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A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities

I'm trying to consolidate all the Open Doors postings I've been doing into this group.  I will be moving the discussion featuring Prayer Alerts and Stories of Persecution to this thread.  With each entry, I'll provide the link to the actual page on the Open Doors site, as well as the text of the alert.  Please join me in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world!  

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. -- Hebrews 12:3

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Aug. 22: Pray with Women Missionaries Beaten in Burma

PRAY WITH WOMEN MISSIONARIES BEATEN BY ENRAGED VILLAGERS IN BURMA

The village chief’s stern statement to Burmese Pastor U Min* reflects the attitude Christians in Burma regularly come up against in predominantly Buddhist villages.

Hoping that an apology would help end the chain of violence the pastor, his wife, and women missionaries had all experienced over the last few days, the four believers came to the village chief, desperate for his help. But they were quickly rebuffed.

Pastor U Min remembers the persecution of the last few days …

At the invitation of Pastor U Min,  missionaries Mai Yi* and Chew* had come to the western Burma village of Na* intent on ministering to the only five Christian families in the village. They had arranged to stay with one of the families.

Soon into their stay, villagers came to the house where the missionaries were staying and summoned the two women to come out and leave Na village. Frightened by the raging voices of the villagers, Mai Yi and Chew stayed inside, afraid to go out.

The villagers persisted.

When the two women came out, the villagers attacked. They slapped their faces, kicking and hitting them for preaching the gospel in their village. They confiscated their phones to keep them from contacting anyone and reporting what had happened.

When all the villagers had left the scene, police came and brought the missionaries to the police station. They also called Pastor U Min and his wife. At the station, officers tried to force Pastor U Min and his wife to sign a document preventing them from bringing in any more missionaries to preach the gospel. But the couple stood strong. They refused to sign the document and went home together with the two women.

The violence didn’t stop there.

When villagers heard about the pastor’s refusal to sign, the next day they attacked the pastor’s home, throwing stones at it. When the pastor tried to call the police to intervene, no one answered. He dialed the number the second time but the phone was already out of reach.

That’s when the four believers decided to go to the village chief to no avail. Mai Yi and Chew remain traumatized by the attacks. Please pray with them, Pastor U Min, the five Christian families in Na and the entire village.

PRAYING WITH MAI YI, CHEW AND PASTOR U’S FAMILY

  • Please ask God to comfort Pastor U Min, his wife, Mai Yi and Chew and surround them with His love.
  • Pray for the security of the missionaries, as well as Pastor U Min and his family. Pray that the violence will not hinder them from serving the Lord both now and in the future.
  • Pray also with the five Christian families in the village–that they will press on and continue to serve God. Ask Him to protect them from harm and further persecution.
  • Pray that these villagers and village chief would come to know the one true God as the only one who is worthy of their praise and allegiance.

*representative names and photos used for security reasons

Sep. 13: "My Imprisonment will Further the Gospel"

IRANIAN CHRISTIAN TO AUTHORITIES: ‘MY IMPRISONMENT WILL FURTHER THE GOSPEL’

Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, sentenced to 10 years in Evin Prison

Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, an Iranian convert to Christianity serving 10 years in prison for “missionary activities,” has written an open letter to Iranian authorities, asking how his Christian activities could be perceived as anti-state. He has been in Evin Prison, known as Iran’s “torture factory,” since January. Below, we share his story and this modern-day Paul’s powerful letter.

“Would it even be possible for a committed Christian–who was born and raised in Iran and whose forefathers lived in this land for thousands of years, and who is a servant to the God who has called him to a ministry of reconciliation–to act against the national security of his own country?” wrote Naser, who turned 57 in August.

“Is the fellowship of a few Christian brothers and sisters in someone’s home, singing worship songs, reading the Bible and worshiping God acting against national security?”

Naser was first arrested in June 2016 alongside three Azerbaijanis, following a raid on a wedding party. The four men were sentenced a year later, but the Azerbaijanis have not been forced to return to Iran to serve their sentences.

The ruling in Naser’s case was based on evidence provided by the Ministry of Intelligence. However, the documents containing the evidence were not given to Gol-Tapeh’s lawyer to view, nor were they presented during the trial, according to Mohabat News.

He lost his appeal against his sentence in November 2017 and was moved to Evin Prison in January.

Naser is among at least 15 Christians who are suffering in Evin Prison. In April Article 18, reported that he may lose all of his teeth if immediate medical treatment was not provided. Reportedly, his multiple requests for treatment have been denied each time.


‘I AM IN PRISON FOR MY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST’: NASER NAVARD GOL-TAPEH’S LETTER

Thanks be to God, who in His wonderful mercy calls us to a new life in Jesus Christ for a living and lasting hope; the Father of all things good, whose name is holy.

It is written in His holy book:

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted” (Rom. 13: 1-2).

My question to the authorities, judges and interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence, who are the eyes of the ruling authority in my country, is this: Would it be even possible for a committed Christian–who was born and raised in Iran and whose forefathers lived in this land for thousands of years, and who is a servant to the God who has called him to a ministry of reconciliation–to act against the national security of his own country?

As the charges against me in my indictment state: “Action against national security through the establishment of house churches,” is the fellowship of a few Christian brothers and sisters in someone’s home, singing worship songs, reading the Bible and worshiping God acting against national security?

Isn’t it a clear violation of civil and human rights, and an absolute injustice to receive a 10-year prison sentence just for organizing ‘house churches,’ which is a sanctuary sanctified as a place to praise and worship God due to closure of churches in Iran?

But I praise God that He has turned all things into a blessing. Because, now it’s clear to all, including the prison authorities, judges, lawyers and my fellow prisoners, that I am in prison because of my faith in Jesus Christ. [My imprisonment] will serve to further advance the gospel.

Therefore, first of all, I bless those who have persecuted me and put me in jail, and I hope one day the truths of His Word, which is able to build everyone up, will save them. Secondly, I thank God in perfect joy and peace for considering me worthy to be here because of my faith in and witness to Jesus Christ. I trust the Almighty God who is able to bring the dead to life, and I eagerly await His return. He can preserve me and keep me firm.

I sincerely thank all my brothers and sisters in Christ who give me grace by helping me and offering prayers, which are like a pleasing fragrance to God. I continuously remember them in my prayers. I know because of their prayers and the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit I will be delivered and will not be put to shame.

Servant of the Lord,

Naser Navard

Evin Prison


Sep. 17: Pray With These 21 Iranian Prisoners

80 LASHES AND OTHER BRUTAL SENTENCES FOR BEING A CHRISTIAN IN IRAN–PRAY WITH THESE 21 PRISONERS

The morning of Sunday, July 22, 10 plain-clothes Iranian police officers raided the home of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani in Iran’s northern city of Rasht, brutally attacking both him and his teenage son, Danial.

