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My last several attempts to post updates to the previous discussion (Persecuted Church - WWL 2016) have all failed and I suspect it's because I've hit some sort of limit on the number of posts that you can  have in a discussion.  So I'm adding this one to finish the year out.  Next year I'll try to divide things up a bit differently.

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November 6-9: Refugees

 

Father, thank you for the citizenship you give to all of your people in heaven.  We acknowledge, Lord, that we are as much strangers and aliens here on earth as the ones we call "refugees" are in their new lands.  We seek your intervention for these refugees today.

Please hear the cries and see the economic and medical needs of the Libyans fleeing to Europe.  Raise up your church to reach out to them with help and hope.

Watch over a refugee in North Africa who was forced out of her country for unknown reasons.  Comfort her, fill her with your peace, and give her wisdom with regard to where to go and how to live.

Draw near to the 50,000 Christians who have been displaced by Islamic militants in the North Kivu province of Democratic Republic of Congo.  Lead them to new homes and new lives. Keep their faith in you strong and use their lives as a testimony to those around them who do not know you.

Please fill the lives of Christian migrant workers in Qatar with your love and grace, and with forgiveness toward those who abuse them. Bring conviction to those who are treating them unfairly and draw their hearts to you.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

Thanks for your vigilance, Andrew! 

WWL #36: Tanzania

Father, please protect Tanzania from incursion by the militant movements in Kenya and Somalia. Thwart the enemy's attempts through radical Islam to hold back the gospel in Tanzania.  Dissolve the Uamsho group by changing the hearts of their leaders and bringing them to yourself.

Give grace and courage to your people who suffer persecution of various forms in Tanzania.  May their love and grace be a testimony for you in the eyes of those who persecute them.  Please also strengthen the faith of Christians in areas dominated by radical Islam who are not allowed to own Bibles.  Find a way for your word to make it into their hearts.

Please give wisdom to President Magufuli and others in government and move their hearts in the direction of supporting human rights and freedom of religion. Hold back those who would impose Sharia law in the country. 

Grow your church in spite of persecution in Tanzania, Lord.  Strengthen their faith and bring to them perseverance and maturity. Cause them to lean on you in prayer, and fill them with your peace.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

November 10-14: Discipleship

Father, please raise your hand to protect Christian schools and bookstores in Egypt.  Bring to justice those who are burning these places that proclaim your name. Thwart these efforts of the enemy to squelch the spread of your word through these violent means.

Thank you for the distribution of children's Bibles in Ethiopia. Please speak to the children through your word in ways that they can understand and respond to. Guide their hearts as they read and draw them to yourself.

Please grow the Christian children in Uzbekistan in their faith, even though they cannot legally be taught about Christianity. Give parents wisdom to know how to share their faith and their walks with you with their families.

Please guard the Healing and Recovery conference happening this month in Turkey. Protect the conference from all evil; clear the path for everyone to attend whom you are calling to be there; give words of wisdom and compassion to the speakers.  Make this conference a time of restoration and renewal for those who attend.

Please guide the paths of younger believers in Indonesia, who are torn between education and Christianity.  Grow and bless their faith, and hasten the day when they will not have to make this choice.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

November 3: Militants Occupy Somali Towns as Ethiopia Withdraws Troops

[from the Open Doors website]

BBC reports that Ethiopia, a major contributor of soldiers to the African Union’s mission in Somalia, has withdrawn troops from a number of towns. Ethiopia pointed to a lack of funding after the EU reduced funds by 20% as the reason for the removal. The withdrawal of troops from several other bases left them open for al-Shabaab militants to move in. As a result, residents fled from the bases in fear of Al Shabaab’s expected arrival.

Meanwhile, it is reported that on Oct. 26, Pro-Islamic-State militants seized Qandala, a large town in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland without any opposition. Voice of America (VOA) reports that government officials fled before about 60 militants walked into the town and hoisted their black and white flag. The New York Times (NYT) describes how residents stood back staring, with a mix of awe and fear. “I’m scared that these men will kill everyone—civilians, soldiers, officials,” Jama Mohamed Khuurshe, the town’s commissioner, said at a news conference.

Islamic State has been trying to make inroads into Somalia for some time now, working to pry influence from al Qaida-linked al Shabaab, which has been terrorizing Somalia for years in a campaign to introduce Sharia law. “Analysts worry that an intensifying rivalry between al Shabaab and the Islamic State would add a new dimension to Somalia’s violence. Half a dozen armies, including a contingent of American Special Forces, are already operating inside Somalia. With Somalia’s fledgling central government still weak and clearly despised, most analysts predict that Somalia will continue to spawn militant groups for years,” explained the NYT.

