Prayer Focus Update January 2022

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“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward one another that Christ Jesus had”

– Romans 15:5

India – Karnataka government to introduce new anti-conversion bill; Pastors halt prayer meetings after police warn of extremist attacks; Inspection of Christians refutes allegation of forced conversions

The Karnataka state government plans to introduce a new anti-conversion bill during the December 13-24 session of the Legislative Assembly. As of this writing, the bill has yet to be introduced. If the bill becomes law, Karnataka will become the tenth Indian state to criminalize conversions carried out by force, fraud or seduction.

Christians protested the bill and opposition parties declared their intention to oppose it.

Pastors in the Belagavi district of Karnataka have stopped holding weekend prayer meetings in rented halls or private homes following a series of attacks by radical Hindutva nationalists who falsely allege that forced conversions were taking place.

Police informally warned pastors that it was “in their own interest” to break up meetings to avoid a confrontation with radicals.

“Police have told prayer groups that only denominations with churches will be allowed to pray. Everyone else has stopped public prayers,” said Nanda Kumar, district superintendent of Belagavi Methodist Church. The police also asked hall owners not to rent their premises for prayers.

Prayer rooms are regularly attacked by extremist groups. On Sunday, November 28, radicals broke into a prayer meeting in Belur, Hassan district of Karnataka, falsely claiming that forced religious conversions were taking place.

However, a Karnataka local government official tasked with investigating alleged forced conversions to Christianity found no substance to support the claims.

In October, the Administrative Officer, Y Thippeswamy, Chitradurga District Officer, was appointed by the state government to investigate complaints of forced conversions. In two villages, leaders spoke to 46 Christian families. No evidence was found of coercion to convert.

“As the families claimed that they voluntarily converted to Christianity, we decided to cancel our investigation,” Thippeswamy said. He added that the families were “in a much better place now and believe the new faith is the reason for their well-being.”

Seek the Lord that whatever legislation is introduced in Karnataka, its people can worship in peace. Pray for attacks on church meetings to stop and for restrictions on Christian gatherings to be lifted. Thank the Lord for the answer to prayer with clear evidence from a government investigation demonstrating the transforming power of His love in the lives of Christians (1 John 3:1). Ask that our brothers and sisters in Karnataka be encouraged by the power of their testimonies.

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Nigeria – Zamfara churches threatened with attack; Christian Association of Nigeria protests as US removes country from list of religious freedom violators; Freed chief boy praised for leadership in kidnapping

Churches in Zamfara State in northern Nigeria have been threatened with attack unless they close and stop meeting for worship. The threat, believed to come from Islamist militants, was made in a letter sent to the Nigerian Police and Security Service.

The Zamfara branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has ordered churches not to hold meetings after 5 p.m. for the next three months.

The CAN also protested against the US government’s decision not to classify Nigeria as a “country of particular concern” on religious freedom. CAN President Samson Ayokunie said the organization’s leadership was “lost” at the decision, adding that “our prayer is that Nigeria will be a country where no religious group is discriminated against or persecuted.”

The principal of Bethel Baptist High School, freed by kidnappers for health reasons after more than 150 days in captivity, has been praised for his leadership and bravery.

The 17-year-old had refused to join the students previously released by the kidnappers, saying he would not return home until one of an estimated 120 students abducted by gunmen from the Christian boarding school in Kaduna state on July 5, 2021 would still be held.

He was released on November 26 after falling “terribly ill,” said Pastor John Joseph Hayab, president of the Kaduna State CAN, adding, “This boy deserves to be celebrated. If, at his age, he can show that kind of leadership, we are so impressed. Three Bethel students remain in captivity.

The kidnappers have released the majority of students in batches since July. Some students managed to escape their captors.

Intercede for Christians in Zamfara State so that they do not feel alone (Hebrews 13:5) in the face of bullying. Call on the international community to take violence against Christians in Nigeria seriously. Join Pastor John Joseph in celebrating the courage and strong leadership skills of the Head Boy of Bethel Baptist High School. Pray for his recovery, for the comforting hand of the Redeemer (Job 19:25) on all affected by the trial, and for the safe release of the three remaining students.

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Pakistan – Church Leaders Condemn Murder of Priyantha Kumara

Church leaders in Pakistan have condemned the killing in Sialkot, Punjab, of a Sri Lankan factory manager accused of “blasphemy”. On December 3, Priyantha Kumara – a Buddhist – allegedly removed a poster that included the name of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, ahead of factory renovations.