When Danial answered the door and started to call for his father, officers attacked him with an electroshock weapon, leaving him motionless. When Youcef came in, they attacked him with the same weapon and then beat him—despite the fact that Yousef, nor his son, “offered any resistance,” Article 18’s Kiaa Aalipour told World Watch Monitor.


Photo: Pastor Yousef with his two sons (photo taken several years ago).

Yousef, a convert from Islam, is now serving a 10-year sentence in Evin Prison (aka the “dark hole of evil”) in the capital city of Tehran, convicted of “acting against national security” by running house churches (the maximum sentence for the charge is supposed to be six years imprisonment). Reportedly, the 39-year-old pastor was held in quarantine in a ward known for its especially difficult and unhygienic conditions—where “prisoners of conscience” are often taken for “punishment purposes.”

Fellow convert and church leader Mohammadreza Omidi was also sentenced to 10 years, along with Yousef–as well as 80 lashes for drinking wine during communion.He is serving his 10-year sentence in Evin Prison while he awaits the outcome of his appeal against the impending beatings.

The pastors are among many Iranian Christians who in recent months have been arrested and imprisoned, typically on charges of “acting against national security.” In Iran (#10 on the World Watch List), being an Iranian and expressing your Christian faith—especially when that expression involves being part of a house church—is an inevitable invitation to arrest often followed by prison terms.

To help you pray specifically with Christian prisoners in Iran and those waiting for the verdict on their appeals, we have compiled a list of names and stories to introduce you to those who, at this moment, are suffering behind bars because they are “not ashamed of the gospel” (Romans 1:16) and, like the Apostle Paul, have risked their lives to tell others about the Jesus who revealed Himself to them and transformed their hearts and lives.

THE CHRISTIAN PRISONER EXPERIENCE IN IRAN

The list and our research point to several brutal conditions common to most Christians imprisoned in Iran:

  • Medical treatment is often withheld. Repeatedly, refusal to offer treatment for medical conditions is a consistent complaint by Iranian Christians. Current prisoner Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, also sentenced to 10 years in Evin Prison for leading a house church, began his term in January. In May, Article 18 reported that if he didn’t receive the medical treatment he had requested numerous times, Naser was in danger of losing his teeth.
  • Prison terms for Christians are getting longer. In May, Miles Windsor of advocacy group Middle East Concern told Mission Network News: “Whilst Christians have consistently been put in prison for their faith in Iran in considerable numbers,” he said, “the length of the sentence has seemed to have increased in the recent year or so.”
  • Prisoners are often tortured physically and mentally. They are subjected to near-daily interrogations, including prolonged beatings, and forced to endure twisted acts of persecution. While he was in prison, church teacher and ex-prisoner Morad recounted how the guards would bring him tea but not allow him to go to the bathroom. Ex-prisoners report sleep deprivation and threats of harm to family members—as well as pressure to recant their faith. Some Christians held in Section 209 of Evin Prison have suffered up to 34 days in solitary confinement.
  • Any requests for Christian literature is refused.

Photo: House church leader Mohammad Reza Omidi, sentenced to 80 lashes and 10 years of prison.

  • A prison term is often followed by two years of internal exile. Even after a prisoner serves their full sentence, they are not free. Pastor Yousef and fellow convert and house church leader Mohammad Reza Omidi, among others, were both sentenced to two years of internal exile. They will serve this sentence in the south of Iran, far away from their families in Rasht.
  • Release is not freedom. When Christians are released, it’s often on payment of exorbitant bail, ranging from a few thousand dollars to the deeds of a house. And they face further arrest or prosecution if they continue to meet with other Christians. Often, police will contact their employers and instruct them to sack the “apostate.”

Currently, an estimated 21 Christians are serving prison sentences, often suffering under inhumane conditions. And an estimated 15 are awaiting their appeals—praying that they could somehow find true justice

CALLED TO REMEMBER THE PRISONER

In God’s Word, we see the specific call on the Body of Christ to pray for and encourage our jailed brothers and sisters. Perhaps the most familiar comes from the writer of Hebrews:

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).

The Bible teaches us that Jesus expects His church to visit those who are in prison. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt 25:36), and this is how He sees it: “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40).

We are called to intercede for one another, and when we do, God uses that obedience to strengthen both us and the prisoner. We have numerous accounts from ex-prisoners and persecuted believers telling us that they sensed the body of Christ praying for them in their prison cell—and that they drew strength from that knowledge, especially in the most difficult situations.

For lists of Christian prisoners and those awaiting their appeals in Iran, plus a list of prayer points, click below:

Christians Imprisoned in Iran

Sep. 18: WHAT DOES THIRD INTER-KOREAN SUMMIT MEAN?

WHAT DOES THIRD INTER-KOREAN SUMMIT MEAN FOR 300,000 PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS?

Today (Sept. 18) at the third inter-Korean summit, South Korea leader Moon Jae-in was the first sitting president to cross the border into North Korea since 2007. The two leaders of the Koreas are meeting again–five months since their first meeting in April, which saw Kim Jong-un become the first North Korean leader to cross the border into South Korea since the end of the Korean war in 1953.

According to CNBC, the two are coming together to discuss strengthening ties between the two countries and denuclearization. In April, Kim Jong-un called the first summit a “starting point” and pledged a “new history” in North Korea’s relationship with South Korea.

The three-day summit comes on the heels of President Trump’s recent announcement that he, too, will meet again face-to-face with Kim Jong-un after the North Korean leader sent a letter, seeking a meeting.

THESE CONTINUING CONVERSATIONS SPUR THREE QUESTIONS:

  • What do these ongoing discussions mean for the 300,000 Christians who are forced to keep their faith a secret?
  • What will the denuclearization and peace talks do to help expedite the release of over 50,000 Christians suffering in hard labor camps because they believe in Jesus?
  • Will we see more intellectual and religious freedom in the North in response to these ongoing discussions with the South and later with the U.S.?

What we’ve seen so far is that there are no immediate answers. Many hoped there would be as news of the first summits between South Korea and the U.S. were announced earlier this year. It is still possible that these visits are the beginning of decades of answered prayers to relieve some of the pressure on persecuted believers in the North.

DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE

However, Open Doors CEO David Curry reminds us to be cautious in our expectations:

“The world must remember that nothing yet has changed for the estimated 300,000 North Korean Christians who must live their faith in secret, or face imprisonment and death. Open Doors cautions that the smiling man in pictures is the same man who has ordered countless murders and imprisonments in a place the Open Doors World Watch List has ranked for 17 years as the most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian.

