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IRAN: Church Growth in the Pandemic

IRAN: Church Growth in the Pandemic

While COVID-19 has ravaged Iran’s government and economy, a popular Christian satellite channel is reporting an upsurge in Iranian Muslims converting to Christianity.

Mohabat TV has recorded 10 times more salvation decisions online than this time last year, with 3,000 Iranians coming to Christ every month since March.

“We have seen an increase in our online traffic from inside Iran,” said Mike Ansari, director of operations for Mohabat TV. “That’s why we call this the pandemic of hope.”

Ansari said that the Iranian government has increased internet bandwidth in order to keep Iranians at home during the pandemic. Many Iranians are going online to research alternatives to what the government is telling them.

“People in Iran are just not happy with the way their economy is going, the way the government is robbing them of their national resources and exporting Shia Islam to the neighbouring countries. They just don’t trust their government,” Ansari explained.

“Iranians have declared publicly that they don’t want to have an Islamic republic anymore,” Ansari added.

Ansari says that despite the risks, Iranian Christians are out in the streets aiding and ministering to people affected by the pandemic.

“The church in Iran is fighting for its survival,” said Ansari. “We are asking the international community to pray for Iran’s church, which is under severe persecution from its own government.”

Sources: Decision, CBN News

  • Praise God for using the current pandemic, economic downturn and distrust of the authorities to encourage people to seek the truth.
  • Pray for courage and protection for those ministering to people in need and boldly sharing the Gospel.
  • Pray for those who are suffering for their faith in Christ, including those currently imprisoned for their Christian activity.

Post your prayer in the comments below.

SUDAN: Christians See the Light After Years of Oppression

SUDAN: Christians See the Light After Years of Oppression

Sudan has seen genocide, war, and persecution for as long as some can remember, but is finally coming out of the dark. The nation’s new transitional government is making real reforms that allow the Sudanese people to live and worship more freely.

Observers are witnessing something that hasn’t happened in decades, Sudanese Christians worshipping freely without fear of persecution. It’s a relief after years of suffering under Islamic Sharia Law. “Christians had become used to seeing their places of worship destroyed, being arrested and charged with apostasy and blasphemy that were levelled against them because these are in the penal codes,” Dwight Bashir from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said.

Last year President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown and now faces charges of genocide before the International Criminal Court. The new transitional civilian government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, is transitioning Sudan out of the dark. “The worst of the persecution no longer exists. There’s no more attacking of churches,” Bashir says.

He recently travelled to Sudan with two USCIRF commissioners to meet with Hamdok and the delegation agrees it’s clear he’s intent on enacting real reforms. The State Department has downgraded Sudan from a major violator of religious liberty to a watch list, but for Hamdok, change is not coming easy. Just last month he survived an attempt on his life.

“For him to succeed he needs to be protected. His cabinet needs to be protected. He’s brought two Christians into his cabinet which would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago,” Bashir explains. Much work remains, like changes in zoning laws so Christians can build churches, along with other reforms that will allow the people of Sudan to worship more freely as their conscience dictates. However, for the first time in a long time there’s hope against many odds those changes are coming.

Sources: CBN News, Australian Prayer Network

  • Thank the Lord for the answered prayers for Sudan.
  • Pray this new era will bring not only true freedom to worship but also an expansion of God’s kingdom in the nation.
  • Ask the Lord to protect Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his cabinet, and work through them to bring peace and stability to the nation.

Post your prayer in the comments below.

IRAN: Christianity Rapidly Growing

IRAN: Christianity Rapidly Growing

Against all odds, Christianity continues to see massive gains in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Islamic Clerics are warning against the spread of Christianity, house churches are routinely targeted by authorities, and conversion to Christianity is actually viewed as an action against national security in parts of the country.

However, none of those threats are stopping the rapid growth of people converting to followers of Christ. This high rate of conversion is occurring despite the rigorous Islamic indoctrination of the youth in their families and education.

The Islamic government of Iran gives large amounts of money to the support of Islamic organisations that promote Islam among their youth within and beyond Iran’s borders. However, the Iranian youth are becoming increasingly distant from Islam, which is becoming a great concern for the Iranian government.

Just last year, after Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi expressed his concern over the popularity of Christianity in the suburbs of Mashhad, the city’s religious and political officials immediately sent a large number of Islamic teachers and preachers to the suburbs to turn the youth away from Christianity.

