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MIDDLE EAST: Extremists Threaten Pastor with Knives

MIDDLE EAST: Extremists Threaten Pastor with Knives

A pastor and his family have not left their home for more than 30 days after receiving threats from extremists. The pastor serves in a difficult area of the Middle East and has lived under pressure for many years.

Recently, an extremist group began sending threatening messages to his phone. Some of the messages contained video of the extremists holding large knives and making motions as though they were going to slit his throat.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

His persecutors also appeared at his front door one day with automatic weapons, but the pastor and his family weren’t there. After the attackers left, the family remained at home for a full month to avoid trouble. Local police have not been helpful. A VOM worker who spoke to them said,

“His wife was a bit emotional when I asked her about how she was handling it with the kids, but they seem determined to stay there and love their neighbours.”

Let us pray.

  • Ask the Lord for His shield of protection to surround this family. Pray they will be strengthened in their faith.
  • Pray the plans of those who oppose them and their message may come to nothing. Ask the Lord to remove the hatred from their hearts and pour a new spirit into them.
  • Pray that in spite of the threats, the message of the Gospel will continue to be proclaimed in the area.
ALGERIA: Christian Receives Five-Year Sentence for Sharing Cartoon

ALGERIA: Christian Receives Five-Year Sentence for Sharing Cartoon

When posts are viewed on social media, few people think about the legal consequences of sharing them.

In 2018, Hamid (surname withheld for security reasons) shared a cartoon he had received on Facebook and thought nothing more of it. He was contacted by police about it at the time, but the case was dropped – until officials showed up at his door three years later. By the next day, the 43-year-old poultry farmer had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for allegedly insulting Mohammed.

Sources: Morning Star News, VOM Canada contacts

Hamid is a father of four, with the eldest being six years old. He is a simple labourer who can barely read or write. One of his children is seriously ill and his wife is distraught over his arrest. When Hamid was taken for a hearing on 21 January, he believed the matter would be dropped again and agreed to appear before the judge that afternoon.

However, during the meeting he was quickly convicted and sentenced. His lawyer believes that there is a good chance they can get the sentence reduced on appeal.

Let us pray.

  • Ask the Lord to grant Hamid His strength and protection. Pray he and his family will receive much love, care and support from other believers.
  • Pray that the appeals process will proceed quickly and the case will soon be soon resolved favourably.
  • Remember in prayer the various legal cases presently taking place against Christians in Algeria, including those relating to the country’s mandated church closures. Pray the churches will be a light to the many Algerian’s suffering from the consequences of the pandemic.
CHINA: Prisoner Transferred for “Concentrated Education”

CHINA: Prisoner Transferred for “Concentrated Education”

Pastor Zhang Shaojie had been the leader of the Nanle County Christian Church in Henan.

In July 2014, he was sentenced to twelve years in prison for alleged fraud and disrupting social order. At the time, his family was forced to flee the country, and left for the United States.

Three years later, it was reported that Pastor Zhang was barely alive after suffering various forms of torture, and his daughter expressed concern for his mental and physical health.

Source: ChinaAid

When family members saw him in December 2019, they reported dramatic changes to his personality and that his mental state was failing. The family also raised suspicions about the medication he had been prescribed.

It was recently reported that Pastor Zhang has now been transferred to Zhengzhou City to serve the remaining five years of his sentence.

The first two months in the new prison will be for treatment misleadingly referred to as “concentrated education”.

Following that time, only one visitor per month will be permitted, as long as they have proof of their relationship with him.

Let us pray.

  • Intercede on behalf of Pastor Zhang, specifically for his need for mental, emotional and physical healing.
  • Pray that the treatment he receives in prison will notably improve and that he will receive the medical attention and care he needs.
  • Ask God to provide comfort, strength and hope to Pastor Zhang, and to his family and church. Ask God to hasten his release.
ERITREA: 70 Christians Released From Three Prisons

ERITREA: 70 Christians Released From Three Prisons

On 1 February, 21 female and 43 male prisoners were released from Mai Serwa and Adi Abeito prisons, close to the capital city, Asmara.

The prisoners had been held without charge or trial for periods of between two and twelve years.

On 27 January, six female prisoners who were detained in September 2020 in Dekemhare, south-east of Asmara, were also released. The women were arrested after worshipping in public as they were walking down a street, an event which was caught on camera and circulated via social media.

Sources: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Church in Chains

While the releases have been warmly welcomed, there is also speculation that they mark the latest effort by the Eritrean regime to distract international attention from the country’s active role in the ongoing war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where Eritrean troops have been accused of violence which may amount to crimes against humanity, war crimes and possibly genocide.

The releases also coincide with reports that have emerged consistently since December 2020 of thousands of refugees being forcibly returned to Eritrea from two camps in Tigray, many of whom were allegedly detained. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, approximately 20,000 refugees from Hitsat and Shimelba camps are currently missing. Neither camp is currently accessible; in January 2021 satellite imagery revealed that both had been extensively and deliberately destroyed.

Around 3,000 former residents of Shimelba and Hitsat have reportedly managed to reach Mai Aini, one of the two remaining camps for Eritrean refugees in Tigray.

Citing eyewitnesses he met during a recent visit to Mai Aini, the High Commissioner said many refugees appear to have been “caught in crossfire, abducted and forced to return to Eritrea under duress by Eritrean forces.”

Let us pray.

  • Praise God for the release of these prisoners. Ask the Lord to minister to them and their families as they adjust to life outside of prison.
  • Ask the Lord to grant wisdom and benevolence to the Eritrean authorities. Pray for an end to the violence.
  • Pray the Lord will care for, protect and provide for those who are caught up in the unrest.
Iran: Mary Mohammadi Faces New Arrest

Iran: Mary Mohammadi Faces New Arrest

Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi is a Christian blogger who has openly expressed her concerns over the human rights abuses in Iran.

She was previously imprisoned for being a member of a house church. In April 2020, she received a suspended sentence, plus ten lashes for “disturbing public order”.

On 18 January, Mary was arrested again when the Gasht-e Ershad (an agency which enforces Iran’s Islamic dress code) determined that her hijab was not properly adjusted, her coat was unbuttoned and her pants were too tight. She has faced similar accusations in the past, though

Sources: Article18, International Christian Concern, Middle East Concern

..her primary ‘crime’ has been her faith in Christ.

Prior to the recent arrest, Mary was unable to return to her work as a gymnastics instructor, despite having good relations with her employer. According to Mary, it’s clear that her employer has received pressure from intelligence officials to prevent her from returning to her workplace. She was told by her former boss that they have a young child and, therefore, can’t take the risk of allowing her back at work.

Let us pray.

  • Pray for Mary and the many other believers in Iran who are facing imprisonment, fines and other forms of persecution. Ask God for His protection and provision on their behalf.
  • As Iranian Christians face continued opposition, pray they will receive wisdom to know how to aptly respond to their accusers and boldness to stand firm in their faith.
  • Praise God for the zeal many Iranian believers have in sharing the Gospel.