“I continue to be hopeful that true progress will be achieved, not only toward denuclearization—which is good for the entire world—but also away from a totalitarian state under which many North Korean Christians have suffered for decades, including more than 50,000 who are still in hard-labor camps. Let these steps  take us down a road of lasting change for those who have suffered long enough.”

With the long history of Christian persecution within the country, it’s difficult to imagine anything will change even in three meetings. And, in the two previous summits with South Korea and June’s Trump-Kim talks in Singapore, so far nothing of substantial weight has been mentioned about opening the country to new ideas or changing the political system or allowing free thought to flow across the border.

Discussions on denuclearization and peace are both good starting points, but the future for North Korean Christians is an urgent matter.

PRAYING BOLD PRAYERS

Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, once said: “If we would understand the potential power of our prayers, we would be on our knees a hundred times a day and ask Him things that would turn the world upside down.”

These conversations between the Koreas and the U.S. should drive us to an increased sensitivity to our brothers and sisters in Christ who strive to follow Jesus behind the border—and encourage persistent and intense prayers for their intellectual and religious freedom that hangs in the balance.

Our prayers should be as bold as to ask for total religious freedom—and the rapid growth of the church in North Korea. We can pray that these historic meetings between world leaders will produce unprecedented opportunities to evangelize and advance the Kingdom.

For 17 consecutive years, North Korea has been No. 1 on the World Watch List—as the most dangerous country in the world for Christians. To see it move even a few slots on the list would signal a radical answer to prayer for persecuted believers inside North Korea.

REMEMBER THEM

So what do these continuing conversations mean for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith? In short, nothing yet. But they should continually spur us on to remember the suffering Body of Christ in North Korea.

These talks are also a great reminder to take action. One thing we can do right now is to again urgently ask President Trump to make human rights and religious freedom a major part of his upcoming talks with Kim Jong-un.

In April, we spoke with John Choi, a Christian refugee from North Korea, and he encouraged the church in the West to raise their voices: “I pray Christians will urgently appeal to President Trump to put pressure on Kim Jong-un when the two leaders meet. If President Trump is silent, it will imply the West doesn’t care about the incarceration, torture and execution of Christians. There can be no true peace if Kim Jong-un continues to persecute Christians.”

Five months later, Choi’s exhortation remains the same, as the U.S. begins preparations for another summit.

As these conversations continue, please remember your brothers and sisters who are isolated, suffer extreme persecution and long for religious freedom in North Korea.

Sep. 20: God Used Me - and a Muslim Imam

‘IN AN IRANIAN PRISON, GOD USED ME—AND A MUSLIM IMAM—TO BRING OTHERS TO HIM’

September 20, 2018 by Lindy Lowry in , 

Mojtaba Hosseini is 30 years old. He used to be one of the leaders of a quickly growing house church movement in Iran. That was before his church was raided and he was arrested and imprisoned for three years in an Iranian prison (following a first arrest resulting in probation). Recently, we visited him (he was released in 2015) in a safe place outside Iran.


Iranian ex-prisoner Mojtaba, now in a safe place outside the country, recently shared his story with one of our local ministry partners.

Mojtaba’s story is an important reminder that while God may (and often does) use the suffering of persecuted believers to bring others to Him, the depth of isolation and pain they experience is still very real. He also shows us the importance of praying with our brothers and sisters whom God is using in miraculous ways in the darkest of places.

Like all Iranian Christians, Mojtaba knew the high stakes.

If he organized and led a secret house church—an illegal act in Muslim-majority Iran seen as a “threat against national security”—he, along with anyone participating in the church, could be arrested if they were discovered. And since he was a leader, his arrest would likely mean a conviction followed by a lengthy prison term. If he was arrested and somehow avoided prison, a second arrest would surely mean a long sentence behind bars.

Still, just as the disciples of 2,000 years ago and today’s persecuted church leaders risked their lives to build the Church around the world, Mojtaba persisted.

“Why didn’t I stop my work for the church after I was first arrested?” Mojtaba says, smiling. “I don’t really know. There was no logical explanation, but we felt that the Lord wanted us to continue. We knew this would mean we could get arrested at any moment.”

Mojtaba tells his story with an eye for detail and a passion for Christ. He takes time to think about his answers and often grasps his Bible to look for a verse.

“I Corinthians 1:29 says that ‘God did all this to keep anyone from bragging to Him,” he says.

It is a central theme in his prison story: “It’s all about God, not about me.”

He knew God was with him when he was in prison, Mojtaba explains. But that knowledge didn’t make prison life comfortable—far from it.

For the majority of his sentence, he was in a ward with murderers, robbers and drug dealers. No one could be trusted. He also struggled to find hope—not knowing when, or if, he would actually be released.

“I felt a deep fear inside of me,” he explains. “And often, even though the Lord was close, I was sad about my situation. My hands were tied, my voice wouldn’t be heard by human beings.”


Outside Evin Prison in Tehran. Photo credit: SabzPhoto’ on www.Flickr.com.

‘IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU’

It was those uncertainties of not knowing if he’d be robbed, killed, or even if he’d be released that were the most challenging. In his darkest hours, desperate for help to go on, he turned to prayer.

“I prayed; that was all I could do,” he says. “At first, they were prayers of repentance. I thought God was punishing me for my mistakes by putting me in prison.” That was the moment, he says, he realized he was “nothing.”

“Then the Lord spoke to me. He said: ‘Stop being selfish Mojtaba, it’s not about you; it’s about Me. Look around you.’”

For the first time since being jailed, he began to truly look at people, attempting to see them as God does.

“I saw poor people, people who had committed the worst crimes. People that felt so alone.”

Mojtaba felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit to share God’s Word with these people he saw every day: “God spoke again to me, saying, ‘It is time that you share Me with them. They need Me.’”

Mojtaba offers a hindsight observation: “It’s funny how God works sometimes. It would have been absolutely impossible for us to pass the big gates of prison to bring the gospel to those who needed him so badly inside. But God just placed me and other Christians inside the prison, among them to shine His light.” 

 AN UNLIKELY SOURCE IN AN IRANIAN PRISON

The former church leader began sharing his testimony and the gospel with the other prisoners. Some came to faith; others were just very happy he wanted to pray with them in Jesus’ name. He began to long for and pray for a Bible, even repeatedly asking the guards for one.

“I didn’t get one,” he said. “None of the Christians did.”

Then God intervened—through one of the most unlikely sources. The prison imam, who came every day to pray with the Muslim inmates, offered to help.

“He was impressed by our commitment to our God,” Mojtaba says. “I think it was God who filled his heart with kindness for us.”