These new developments bode ill for the few hundred underground Christians remaining in the country. Although being a Christian is dangerous enough in government-controlled areas, our brothers and sisters expect greater brutality from the militants, as is illustrated by the insurgents’ killing of 12 people in a hotel in neighboring Kenya and their subsequent bragging about eliminating infidel Christians. Thank the Lord for the efforts of the African Union and its allies to bring peace in Somalia, and join us in prayer for believers caught between the oppressive government and violent militant groups.

Father, merciful and just, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Somalia and in the neighboring border towns of Kenya where suffering is so great. Gather them in Your arms of comfort. Grow them in the knowledge of Your Word and the experience of Your faithfulness that they might face the suffering of each new day with the courage and steadfastness Your Holy Spirit provides. In their isolation, encourage them with our prayers and with the sure knowledge of Your presence with them. In the midst of suffering and persecution, expand Your Kingdom, turning many to Yourself in saving faith. In the name of Jesus, our sure hope in this life and in the glory set before us, Amen.

November 15-18: Churches

Father, please look with your favor on the congregation in Sudan whose church building was recently destroyed by the government.  Protect these believers from despair and bitterness.  Fill them instead with your peace, with hope, with joy in the midst of persecution, and with forgiveness for those who have wronged them. Call to account those who are standing against your Church; change their hearts and their ways.

Lord God, thank you for the relative freedom for the Gospel in Chad. Please continue to protect this country from influences like Islamic extremism and dictatorial paranoia that place nearly all the surrounding countries on the World Watch List. May your word grow and flourish in Chad. Bless this country both spiritually and materially, so that surrounding countries may know that you are God. Make of Chad a sending base for missionaries to neighboring countries, so that your word may spread and your kingdom advance in these lands.

Protect churches in Egypt from the attacks of the evil one. Restore what has been lost to those churches whose Bibles have been burned and whose benches and musical instruments have been destroyed.  Rein in this violence. May the forgiveness and grace of your people draw the hearts of the destroyers to you.

Please comfort the families of those who have been killed in Adamawa State in Nigeria.  Protect this community from further violence. Raise up your church as a beacon of hope and light in this dark area.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

WWL #36: Tanzania

Father, please protect Tanzania from incursion by the militant movements in Kenya and Somalia. Thwart the enemy's attempts through radical Islam to hold back the gospel in Tanzania.  Dissolve the Uamsho group by changing the hearts of their leaders and bringing them to yourself.

Give grace and courage to your people who suffer persecution of various forms in Tanzania.  May their love and grace be a testimony for you in the eyes of those who persecute them.  Please also strengthen the faith of Christians in areas dominated by radical Islam who are not allowed to own Bibles.  Find a way for your word to make it into their hearts.

Please give wisdom to President Magufuli and others in government and move their hearts in the direction of supporting human rights and freedom of religion. Hold back those who would impose Sharia law in the country. 

Grow your church in spite of persecution in Tanzania, Lord.  Strengthen their faith and bring to them perseverance and maturity. Cause them to lean on you in prayer, and fill them with your peace.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

November 10: Another Chibok Schoolgirl Has Escaped

Another ray of hope in the Chibok Schoolgirl narrative occurred on Saturday, Nov. 5. Nigerian government spokesman Sani Usman told media that Maryam Ali Maiyanga was discovered in Pulka, northern Borno state. Soldiers screening escapees from Boko Haram's base in the Sambisa forest on Saturday morning identified Maryam as one of the lost Chibok schoolgirls. She was carrying a 10-month-old baby boy she named Ali when the soldiers found her. "She has been taken to the unit's medical facility for proper medical checkup," said Usman.

Bring Back Our Girls, a worldwide organization that began in California, stated that Maryam comes from Askira Uba and was number 198 on its register of the kidnapped girls. She was abducted along with her twin sister, who has not yet been returned. Praise the Lord for Maryam's escape! Pray that the other kidnapped girls will be found or released soon. Pray for His sustaining grace to those who remain in captivity. Pray that Maryam and the other released girls will experience much grace, healing, and peace as they go through physical and emotional care after their traumatic experiences in captivity

Source: BBC, Al Jazeera, Reuters, DW

Father of mercy, we give You praise and great thanksgiving for the return of one more of the Chibok schoolgirls. Thank you for preserving her life and her faith. May Your hand of grace and healing be on Maryam and the others who have been released as they recover physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Comfort them and their families and grant them Your peace. Let this child of hers be a reminder not of the trauma she encountered, but of Your grace in returning her to safety. And our hearts continue to cry out to You on behalf of the others who were abducted. Sustain them, Father, in the midst of painful hardship and waning hope. Be ever present with them and return them soon to their families. In the name of Jesus, who hears the cries of their hearts, Amen.

