his imprisonment, especially considering that this time last year, he was facing execution for “apostasy.” Previous reports on this situation can be found by going here.
Let us join together in prayer as members of God’s family on behalf of our Christian brother who is known for his quiet courage, integrity and perseverance in the midst of severe persecution. While pleading his case before the Lord, please ask that Brother Youcef be released without further delay and that God’s continued presence and protection be upon him and his family. In addition, remember to uphold his defending lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, who was incarcerated in September 2012 for advocating this case and other human rights cases. May God not only minister strength, healing and freedom to Mohammed in his own time of need, but that he will also be honoured for representing justice and righteousness in the courts.
PAKISTAN: Advocates Take Stand for Christian Beliefs
Source: Assist News
While minorities, particularly Christians, are deliberately oppressed in Pakistan, an emerging political leader is bringing greater awareness of the need for positive change in this regard. (Go here for more about the treatment of believers.) Albert David, Chairman of the Pakistan United Christian Movement (PUCM) launched his new political party this past October, becoming the most visible guest in the city of Isalamabad during recent advent celebrations. He firmly believes that Christians should actively participate in national politics “to ensure their increased visibility and importance.”
Pakistani journalist and human rights activist Shamim Masih reports: “Mr. David was invited to 25 programs organized by different churches, social organizations and community groups, and the PUCM chairman availed himself during this wonderful time to not only share the message of Christmas, but also talk about the importance of the Pakistan Christian community being vibrant and visible in the national political scene. During his speeches, he focussed on the true message and spirit of Christmas, which he said included unconditional love, peace, hope and, most importantly, the sharing of joys with the less fortunate.”
As advocates of God’s justice and mercy through prayer, we can rejoice over the fact that He is equipping and raising up Christians in various areas of leadership, even in the political realm. Pray for the Lord to grant these leaders wisdom, insight, protection and favour as they represent Him and serve as a voice for the oppressed, including those typically persecuted or martyred for their faith. May Albert David’s voice be heard clearly by both the Christian community and the general public of Pakistan, serving as a catalyst for greatly needed positive change.