Getting a real Bible into an Iranian prison was impossible, but the imam had an idea. He would bring in printouts of the Bible disguised as an English lesson. One of the friends Motjaba had made in the ward was good at English and translated the scriptures into Farsi. From there, Mojtaba copied the texts and gave them to the prisoners who had requested them—both those who were curious about his faith and those who had already given their heart to Jesus.

Soon it became known among all the prisoners that Bible verses were circulating.

“We even got requests from other wards,” he remembers. “People were asking us for more. And the best thing was that prisoners were giving their lives to the Jesus of the Bible.”

‘GOD PLACED ME AMONG THE PRISONERS’

 Reflecting on his time behind bars, Mojtaba offers a revelation that we can all learn from.

“I never prayed for God to release me from prison,” Mojtaba says.  “I can serve God anywhere, inside or outside of prison. It doesn’t matter what situation I’m in. I can work in God’s Kingdom wherever He places me.

“And at that time God placed me among the prisoners.”

He urges us to pray for his country and for those who are in prison for their faith. Currently, an estimated 21 Christians are imprisoned in Iran for their faith with an estimated 14 awaiting verdicts on their conviction appeals.

“My prayer for all Iranians is that they hear the good message of Christ,” he says. “And for the Christians who are under pressure, I hope and pray they can experience the big contrast I felt. They might not be in a good situation, but I pray they feel an inner peace and joy because they know Jesus.”

Recently Mojtaba participated in a trauma care conference for Iranian ex-prisoners that was organized by a partner organization and partly supported by Open Doors. Ministry to ex-prisoners like Mojtaba and Morad is one of the ways Open Doors is working to strengthen the church in Iran.

We encourage you to click here for this helpful list of Christians imprisoned in Iran (and their stories and photos) and pray for them by name, then leave a prayer for one of these believers on our Iran Prayer Wall and be part of this unique prayer community.

6 Big Things About North Korea You Should Know

A series of basic questions to help you understand what Christians are going through in North Korea

It seems every time you turn on the TV or visit a news website, someone is talking about North Korea. Between talks of nuclear disarmament, potential treaties, accusations of human rights abuses and a long-simmering threat of armed conflict, the region is volatile and constantly shifting. And, for Christians in North Korea—a place where it is illegal to follow Jesus—it’s a place of extreme tension and danger.

But: How did we get here? Why is North Korea in the news all the time? Are there any Christians in the country?

These are the questions that often get ignored in the rush to report and update on the latest developments. So here’s a brief rundown of the biggest questions every Christian should be asking about North Korea.

WHY IS NORTH KOREA REALLY SUCH A BIG DEAL? WE SEE IT ON THE NEWS ALL THE TIME, BUT WHAT IS THE SITUATION?

The world knows North Korea is the most closed country in the world. The news is filled with headlines about the so-called “hermit kingdom”—a land ruled by a series of brutal dictators; a country that threatens the entire world with their nuclear arsenal; an unpredictable world actor that has stymied multiple U.S. administrations. Currently ruled by Kim Jong-Un, North Korea also has one of the darkest human rights records in the modern era. It easily sits with Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Nazi Germany, and Pol Pot’s Khmer Rogue in terms of human suffering and loss of life.

For Christians, daily life is a struggle—believers are forced to worship underground, with only several state churches (which are not real churches, according to most reports) available for public worship. If caught, Christians can be arrested and imprisoned. There are tens of thousands of Christians in camps, restricted villages, or otherwise imprisoned—many of whom are suffering under unthinkable conditions. 

WHO IS KIM JONG-UN, AND WHY IS HE VIEWED BY SO MANY AS AN EVIL RULER?

Like his father and grandfather, Kim Jong-Un has continued a pattern of dictatorial paranoia. North Korean citizens are taught state propaganda from birth until death. This means learning about the leaders of North Korea in elementary school, hearing propaganda on loudspeakers in homes and businesses and living under constant threat of being shipped to camps for a variety of crimes, both real and invented.

 The state religion is the cult of personality around the Kim dynasty, of which Kim Jong Un is the third generation. There are thousands of statues of country founder Kim Il-Sung around the country that children must clean and polish; children are taught that all countries worship the ruling Kim. It’s also illegal for any North Korean to fold a newspaper showing the face of former leader Kim Jong Il—Kim Jung Un’s father. The entire nation and its laws center on the elevation of the leadership of the country to godhood.

ARE THERE CHRISTIANS IN NORTH KOREA?

Christianity has a long history in North Korea. Before the end of World War II, there were more Christians in North Korea than there were in South Korea. North Korea was even known as the “Jerusalem of the East.” Estimates vary about how many Christians are currently in North Korea, but Open Doors places the number around 300,000, most of whom operate in secret networks of tiny house churches.

WHAT IS LIFE LIKE FOR NORTH KOREAN BELIEVERS?

Christians are particularly targeted by the Kim regime. A 2014 UN report found that “the State considers the spread of Christianity a particularly serious threat.” The report said that Christianity challenges ideologically the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the State.

Christians continue to be seen as dangerous and their religion as “opium for the people”—as in classical Communist ideology—and are also part of the hostile class, according to the country’s social stratification system called songbun. And one 2014 report says that “ownership of Bibles or other religious materials is reportedly illegal.” Possession is punishable by imprisonment and severe punishment, including, in some cases, “execution.”

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF A NORTH KOREAN IS CAUGHT WORSHIPING JESUS?

Christians (and other political prisoners) are put in prison camps and live in unspeakable conditions. Experts estimate there are 80,000-130,000 political prisoners in prison camps in North Korea. ... “prisoners were tortured and killed on account of their religious affiliation, with officials instructed ‘to wipe out the seed of [Christian] reactionaries.’”

It’s not far-fetched to compare these camps to Nazi-era concentration camps. A 2017 report by the International Bar Association War Committee offers gut-wrenching details from personal testimonies, video, transcripts and scholarly works about the state of North Korea’s prison camps. One of the judges, a former child survivor of the notorious concentration camp in Auschwitz, said the conditions in North Korea were as bad—or even worse—than what he experienced in the Nazi concentration camp.

WHAT IS THE CHURCH IN NORTH KOREA CURRENTLY DOING?

Christians in house churches are ready to evangelize North Korea. Our sources and partners in the region have told us that there is a passion for Jesus among the Christians of North Korea—and they are ready to spread the gospel among their country people as soon as the country opens. It’s been over 100 years since the Pyongyang Revival, but it could happen again.

HOW CAN WE PRAY WITH OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN NORTH KOREA?