November 19-21: Churches

Father, please protect a house church in China that is being threatened by local authorities.  Bless this church's ministry to children with fruitfulness in their hearts and lives.

Please bring healing, hope, and peace to members of the Vietnamese church who have been beaten for their faith.  May their suffering bring both perseverance and maturity for them and lead to repentance on the part of those who persecute them.

And Lord, please raise your hand against the tide of Islamic extremism in Djibouti. Break down the groups promoting violence and terror. Change the hearts of those who hate you and hate your people. Show yourself powerful on behalf of your church in Djibouti, so that your power and grace may be known among non-believers there.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

November 11: Media Roundup in Central Asia

Persecution has escalated and intensified over the past month in some areas of Central Asia. Police raids on houses of believers have become more frequent. This week, 15 homes of believers in one town alone were singled out for police raids. All of the targeted believers are members of a secret church.

In these homes, police found Bibles; CDs with Christian films, cartoons and sermons; computers and hard disks which could contain sensitive information about a Christian media project; and equipment used to make and copy CDs. Everything was confiscated by police and is being examined now. Some of the CDs and literature were found in the home of a believer who has been working with a media project and is currently in another country with his family. Upon their return, he will be called in for police questioning.

It is not clear what the accusations will be after the police investigation and what kind of consequences the believers may encounter. One thing is clear, though; the events have already badly hurt critical Christian media projects in the region. Please, pray for safety of our brothers and sisters, and for God to soften the hearts of authorities and security service towards Christian believers in the country. Pray for the successful continuation of ongoing Christian media projects in that Central Asian country.

Thank You, Father, for the faithfulness of Christians in Central Asia in their efforts to proclaim the gospel of Christ through various media projects. We pray today regarding the confiscation of equipment, Bibles and other resources in recent home raids. May Your sovereign hand guard the work and Your faithful laborers who boldly broadcast the good news of Christ’s redeeming love and the power of the Holy Spirit to draw those who oppose You into the light of truth. While the purpose of the authorities may be to thwart the message of the gospel, we call confidently on Your Holy Spirit to use even these circumstances to cause the gospel to be spread across the land in great power and might. In the name of Jesus at whose name one day every knee shall bow and tongue confess that that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen

November 12: Aleppo Churches Open Doors to Displaced Muslim Families

[from the Open Doors website]

Life hasn’t been easy for 28-year-old Syrian mother Kristina, a Christian of Armenian descent, who has lived with her husband in Aleppo since long before the civil war started in 2011. It was in that besieged city that Kristina gave birth to her firstborn daughter 18 months ago. She brought her little girl to the house where a World Watch Monitor contact met her for an interview. While her mother talks, the toddler explores the room. “Please close the door, I’d like to keep an eye on her,” Kristina asks, not letting her child out of her sight.

With the pain still visible in her eyes, Kristina recalls her first days of being a mother in the spring of 2015—the war raging outside; electricity, gas and water cut off most of the time, and her family unable to visit and help her. “The first two weeks after my daughter was born were the hardest in my life,” Kristina says. “It was so cold that we put our mattresses on the living room floor, the warmest room in the house. There we lived for two weeks—on the floor, wrapped in blankets.” As soon as it was safe, Kristina, her husband and their baby daughter traveled to safety in neighboring Lebanon. At first it was intended to be a short trip, but when the violence increased and the Christian part of Aleppo was being bombed, the young family decided to wait for the end of the war before returning to Syria. “I can’t let my baby girl grow up amidst all those dangers,” Kristina says.

With the violence continuing and worsening, gradually more Christians have left Aleppo. Kristina hears from friends that in her church, only 10 per cent of the regular church members are left. “But you know what’s surprising? The church is still full; displaced people take their place—especially Muslims are coming to the church now,” she says. In Syria, the Christian children’s activities draw the most attention, Kristina says. The fighting is heaviest in Muslim areas and many Syrians from Aleppo have fled to the Christian areas to seek refuge. For many Muslims, it is the first time they have mixed with Christians.

“Many Muslims were genuinely surprised when they met Christian women in our churches willing to serve them. Their image was that all Christian women spend most of their days dancing in nightclubs and drinking alcohol! Meeting each other was a shock, both for them and for us,” says Kristina. Kristina also says the Muslim women were surprised to see that churches offered support and programs for all Syrians, not just for Christians. “Their mosques don’t do that,” Kristina says. “Many are re-thinking the faith they grew up in and have dropped their hostility towards Christians.” A growing number of Muslim children have been attending the children’s activities, where the Bible is opened daily. “The mothers are okay with that,” says Kristina. “They see it as positive if their children learn about God. It’s the husbands who are stricter, usually.”

