Northern Nigeria is is number 13 on the Open Doors World Watch List 2013 of the world’s worst persecutors of Christians. Tensions are high and there are many incidents of violence against Christians. This email alert was issued on 22 April by Release International:
NIGERIA – Extremist violence targets Christians in Borno
Release partners are reporting targeted violence against Christians in the northern state of Borno this weekend.
Stefanos Foundation says that gunmen pulled over a bus near Maiduguri on Saturday, demanded passengers declare their faith and then killed the six people who said they were Christian.
Meanwhile, in Gwoza, also in Borno state, Islamists are reported to have embarked upon an ‘Islamisation campaign’. Stefanos reports that gunmen are going from door to door demanding people profess allegiance to Islam at gunpoint.
This weekend’s violence followed intense fighting on Friday in the far north of Borno between the military and Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram. The BBC says that at least 185 people have reportedly died in violence centred on the remote town of Baga, near the border with Chad. Up to 2,000 homes were destroyed. Boko Haram wants to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.
(Sources: BBC, Stefanos Foundation)
For more news and a country profile about Nigeria from Release International, click here.
• Pray for God’s peace for Christians in Borno and other states in northern Nigeria where believers are targeted. Pray that they will draw near to God, their ‘mighty rock and refuge’ (Psalm 62:7).
• Pray for a breakthrough in military and political efforts to curb extremist violence in Nigeria, which has claimed thousands of lives since 2009.
You can also find out more about Nigeria from Open Doors – see the country profile for North Nigeria on the World Watch List, and monitor updates about the persecution of Christians worldwide.
A year of prayer for Nigeria, 1 Oct. 2013 – 30 Sept. 2013
During a regional session at the World Prayer Assembly in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2012, delegates from Nigeria resolved to call the church in Nigeria (and abroad) to a year of transformational prayer, from 1st October 2012 until 30th September 2013. They are praying firstly in repentance and then seeking a move of God’s spirit across the land, bringing transformation and renewal. Join them in prayer at http://www.pray4nigeria.org/.
Join Release Women, part of Release International, at the National heart2heart Conference “A Garment of Praise”, a day of prayer and fellowship as we remember our suffering sisters. Hear first hand from women who have experienced persecution. Choose a seminar to attend in the afternoon on various relevant subjects. Featuring international speakers, up-to-date news from around the world and Release International’s unique and intimate way of praying for our sisters face-to-face in Prayer Works
Date & time: Saturday 23rd February 2013, 10am to 4pm. Arrival and coffee from 9.30am. Please bring a packed lunch or buy one nearby. Venue: St Barnabas Church, Holden Road, London N12 7DN. (near Woodside Tube) Cost £5.00 payable on door. An offering will be taken for Release Women during the day
and a bookstall will be available (cash and cheques only). Book: To book your place please call 01689 823491 or email email@example.com.
This month’s Prisoners of Faith alert from Release International is a brief update of the previous 12 Prisoners of Faith alerts. We thank God for those who have been released and we continue to pray for, support and advocate on behalf of those who remain in prison.
The 2012 alerts help to illustrate the wider picture regarding the arrest and imprisonment of Christians.
Last year, we witnessed the continuing long-term detention of church leaders in Eritrea. Many have now been incarcerated for more than eight years. In Iran, the number of Christians arrested and imprisoned has increased significantly and the constant threat of arrest is being used as a weapon against the house churches in particular. In Central Asia, there has been a rise in the number of cases of Christians being targeted, harassed, arrested, fined and imprisoned. In several Muslim-majority countries, we are witnessing a growing intolerance towards Christians in general, but specifically towards those who have converted from Islam.
To support Prisoners of Faith more effectively, Release is helping to equip and train individuals and churches to support prisoners and their families in various countries. Please pray for those imprisoned, and pray also for those who visit, support and help prisoners and their families often at considerable risk to themselves.
We thank God for his sustaining and amazing grace.
If you’ve always wanted to speak up for the persecuted church but didn’t know what to say, Release International are running the perfect event for you – a sponsored silence!
By keeping quiet for all or part of a day in the week beginning Sunday, November 25, you can help raise much-needed funds for persecuted Christians while standing in solidarity with those who have been silenced because of their witness for Christ. You will also be raising the issue of persecution with those around you.
Being quiet will probably be more of a challenge for some than others but we would encourage you to get as many people at your church involved as possible.
And we would love to hear how you get on. Do tell us if several people in your congregation take part, especially if one of the participants is the minister!
You can download a sponsorship form from the Release International website here or contact the Release office on 01689 823491 for an A3 size form.
If you would like to take part but are unable to join in during the week starting Sunday, November 25, please feel free to choose another day.
While taking part in the sponsored silence, we would encourage you to pray in your heart for Christians whose governments or peoples are trying to silence them because of their stand for Christ. You can discover who you can pray for on page 3 of Release’s latest magazine (which you can download here) and you can read more about this event here.
Syria has been closed to the outside world for many weeks. This letter has been received from a leading pastor in Syria and the Evangelical Alliance in the UK is taking the unprecedented step of circulating it to Christians around the world. In it, the pastor writes of the situation in Syria, his hopes, fears and trust in the Lord. He also asks for prayer.