  • Leader Kim Jong- Un has continued to consolidate his power. No changes or improvements have occurred since he began to rule. Please pray for Kim Jong-un, that he would come to know the one true God. Pray for change within the regime and that the power of evil in the country will be broken.
  • The situation for Christians is vulnerable and precarious. They face persecution from state authorities and their non-Christian families, friends and neighbors. Pray for their protection. Pray for Christians who suffer in prisons, labor camps and remote areas. Pray that God will give the North Korean church strength and endurance.
  • North Korea heads up the World Watch List for the 17th consecutive year. Pray that the country’s rulers will come to know God, for the protection of the North Korean Church and for healing and restoration to take place in the country.

SOME ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:

Oct. 04: A Handful of Rotten Corn

A HANDFUL OF ROTTEN CORN–A DAY IN THE LIFE OF 50,000 CHRISTIANS IN NORTH KOREAN PRISON CAMPS

A horrifying account of what it’s like for those who “suffer in prison” in North Korea

The depth of persecution our brothers and sisters endure is often difficult to read about–and difficult for us to share. Some accounts, like the one of a North Korean prison camp below, are extremely dark. We share this important story to help all of us understand that the darkness is real and that, as the Apostle Paul writes, “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but “against the universal lords of this darkness” (Ephesians 6:12).

Hea Woo is what you can call her. It’s not her real name, but it works. We’re using a false name because Hae Woo wants to protect anyone who might still know and love her in the country she’s from.

She’s from North Korea.

And in North Korea, following Jesus can get you thrown in prison, or even killed. That’s in addition to life under a brutal dictatorship, constant propaganda and monitoring, and harsh living conditions.

Hea Woo, who now lives in South Korea, is no exception to this reality. In 1997, in the midst of a great famine in North Korea, her daughter starved to death. Hea Woo’s husband fled to China, where he became a Christian—but he was caught by the secret police, thrown in a North Korean prison camp. He died there.

It wasn’t long after that Hea Woo also escaped to China. Sadly, that wasn’t the only similar journey of her husband’s she would take.A short time later, she was also caught by secret police, sent back to North Korea and put in a prison camp.

A HANDFUL OF ROTTEN CORN

In the midst of a larger conversation, Hea Woo explained what the conditions were like in a North Korean prison camp. We wanted to bring you this glimpse into a reality that often doesn’t make it outside the walls of these camps.

Warning: The following account contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers. Please read with caution.

“There were different parts within the prison,” Hea Woo says. “Some [sectors] did agriculture, some did construction work, some did mining. Men and women were separated; all the inmates seemed like they were about to faint. They were all hopeless and in despair. And plus, they were starving. Each person received one handful of rotten corn [and] there was nothing else to eat. We got something watery—it wasn’t even a soup. We got those as food for the whole year. Nothing else.

“And people are obligated to work more than cows or animals,” she continues. “Because everyone is forced to do labor, people die from malnutrition. People died from accidents while working, too.

“And there was a distinct group composed of only people who tried to escape from the prison. Those people had to carry containers full of feces. The containers were made of thick wood, and it was so heavy that even two people had a hard time carrying one container. Every single day, no matter how the weather was, despite heavy rain and snowfall, they were not allowed to take breaks. It was really life-threatening with the smell of the feces and the poisonous air.


North Korean prisoners are forced to carry buckets full of excrement and mud. Drawing by a former prisoner who was detained in the Chongori prison.

“Plus, because they did not eat much, anyone who became part of that group could not survive for more than months. So many died—and there was no hope in the prison. All [inmates] were on the verge of death. Soldiers were allowed to hit the inmates whenever they showed disobedience [and] to physically abuse the inmates.”

Listen as Hea Woo shares about her and her husband’s time in prison and the prayers that sustained them:

Those who confessed they were Christians were put in cages. Hannah (not her real name) remembers how when their faith was discovered, she and her family were isolated from the other prisoners, forced to live in cells where they couldn’t stand up or lie down. Hannah recalls the nightmare:

“We were separated by gender. My daughter and I were put in the female wing and my husband and son—who was just a teenager—in a cell with males. Shortly after we entered the camp, we saw guards force a prisoner to murder a baby. Almost every day, we were all called for interrogation and questions. They’d beat us so harshly. When there was no interrogation, we had to kneel in our cells from 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. and not speak.

“My husband was treated badly. He told the guards that he had become a [Christian]. Later, he said he had no other choice. After he saw what they did with the baby and the guards threatened to kill his family, he had to tell them the truth.[He knew it would be worse for all of his family if they found out about his faith later.] After his confession, all four of us were locked up in solitary confinement—a small cage. We didn’t receive any food or water and were not able to sleep.

“BREAKING” THE PRISONERS

The average day at the prison camp for Hea Woo was filled with back-breaking labor and intentionally brutal schedules—all in an effort to “break” prisoners, she says. She shares what a typical day in a labor camp was like:

“We woke up at 5 a.m. and started with the guards’ count of people. And after a small meal, we started the labor from 8 a.m. At 1 p.m., we ate a little, [and then] we went out to work again. When there was a lot to do during the summertime, we returned inside at night. In winter time, however, because the sun set early, we went back inside at around 7 p.m.

After dinner, we took politics classes [where we] learned about politics for about two hours. When anyone dozed off, he or she was beaten. There was a weekly unification meeting. If anyone was against it, he or she was locked up in a small room where people could not lie down nor stand up straight. The politics classes held at night were the worst of times.”

“Even [the] food [we got was] too little for everyone to eat,” Hea Woo says. “We got one or two small pieces of rotten vegetables. Because there was no salt, we got watery, bland soup. We got three meals like that a day. And if there was not enough food in summer and autumn, we got two meals [per day]. When cows passed by on the street and defecated, people would search for corn kernels [in the excrement] and pick them up to eat.”

And yet, for Hea Woo, even the physical brutality of her experience was not the worst part. “Physical labor was hard, but something harder was that we did not have freedom of faith,” she says. “We could not pray freely but I still prayed in [my] heart. When people were asleep, I woke up to pray. It was so pitiful that we did not have freedom of faith; I really yearned for freedom.”

ANSWERED PRAYERS

In prison, Hea Woo continued to pray—but not just for what you might expect.

“Something I always prayed about was for those dying souls that did not know about God,” she says. “I prayed that God would protect our underground church. And also for the wicked government to fall apart, and that the freedom of faith would arrive in North Korea. I prayed that the idolatry persisting over generations would disappear and that people could repent. I prayed that the prison would break apart as well. I also prayed for the Christians all over the world to pray for us with sincerity.”

Of course, she also prayed for safety and health. And eventually, God delivered her. She was released and escaped once again to China, through a miraculous series of events. But this time, she was not caught by secret police, and she was able to make her way to South Korea, where she now lives.