Accusations of “blasphemy” led to the gathering of hundreds of people at the factory. The mob violently attacked Kumara, beating and torturing him to death before setting his body on fire. Police have so far arrested more than 50 suspects for Kumara’s murder.

The incident demonstrates the risks faced by religious minorities, including Christians, in Pakistan. In Faisalabad, Christian nurse Maryam Lal was accused of removing a sticker containing Quranic text in April 2021. Lal was attacked and cut with a knife before police rescued her and another Christian nurse , from an angry mob.

Iqbal Masih, the pastor of a church in Sialkot, called for a change in the “blasphemy” law, saying: “The victim does not have the opportunity to explain his position. »

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s comments raised hopes that action could now be taken against the misuse of ‘blasphemy’ laws and false accusations of ‘blasphemy’. “Let me make this clear,” Khan said, “I have decided that from now on we will not spare those who resort to violence in the name of religion.”

Pakistan’s notorious ‘blasphemy’ laws (Section 295 of the Pakistani Penal Code) are often used to make false accusations to settle personal grudges. Christians are particularly vulnerable, as simply declaring their beliefs can be construed as “blasphemy” and lower courts generally favor Muslim testimony, in accordance with Sharia.

Give thanks for the prompt condemnation of the murder of Priyantha Kumara by the Pakistani government as well as Christian leaders. Pray that the authorities will follow words with deeds to reduce the harm caused to Christians and other religious minorities by false accusations of “blasphemy”. Ask that out of this horrible crime will emerge righteous amendments to the law and that Christians will continue to demonstrate that the Lord is their righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6) and their justification.

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Armenia – Azerbaijani aggression a cause for concern, say Christian leaders

The leadership of the Armenian Apostolic Church has “deep concerns” about Azerbaijani aggression on Armenia’s eastern border.

In a statement, church leaders said: “Azerbaijan, ignoring the terms of the Trilateral Declaration of November 9, 2020 [the
ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia
that ended fighting between Azerbaijan
and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh], claims new ambitions for the sovereign territories of the Armenian State.

The church called on “the international community” and other churches “to raise their voices by all means possible, to stop the further encroachments of the Azerbaijani side for the salvation of human lives, the protection of fundamental rights and the prevention of ‘a new tragedy’. .

A recent outbreak of fighting ended with a ceasefire, negotiated with Russian support, but Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that since May 2021, Azerbaijan has appropriated around 41 square kilometers (16 square miles) of Armenian territory.

Armenian Church leader Hovakim Manukyan said “the situation is worse than what is presented in the media and official channels”, adding that Azerbaijan’s intention is to take control of Armenian territory in order to creating a land corridor to the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhchivan and Turkey.

The Azerbaijani invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave within the Muslim-majority Republic of Azerbaijan, began in late September 2020, with political and military support from Turkey. The conflict ended in November 2020, with Azerbaijan taking significant territories that previously belonged to the Armenian community.

Call out to the Lord for the protection of the Christians of Armenia. Praise him for the great Christian tradition of the Armenian people and pray that he will show a spiritual depth that will confound anyone who would seek to persecute him (Luke 21:15). Pray that they will know the Lord as their shield and fortress in this uncertain time (Psalm 18:2).

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Haiti – Kidnapped Christian missionaries escape captors in Haiti

The other twelve members of a group of 17 Christian missionaries and children abducted by an armed gang in Haiti in October have escaped their captors. They were flown from Haiti to the United States on December 16.

US-based Christian Aid Ministries issued a statement Dec. 17 announcing that all released hostages, “including the 10-month-old baby, the 3-year-old boy and the 6-year-old boy, appear to be doing reasonably well.” Two members of the group had already been released on Sunday, November 21 and three others on December 5.

The missionaries and their driver were abducted by the notorious 400 Mawozo gang, known for carrying out kidnappings and murders in the area, on October 16. The Christian group included 16 Americans and one Canadian and included five children.

Praise the Lord that the remaining twelve missionaries have escaped and that all are now free. Thank God for sustaining them through the dark hours of captivity and for their trust in the Lord’s deliverance which they were able to sing repeatedly (Psalm 34:7). Thank God for the clear testimony of his love and the need for repentance that they communicated to their captors. Pray that our brothers and sisters will receive the privacy and rest they need to recover from their ordeal and resume their lives.

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