The letter expresses incredible courage, faith and resilience in the face of increasingly dire conditions. It is clear that Syria is experiencing a war within a war. Christians are caught in the crossfire and are being driven from their homelands on account of their faith. This is a complex situation, but we need the media to tell the story of what’s really happening to the Church. The astonishing spiritual maturity of suffering Christians in Syria should prompt us all to prayer and action.
Please be encouraged to read this letter aloud in your churches, in your house groups and in your homes, so that we are better informed in our prayers and so that our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria will know that they are not alone. We are their family, and we are praying for them and standing with them against this storm of persecution and oppression.
Steve Clifford, general director of Evangelical Alliance UK.
This statement is issued by the Evangelical Alliance and is endorsed by Release International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Open Doors:
With love from Syria…
CryOut to the Father
For peace in Syria and an end to bloodshed. For God’s rich mercies on the suffering people.
For safety and protection for the churches and wisdom and vision for church leaders.
To empower the Church to reach out to the suffering, to share the divine cure of the gospel, and to speak the word of the Lord in all boldness.
That the Lord would send wise, God-fearing counselors to the decision-makers in all parties in the country.
Some who follow Christ in Pakistan end up forsaking everything for the sake of the gospel. Shunned by family and friends and driven out of their homes, they can end up living an isolated existence never knowing when they could fall victim to an attack.
Release International’s new DVD, ‘Paying the Price’, features interviews with three such people who have known what it is to suffer for their faith.
‘Peter’, had to go on the run after he encountered Christ in a dream, while ‘Michael’ was beaten by his own family despite his mother being healed through the prayers of a Christian pastor and ‘Rose’, who miscarried after being attacked by an intruder, still caries the scars.
With a running time of just under 13 minutes the DVD also includes requests to help you pray for Christians in Pakistan and is ideal for use in prayer groups, house groups and in church services.
To obtain your copy please call 01689 823491 or buy it online here.
For more information and details of other other DVDs and resources from Release International please click here.
Welcome to PLATFORM, a unique creative arts experience for young people. Using the power of creative arts to help young people engage with the harsh reality of Christians suffering persecution around the world, PLATFORM empowers them with new skills and talents to stand up in support of our Christian family, call for justice, and inspire the Church to pray for and support those in need.
14 – 19 year olds can learn from top creative art professionals, produce performance pieces in their chosen field and perform as part of the PLATFORM showcase.
Want to help inspire and engage your young people through the creative arts?
Are you on the look out for new and innovative ways to encourage your young people to explore their gifts and talents?
Are your young people hoping for the chance to speak out against injustice and make a difference in the world?
Are you in need of opportunities to help engage your young people on issues faces Christians around the world and inspire them in the story of persecution?
PLATFORM is looking for local churches and youth groups to partner with them. For more information about PLATFORM coming to your area click here.
Watch the platform promo on YouTube:
Release Potential is part of Release International, serving the persecuted church. Release Potential works with young people, students and youth workers to engage with the story of pain, passion and grace experienced by persecuted Christians today.
Their aim is to ignite a movement of young believers that will be moved to stand with and fight passionately for their family of faith. This will be done through relationships that encourage faithful prayer, challenge political and social practices and raise awareness in the wider Body of Christ.
Their free six-week course for youth groups, back2BASICS, is a disclipleship course which encourages the development of a personal relationship with Jesus as well as tackling tough topics such as suffering, being different, boldness and persecution. It asks questions like:
What does it really mean to be a disciple of Jesus today?
What do I believe about suffering?
What does the Bible say about being bold and standing up for my beliefs?
“There are many challenging questions that arise from having a relationship with Jesus, and unfortunately, sometimes they can go unanswered. Maybe it’s because they make us feel uncomfortable, or perhaps our lives seem too busy to really stop and consider what we think about these things. So to help us answer these vital questions we have created back2BASICS, a course that is designed to go back to the roots of our faith, the
foundation for our beliefs, the basic truth.”
A dozen masked men gunned down five Christians as they came out of their church building in Sukkur in Sindh Province two months after a banned Islamic extremist group sent church leaders a threatening letter, relatives said.
Pastor Aaron John and church members Rohail Bhatti, Salman John, Abid Gill and Shamin Mall of Full Gospel Church were killed as they left the church building after meeting to discuss security in light of threats they had received, said the pastor’s son, Shahid John.
‘As we came out of the church, a group of a dozen armed gunmen came and opened fire at us,’ said Shahid, who survived a bullet in his arm. Besides Shahid, five others were wounded in the attack.
In May church leaders received a letter from Islamic extremist group Sip-e-Sahaba (formerly Sipah-e-Sahaba until it was banned) warning the Christians to leave the area, said Kiran Rohail, wife of the slain Rohail Bhatti. Sip-e-Sahaba and Sunni Tehrik extremist groups are both linked with an area madrassa (Islamic school) whose students had been threatening the church since 2008, Christian sources said. They added that the manner of the attack on July 15 indicated that the gunmen had been trained.
Pastor John and Bhatti had reported the threats of the past two years to police, but officers at the local station did not take them seriously, relatives said. Police also declined to register a First Information Report when church leaders reported the threatening letter of May. An independent government source confirmed the shootings, adding that local Islamist pressure had prevented media from reporting on them.
(Source: Compass Direct)
• Ask God to comfort the families and community of the victims.
• Pray that the gunmen will be brought to justice.