PRAYING WITH NORTH KOREAN PRISONERS

Father, we pray with Christians like Hea Woo and the 50,000 believers who are currently in prison in North Korea. We pray for their safety and their release–and that their witness in prison would lead to many other people finding Jesus in the camps. We also ask for Your justice, peace and hope to break through the brutal reality of life in North Korea, that Your name might be glorified.

Open Doors has multiple opportunities to help you connect with and engage North Korean believers like Hea Woo and Hannah, as well as meet more North Korean refugees and hear their difficult yet powerful stories. Just click here.

Oct. 08: 5 SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT CHRISTIANITY IN NORTH KOREA

Christians are horribly persecuted in North Korea—but that’s not the only story

North Korea is famously a difficult place for Christians to live and worship openly. The country has been No. 1 on Open Doors’ World Watch List—the annual list of the places in the world where it’s hardest to follow Jesus—for more than a decade. There are tens of thousands of Christians who are imprisoned or under arrest for their faith. And yet, that’s not the full story. Christianity and North Korea have a long relationship! So, here are five surprising facts about Christianity in North Korea and how this tightly controlled Communist nation has been impacted by the Christian faith:

1. CHRISTIANITY HAS A LONG HISTORY IN NORTH KOREA.

Before the end of World War II, there were more Christians in North Korea than there were in South Korea. North Korea was even known as the “Jerusalem of the East.”Estimates vary about how many Christians are currently in North Korea, but Open Doors places the number around 300,000, most of whom operate in secret networks of house churches.

2. KIM JONG UN’S GREAT-GRANDFATHER WAS A PART-TIME MISSIONARY.

The current leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, is known for continuing the trend of brutal crackdowns on Christians. Under his leadership, like that of his father, Christians have been thrown into labor camps and subjected to unspeakable conditions because of their faith. And yet, there is a history of Christianity in Kim’s own family! The founder of North Korea, Kim Sung Il, was born to parents who were reportedly devout Christians. His father was even a part-time Protestant missionary! And his mother’s name, Kang Pan-sok, was the Korean word for “Peter,” since she was named after Jesus’ disciple of the same name.

3. THERE ARE PUBLIC CHURCHES IN NORTH KOREA … BUT MOST PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE FOR SHOW.

To “prove” they value freedom of religion, North Korea built four churches in the capital city of Pyongyang. But most observers say these “show churches” are in fact empty expressions of faith, and only exist to try to disguise North Korea’s brutal treatment of Christians. In one church, the church leaders were comprised of North Korean intelligence officers who were baptized quickly and without any real knowledge of the Christian faith, and suddenly elevated to leadership. Other observers have noticed the churches are closed during Sunday worship, or the churches don’t offer things like the Lord’s Supper or sermons about anything other than politics.

4. EVANGELIST BILLY GRAHAM TRAVELED TO NORTH KOREA TWICE—AND THE EVANGELIST’S FAMILY CONTINUED THAT LEGACY.

In 1992 and 1994, evangelist Billy Graham visited North Korea and met with then-leader Kim Il Sung. He had reasons for a link to North Korea—his wife. As the daughter of missionaries in the 1930s, Ruth Bell Graham had attended some years of high school there. Since that time, Franklin Graham has returned to the country several times. However, it did not always go as intended—North Korean state media later reported that Billy Graham had declared that Kim Il Sung was “the God who rules today’s human world.” Naturally, Graham’s spokesman denied Graham ever saying such a thing. 

5. CHRISTIANS IN HOUSE CHURCHES ARE READY TO EVANGELIZE NORTH KOREA.

Our sources and partners in the region have told us that there is a passion for Jesus among the Christians of North Korea—and they are ready to spread the gospelamong their people as soon as the country opens. It’s been over 100 years since the Pyongyang Revival, but it could happen again.

PRAYING WITH THE UNDERGROUND CHURCH IN NORTH KOREA

  • Pray that Kim Jong Un will be convinced to release the more than 50,000-plus Christians unjustly held in detention centers and prison camps throughout the country.
  • Pray that Kim will loosen age-old requirements that residents attend indoctrination classes and display and bow to Kim family portraits.
  • Pray that Kim will lift information embargoes and allow his people greater access to radio shows, TV programs, and websites.
  • Pray that Kim will allow for the creation of new churches where North Koreans can freely worship outside of few “show churches.”
  • Pray that existing believers within North Korea would take courage to lead a new revival of the Christian faith in North Korea.
  • Pray that the underground church In North Korea would grow in boldness and be ready for widespread evangelism efforts when the opportunity arises.
  • Pray that extended families who have been separated across North and South Korea may be reunited.
  • Pray that organizations like Open Doors will be allowed access to provide Christian training and resources to believers in North Korea.
  • Pray that other relief and aid organizations would gain entrance to provide relief aid, trauma care, and other needed services.
  • Pray that North Korea’s economic and social infrastructure will find reform—that children will no longer be forced into labor, that preschoolers will no longer be indoctrinated, that roadways will be made safe.
  • Pray that North Korea’s food supply would be enriched through education and increased trade, so that the 2 in 5 who are currently undernourished will be provided with adequate nutrition.
  • Pray that God will give North Korean people wisdom to sift through the many nationalistic and mythical storylines and propaganda they have been fed throughout their lives.
  • Pray that parents will ultimately be able to freely share their faith with their children and raise them to know Jesus.

Oct. 10: WILL NORTH KOREA’S NAZI-STYLE PRISON CAMPS ALSO BE ‘OPEN F...

That verbal commitment from North Korea President Kim Jong Un and a plan for a second Trump-Kim summit make up the main headlines coming out of Sunday’s talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the ruling Kim in Pyongyang.

While the move toward denuclearization is a step in the right direction, little has been said (and publicized) about the country’s decades-long severe human rights violations in these conversations with North Korea. Kim’s loose promise begs other critical and important questions: When will Kim Jong Un be ready to open up the widely reported network of North Korea’s infamous prison camps for inspection? When will he be ready to allow the Red Cross and the United Nations Council of Inquiry to go into and inspect these camps where 250,000 North Koreans suffer—50,000 of which are imprisoned for their faith? How can a dictator who uses the fear of Nazi-style prison camps to rule his people sincerely extend a visit to the Pope?

“We must gain transparency into how these people are being treated,” says Open Doors CEO David Curry. “And then President Trump must make it clear that Kim Jong Un can only be invited back into the world’s good graces, and be lauded for political gestures if he commits to resolving decades of human rights violations at the hands of his regime.”


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently met with Kim Jong Un to prep the next summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader.