Gradually, the mothers and, in some cases, whole Muslim families have found their way to the church activities, including the services. “That absolutely did not happen before the war,” Kristina says. “Still the Muslims are afraid – especially when entering and leaving the building—but they are there. The children have opened the church’s doors, then the women followed, and finally the men.” Kristina says Muslim women “feel liberated when they notice the church doesn’t see them as merely machines only fit for cleaning, giving birth to children, and raising them, like many Muslim men do. In Islam, many women don’t have any rights. When they feel how Christians really care for them, it feels like heaven for those women. They see it’s possible to live as independent women, to dream,” Kristina says. Despite the war, Kristina speaks of a “golden age” for the Church in the Middle East. “For the first time in history, Muslims are coming to us. The only thing we have to do is tell them the good news; they are waiting for it,” she says. “They realize that, when living in a Christian environment, the [Christian message] will be shared. They may even see it as a sign of weakness if it isn’t.”

We give You glory, our gracious Father, as we stand in awe of the way You are drawing many Muslims into the redeeming light of Christ. We grieve over the fighting taking place in Aleppo and pray for an end soon to the conflict between rebel and government forces, conflict that is claiming the lives of many Muslim and Christian civilians alike, who only want to live their lives in peace. Yet, for now we are amazed as we see the ways You are using even these tragic circumstances to give Christians an opportunity, in the overflow of Your extravagant grace, to extend sincere compassion toward Muslims who have sought refuge in their midst. May the seed of the gospel planted in these precious lives grow into saving faith as Your Holy Spirit breathes into them the breath life. In the name of Jesus, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” through whom we come boldly into Your presence. Amen.

November 22: New Camp for Political Prisoners Discovered in North Korea

[from the Open Doors website] 

The Human Rights in North Korea Committee reports the discovery of a new kwan-li-so, the name North Korea uses for political labor camps from which there is no escape. The official name of the camp is unknown, so the researchers call it Ch'oma-Bong, after the name of a nearby village. Though the camp was initially built over a decade ago and has recently been expanded, it is still one of the smaller camps. As far as North Korean camps go, it appears to be fairly well maintained. There is no way to determine the prisoner population, but the recent construction of over 54 new housing units suggests significant growth. Detainees, and possibly civilians, work mainly in agriculture and mining around the camp. It's likely that prisoners are required to do the majority of the dangerous work in the mines.

 

Ch’oma-Bong is located only 45 miles northeast of the capital Pyongyang. A portion of the camp’s security fence is shared with infamous Camp 14. Two high security compounds have been built, which suggests that “high value” prisoners are being kept there. There are no roads leading up to the security guard posts, which indicate that they patrol largely by foot. The camp is connected to a railway station located just over a mile away.

 

North Korea has led the World Watch List for 14 consecutive years now. According to 2016 WWL information,

 

Kim Jong-un has continued to consolidate his power, and no changes or improvements have been seen over the past year. Ideology again trumped everything as could be seen in the celebration of the ruling Korean Workers Party’s 70th anniversary in October 2015. North Korea remains an opaque state and it is difficult to make sense of most of the news pouring out of the country. This is even truer when it comes to topics like human rights or the situation of the Christian minority. Christianity is not only seen as “opium for the people,” as is normal for all communist states, it is also seen as deeply Western and despicable. Christians try to hide their faith as far as possible to avoid arrest and being sent to labor camps with horrific conditions. Thus, one’s Christian faith usually remains a well-protected secret, and most parents refrain from introducing their children to the Christian faith in order to make sure that nothing slips their tongue when they are asked.”

 

Though the Committee did not specify that Christians are among those in the detainment camp, manybrothers and sisters in Christ in North Korea are imprisoned in kwan-li-so facilities like this one. Please pray for the people held here. God knows those who are His children.

 

Our Heavenly Father, who upholds the cause of the oppressed and sets the prisoners free, we pray for our fellow Christians in North Korea, imprisoned for their faith in Christ. Sustain them, Lord. Be their strength and joy in this earthly suffering. Encourage them with Your Word and Presence when their faith wanes, when loneliness sets in and when intense suffering is inflicted on them. Give them opportunity to share their faith boldly but wisely with other prisoners. May Christ be evident in their lives, not only to the prisoners, but also to the guards, and may You use their stalwart faith to draw many to Yourself. Turn their eyes from this earthly suffering to the glory set before them. In the name of Jesus, who has set us free from bondage to life, that we might be called His brothers. Amen.

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