A wave of arrests and harassment of Christian converts came shortly after and many faced long term prison sentences and heavy bails for their temporary release.

The Iranian Islamic government also implemented a two-fold plan to stop the spread of Christianity in the country and it has failed on both fronts.

The first included allocations of millions of dollars for Islamic propaganda across the country, and the second agenda included a crackdown campaign that was focused on newly converted Christians, in order to place fear in those who are interested in the Christian religion.

They have also closed down churches, including the Central Assemblies of God (AOG) and Janat Abad church in Tehran and the AOG church in Ahwaz.

Christian converts were also banned from entering official churches and Farsi services were forced to cancel permanently across the country in all churches.

The publication of anything related to Christianity or any material referring to Christianity was also restricted and books about Christianity in the market were confiscated.

Yet, by its own government reports – no matter how hard it tries – it hasn’t been able to stop the spread of Christianity.

Sources: CBN News, Mohabat News

  • Praise God that He is mightily at work in this nation.
  • Thank the Lord for the faithful and courageous believers in Iran who have counted the cost to follow Christ and are fearlessly sharing the Gospel.
  • Ask the Lord to strengthen and protect the church, especially its leaders. Pray for those imprisoned for their faith in Iran.

Post your prayer in the comments below.

Discipleship, the Key for Ministering to North Koreans

Discipleship, the Key for Ministering to North Koreans

The strategies for ministering to North Koreans have had to change in recent times with China and Russia cracking down not only on Christians but foreign missionaries.

In days past, North Korean ministry generally meant a professional minister travelling to North Korea, China, Russia or other places that North Koreans were found, to bring supplies and expert help. Now, interacting with foreigners is dangerous, especially those travelling on business visas.

Instead of supporting foreign missionaries, Voice of the Martyrs works with locals who are already ministering to North Koreans in their area. This raises less suspicion as foreigners will automatically draw attention regardless of their visa status, especially when they interact with North Korean workers, sex-trafficked women, and defectors.

Local Christians are experts at remaining off the radar. They understand how to navigate the country’s systems much better than any foreigner, and as they travel from one place to another, they’re simply another citizen. They not only know where North Koreans are in their area but also how to speak with them without raising suspicion.

Unlike foreign missionaries, local Christians are not licenced ministers with degrees in theology. For the most part, these are just average people who are doing ministry on top of their job. This means that they often need more than just supplies – they need discipleship.

These workers have more than just technical questions; often, they have questions about Christianity, how to put Scripture into practice, and how to respond to questions they’re asked.

Voice of the Martyrs is now working to supply discipleship resources to these local Christians, and all the resources can be found online at a hidden address. The impact has already been seen and felt by these workers and the North Koreans to whom they are ministering.

The more entwined with persecution theology these workers become, the more the faith of the North Koreans follows suit. This becomes important as many of them will return to North Korea – they are mainly workers, smugglers and citizens visiting family.

Although it is dangerous, many of these North Koreans want to return in order to share the Gospel they have learned with others in North Korea. This is dangerous work as the first question any North Korean is asked upon re-entering North Korea is if they have been in a church or seen a Bible.

If you would like to financially support the work of Voice of the Martyrs, please go to: vom.com.au/donate

Voice of the Martyrs Australia is an endorsed deductible gift recipient (DGR) by the Australian government. This means you can claim tax deductions for all donations over $2 to Voice of the Martyrs Australia on your tax return.

EGYPT: More Churches Approved

EGYPT: More Churches Approved

A committee has been working through applications to legalise unlicensed churches in Egypt after a law was passed in 2016 to expedite the process. Last year, over 1,000 churches received official approval.

Fortunately, the process has continued and, as a result, more applications have been granted. On 2 April, another 74 churches were legalised, bringing the total now to 1,568 out of the 3,730 submitted applications.

Until the 2016 legislation, it was nearly impossible for churches to obtain required licensing to build or restore a building, resulting in a large number of unlicensed structures.

Sources: Church in Chains, Watani

  • Praise God for this favourable development.
  • Pray that the committee will be equipped to continue their work of clearing up the backlog, so that churches still awaiting approval will have the needed documentation to continue in ministry.
  • Pray that Christians throughout Egypt find ways to effectively reach out with the Gospel of Christ.

Post your prayer in the comments below.