PRISON CAMPS AS BAD—OR EVEN WORSE—THAN AUSCHWITZ

Accounts and stories of ex-prisoners in North Korea are sobering reminders of the darkness and brutality. A 2017 report by the International Bar Association War Committee offers gut-wrenching details from personal testimonies, video, transcripts and scholarly works about the state of North Korea’s prison camps.

One of the judges, a former child survivor of the notorious concentration camp in Auschwitz, said the conditions in North Korea were as bad—or even worse—than what he experienced in the Nazi concentration camp.

North Korean prisoners are often punished for digging for food. This drawing comes from a former prisoner detained in the Chongori prison.[/caption]

The recent War Committee report shares stories of routine public executions carried out in front of both children and adults designed to “subdue the prison population.” In another account, the prison guards executed starving prisoners “found digging for edible plants on a mountainside.”

Kenneth Bae, a missionary imprisoned in a camp and later released, described working long hours manually tilling rocky soil in a field. Bae would routinely lose dozens of pounds, be sent to hospitals to recover, and then be sent back to the camps.

And for Americans, one of the most notable examples of North Korea’s inhumane treatment of prisoners is Otto Warmbier, an American student from Cincinnati unjustly imprisoned for 18 months on trumped-up charges—a pattern under Kim Jong-un’s rule. Warmbier died last year—only days after being medically evacuated from a North Korean prison. His father, Fred Warmbier, has said that essentially, North Korea sent his son home in a body bag. Otto’s death serves as a disturbing reflection of Kim’s disregard for human life and human rights that continues to characterize and define the communist country.


A women’s prison at the border of North Korea and Dandong, China.

A DAILY REALITY FOR 250,000 NORTH KOREANS

The abuses, injustices and severe mistreatment endured in the North Korean prison system are difficult to wrap our heads around. But they are a daily reality for an estimated 250,000 North Koreans held in prison camps—a reality that’s happening right now, at this very moment.

While I am thankful for President Trump’s recent efforts to free American citizens Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk and Kim Dong Chul from imprisonment in North Korea (two were Christian professors from North Korea’s only private university) and American Josh Holt held in Venezuela, as well as his and U.S. government leaders’ engagement in the efforts to free U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson from prison in Turkey, we can’t stop here.

The lives of thousands of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children heavily depend on leaders’ decisions to not look away and instead initiate the conversation to confront these daily atrocities.

Open Doors’ Curry reminds us that the United States has a unique opportunity to advocate for far more than a handful of hostages. “We must push forward to negotiate with North Korea to release all political dissidents being held across their prison system,” he says.

50,000 CHRISTIANS IN PRISON FOR THEIR FAITH IN JESUS

Since the 1950s and ‘60s, the number of Christians in North Korea has diminished when—under the leadership of Kim II-Sung–70,000 Christians were killed, sent to labor camps or banished to remote areas.

Open Doors’ partners in North Korea estimate that a small number of these banished Christians are still alive, along with about 50,000 of their descendants, and that another 50,000 believers are held in prison and hard labor camps, re-education campsand detention centers.

In the communist country, Christians are seen as the enemy. “Christianity is regarded as a political crime and it is punished like one,” says John Choi, a North Korean refugee and survivor of a prison camp, arrested and jailed when he was 15.

According to the recent War Committee report, inside the camps, prisoners are often “tortured and killed on account of their religious affiliation, with officials instructed ‘to wipe out the seed of [Christian] reactionaries.’”

In one especially heinous account, guards killed a prisoner’s newborn baby by feeding it to the guard dogs.

“Many Christians do not survive,” Choi told Open Doors’ Sarah Cunningham. “They are tortured and used to test biological and chemical weapons—a VX gas like the kind used to assassinate Kim Jong-un’s half-brother.

“Christian women who become pregnant are especially targeted for this type of torture. It’s because they possess or read the Bible that they perish in this severe way,” he said. Under Kim’s rule, “Christians literally have to choose between life and death.”

Describing her detention, a North Korean believer/prison camp survivor echoes Choi’s observations and experience. She was forced to strip down for a cavity search, then placed in solitary confinement, a room just large enough for a single person to lie down, because of her faith. Pregnant prisoners were taken away for abortions, she said. After violent interrogations, prisoners in labor camps continue to face physical and emotional torment. They work 12-hour shifts, receive a few hundred grams of food a day, and are not permitted to bathe themselves.

Another former prisoner shares her experience: “My parents were secret Christians,” she said, “and when we were discovered, we were forcibly moved to a camp and accused of being a rebellious Christian family.

“The fact that our family did not deny our faith was the only reason that we were not allowed to see, speak, or go anywhere. We had to live long years and suffer from the hardest labors.”

PRAYING AND FASTING FOR GOD’S UNSEEN HAND TO MOVE

Open Doors Founder Brother Andrew has seen a lifetime of answered prayers, both in small and large, eternity-altering ways. He reminds us that, “our prayers can go where we cannot … there are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.” 

The thought of 50,000 North Korean believers imprisoned for their faith being freed from the gates of these camps and their inhumane living conditions should drive the world’s 2.2 billion Christians to their knees. We have a biblical responsibility to intercede for these believers and ask God to make it clear to our leaders that the time is now—for such a time as this—to start this unprecedented freedom work for His suffering people.

The picture of an underground church of 300,000 Christians worshiping Christ together and openly reading the Bible should compel us to do all we can—what we are called to do—asking God to remove the scales from the eyes of Kim and his regime like He did 2,000 years ago days after a Kingdom-advancing encounter on a dirt road toward Damascus. We can pray for God’s Kingdom to expand on the northern part of the Korean peninsula like never before in history.

I can’t help but think that these landmark meetings provide historic opportunities to address these decades of abuse and set a course in motion for a new North Korea—and a better tomorrow for God’s people. It also affords us the chance to join God in what He is doing through prayer and fasting.

As the Body of Christ that both suffers and rejoices with our persecuted family (1 Cor. 12:26), our support for Christians in North Korea is critical to the life and growth of the underground church. We can’t afford to neglect these moments.

Oct. 12: Breaking: Pastor Andrew Brunson Free!

A Turkish court has ruled to release Pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson, who has been in Turkish custody since October 2016, will now be able to leave his home—where he’s been under house arrest for several months—and return to the United States. The ruling technically sentenced Brunson to three years in prison, but the lifting of the ban on his travel effectively means he has been freed.

LONG JOURNEY FOR ANDREW BRUNSON

He was accused of aiding in a failed coup attempt against Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, charges he has steadily denied. Reports from earlier this year suggested his health had deteriorated after he spent time in a “nightmare prison” within Turkey.

Andrew Brunson’s imprisonment sparked a diplomatic conflict between the United States and Turkey, with Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump’s Twitter account all calling for Brunson’s release, while Erdoğan insisted on a prisoner exchange.

Yesterday, NBC News reported there was a secret deal to grant the release of Andrew Brunson. The details of that deal remain unclear, but some observers assume Brunson’s release will come with an easing of economic sanctions on Turkey, which has been in the midst of an economic crisis.

A STATEMENT FROM OPEN DOORS

Open Doors USA CEO David Curry said: “Open Doors USA is relieved to hear of Pastor Andrew Brunson’s release from house arrest to freedom. Turkey has done the right thing in allowing him to return to his home country. I applaud President Trump for the unrelenting pressure his administration applied to Turkey on this matter, in part through tariffs and sanctions. The president has rightly recognized that economic leverage can help bring positive change for human rights and can convey a powerful message of solidarity with oppressed religious minorities, especially persecuted Christians. In this case, it worked and was helpful in the release of an American Christian.

“Pastor Andrew Brunson was wrongly imprisoned for his faith and work as a Christian pastor. Turkey’s latest attack on faith, which underscores why the Open Doors World Watch List ranks it as the 31st most dangerous place to be Christian, is a clear message that religious minorities are increasingly imperiled in Turkey.”

WE INVITE YOU TO JOIN US ON A PRAYER WALL OF THANKSGIVING!

Praise God that Pastor Andrew Brunson has been released! Praise God for working in the midst of an incredibly hard and complicated situation.

Continue to lift up Christians in Turkey and elsewhere in the region who are still grappling with false charges and trying to worship and follow Jesus in an increasingly hostile environment.

Oct. 13: Deadline Looms for Leah Sharibu

AS DEADLINE LOOMS FOR LEAH SHARIBU, MOTHER MAKES URGENT PLEA FOR HELP

[Pictured: Rebecca Sharibu and the Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam]

As the deadline set by the captives of Leah Sharibu nears, Open Doors is again calling for fervent and urgent prayer for kidnapped Nigerian teenager Leah Sharibu during this critical time. 

On September 16, Boko Haram released a video of an execution of a kidnapped Red Cross worker and issued an ultimatum to the government, threatening to kill Leah Sharibu an...

Last week, Rebecca Sharibu took desperate steps, traveling to Jos to hold a press conference to bring her urgent plea to a mass audience for the release of her daughter, Leah Sharibu. Seven months ago, Boko Haraman extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria extremists stormed a girls’ finishing school in Dapchi in Yobe state, kidnapping 110 girls. Within a month, all the girls were released through back-channel efforts except Leah—because she refused to renounce her faith in Christ.

“As we are approaching October 15, on Monday, I am pleading with the federal government, and the president, to hear my plea and the plea of Leah’s dad to secure the release of our daughter,” Rebecca said.

In response to allegations that she had been behind a lawsuit against the Nigerian government, Rebecca publicly said she and her husband knew nothing about the lawsuit.

“I am not after money; all I want is my daughter to be released,” she said.

Leah’s father, Nathan, who was not able to travel to Jos due to his work, spoke to media by phone. He also reiterated his wife’s desperate call to the Nigerian government and the international community to secure Leah’s release.

He said that “since the kidnapping of our girl, the family has been very sad,” adding that her 13-year-old brother Donald, “who used to play, and do everything together with her, has been very affected by her absence, and he kept asking: ‘When Leah is going to come back?’

“As a father, I have to encourage him, saying: ‘By God’s grace, Leah can come back home anytime.’” Nathan added that he did not know whether the government and insurgents had been in negotiations.

The press conference was convened by Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, the Regional Secretary of IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students), who is at the heart of peace efforts between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria’s Middle Belt as founder of Citizens Monitoring Group (CMG).

BUHARI RESPONDS

Yesterday, for the first time since Leah’s capture, President Buhari spoke to Rebecca. Recalling his words to her, he tweeted:


Muhammadu Buhari
@MBuhari

Today I spoke with Mrs Rebecca Sharibu, to reiterate our determination to bring her daughter Leah back home safely. The thoughts & prayers of all Nigerians are with the Sharibu family, & the families of all those still in captivity. We will do everything we can to bring them back


It is the Sharibus’ first direct contact with any government official since the kidnapping over seven months ago. In May, Leah’s father accused the government of abandoning the family:

“I have not received any support from the government but from the community and church members. I thank God because they have been encouraging me, lifting me through their prayers, visitation and words of advice,” Nathan Sharibu said on Leah’s 15th birthday. “I have not heard anything from federal, state and local governments since my daughter was abducted. I am even confused now.”

Though our Nigeria team has met with the Sharibus, we have very little news at this time regarding Leah. Open Doors has followed the Sharibus’ story from day one of the Dapchi kidnappings and will continue to keep you updated on any news. 

Father, we lift up Leah and these aid workers to you during this critical time. God, we ask that you would shake earth and heavens to bring 15-year-old Leah and these young women back to their families. God, we pray that you would comfort Leah’s family, Rebecca, Nathan and Donald with your peace. Give them strength to face each day. We pray for the Nigerian government and President Buhari–that they will be convicted to work diligently and do all they can to release all hostages. Pray that the international community will not remain silent on this, but will assist the government to fulfill their responsibilities towards these citizens. In Your Son’s name, we pray and ask for these things… #RememberLeah

Oct. 23: China Shutters 6 More Christian Churches, Tears Down Crosses

CHINA SHUTTERS 6 MORE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES, TEARS DOWN CROSSES

We have multiple news reports confirming that authorities in China have closed at least six “underground” Protestant churches in Guizhou province in Southwest China, for being “illegal religious venues.”

Increasingly, government authorities have pressured unregistered churches in the area and in several Chinese provinces to join the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Officials are also reportedly harassing more than 300 church members, reportedly resulting in some churches losing nearly half their members.

Since the introduction of the revised regulations on religion in February, pressure on Chinese churches has increased.

A few days later in the diocese of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, a cross was torn down from one of the churches. In Henan provice, a cross was taken from the top of a churchin Luoyang, in Henan province. And a week earlier, also in Henan, officials from the United Front that oversees religious activities tore down another church cross in the diocese of Zhumadian. Because “it was too visible.”

Meanwhile, in Hubei, priests were reportedly called to a meeting to be “re-educated” on what an “independent Catholic church” should look like. A local priest, Father Paul, told the Catholic news agency UCAN: “Their [the government] ultimate goal is to eliminate all religion. No religion can be an exception.”

As the Body of Christ, we’re called to pray with our persecuted brothers and sisters. Please pray with us for church leaders and congregants of these six churches–as well as believers throughout China who continue to face increasing pressure from the government. In a crackdown on Christians in growing numbers of provinces, leader Xi Jinping has stoked nationalism and promoted loyalty to the Communist Party in ways not seen in decades.

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