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EGYPT: 127 Churches Approved

EGYPT: 127 Churches Approved

A committee established by the Egyptian government has approved legalising 127 churches who were previously operating without a permit. This brings the total number of legalised churches by this committee to 1,021.

The committee is a result of a 2016 law which purported to streamline the legalisation process for churches. Egypt has a long history of regulating the building of churches, but many churches were not able to complete this process. Instead, they were built illegally. The 2016 law included the creation of the committee which would reportedly legalise all churches existing before 2016 – an estimated number just reaching over 3,000.

The government has faced heavy criticism for its slow record of retroactively applying legalisation to these existing churches. The 2016 law was supposed to make it easier for new churches to go through the legalisation process. However, President Sisi’s government has a worse record than his predecessors when it comes to approving new church buildings.

Most of the Middle East’s Christians live in Egypt, where they are subject to indiscriminate mob violence, discrimination, and other acts of persecution. The federal government has made several symbolic gestures towards Christians but has not taken steps to ensure that the root causes of persecution are addressed at a local level. The official state religion is Islam, leaving Christians to live as second-class citizens.

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Thank the Lord for the recent progress made. Pray the Egyptian church will be encouraged by this development.
  • Ask the Lord to bless the local church with a renewed boldness and readiness to share the Gospel with those who do not yet know Him.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to be at work in changing hearts and minds towards Jesus, in all levels of society in Egypt.

Post your prayer in the comments below.

CHINA: Pastor Yang Hua Sentenced

CHINA: Pastor Yang Hua Sentenced

After secretly trying Yang Hua for “divulging state secrets,” a judge sentenced the pastor of Living Stone Church on 5 January to two years and six months in prison. Pastor Yang, also known by his legal name, Li Guoshi, has been held since 9 December 2015.

While incarcerated, prosecutors tortured Yang and threatened his family to force a false confession. Yang subsequently requested that the prosecutors be banned from the case and his lawyers sued members of the prosecution. However, the court still allowed the prosecutors to continue with the case. They eventually provided forged evidence that implicated Yang.

Pastor Yang co-founded Living Stone, also known as Huoshi Church, with Pastor Su Tianfu. Chinese officials reportedly forced Pastor Su to “take a trip” in recent weeks. The details of his trip and his current condition are unknown. The church has grown from its original 20 members in 2009 to more than 700 today.

Pastor Yang was originally taken into custody after he tried to prevent officials from confiscating a church hard drive. He received two consecutive, five-day administrative detention sentences for “the crime of obstructing justice” and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.” When his wife, Wang Hongwu, came to pick him up on 20 December 2015, she saw four men put a black hood on his head and throw him into an unmarked van. Wang later learned her husband was being transferred to a criminal detention facility, having been charged with “illegally possessing state secrets” About a month later, Yang was charged with “divulging state secrets,” but given no trial date.

 Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

 Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to give Yang courage during this time of suffering and uncertainly. Pray he will take great strength from the knowledge that the Lord walks with him and his family during this difficult time.
  • Pray for Yang’s church, may they be spurred on by his example and continue to serve the Lord as they live out their faith.
  • Pray the Holy Spirit may use Yang as a witness for the Gospel.
NEPAL: Eight Christians Cleared of Charges

NEPAL: Eight Christians Cleared of Charges

Eight Nepali Christians were cleared of “proselytising” charges on 6 December, bringing a close to their ordeal.

“Praise the Lord!” a VOM contact said. “All eight Christians having court case got clean sheet today. We are thankful to all who continuously prayed and helped in many different ways.”

Police arrested a pastor, two school principals and five school staff members on 9 June, accusing them of evangelism after they distributed children’s books about Jesus at a Christian school. Under Nepal’s new constitution, evangelism is a crime. Please pray for Nepali Christians, who face increasing persecution under the new constitution.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

 Prayer Points

  • Pray that the released believers will not be afraid to resume evangelising the lost with the Good News of Christ.
  • Pray that this answer to prayer will give Nepali Christians great encouragement to remain faithful and to depend on God to do His work regardless of circumstances.
  • Ask God to give Nepalis a deep curiosity about the Gospel they are forbidden to hear and to bring them into contact with believers who will witness to them.
CHINA: Crackdown on House Churches Continues

CHINA: Crackdown on House Churches Continues

Our Chinese family needs your prayers as officials continue to clamp down hard on house churches across their nation.

China Aid reports that dozens of Christians have been detained or arrested across remote, north-western Xinjiang province in the past two months for holding house church gatherings.

Meanwhile, in coastal Zhejiang province, Pastor Zhang Chongzhu has been stripped of his licence and removed from his post in an apparent attempt to stop him ministering in the house church movement.

Pastor Zhang from Pingyang was detained in an illegal detention centre in September for crimes “against national security” after protesting over cross removals and church demolitions in the area. He was released in May.

Sources: China Aid, Release International

 Prayer Points

  • Pray that our Chinese family will stand firm in their faith and seek to deepen their relationship with our Heavenly Father even further.
  • Pray for wisdom for Pastor Zhang as he considers his future. Ask God to provide for him and his family.
  • Continue to pray for the officials behind this current crackdown; pray that they will be struck by the powerful witness of the people they are persecuting – and want to know Jesus for themselves.
Sharing Jesus among the Fulani

Sharing Jesus among the Fulani

Despite being threatened with death and disowned by family members, he was determined to share the Gospel with Fulani Muslims. And David Weeti’s determination hasn’t wavered.

 The day after David Weeti’s cousin burned David’s Bible and kicked him out of the house, 20 young men surrounded the new believer, wrestled him to the ground and tied his hands and feet together with rope. When he had placed his faith in Christ three days earlier, he couldn’t have imagined that what he was about to endure would change so much for so many.

As a member of the West African Fulani people, it was expected that David was and would remain Muslim. He had moved in with his cousin in a large city in Bauchi state, Nigeria, intending to enrol in an Islamic school. However, his path was radically altered by a series of vivid dreams in which he saw heaven and encountered Jesus. Prompted by the dreams, he used the little money he had to purchase a Bible and learn more about Christianity. What he learned led him to abandon his traditional Fulani religion to follow Christ.

Not afraid of death
Moved by the realisation that he had received salvation, he declared himself ready to die for Jesus. He understood that his new faith would cause trouble among the 99% Muslim Fulani people, but he didn’t expect it to come so soon.

The young men who bound David hand and foot feared that he might lead others away from Islam. Therefore, they decided to eliminate the threat.

“I am not afraid to die right now,” David told them when he learned of their intentions. “I am afraid only that you can’t get a chance to get the salvation I have.”

A crowd gathered to watch as one of the men holding David began to cut the side of his head with a knife. Just then, a police van pulled up and everyone scattered, leaving David alone, bound and wounded.

“What is wrong?” the officer asked.

“I am a Christian,” David replied. “I just found out I am forgiven. I did not insult anybody, but they want to kill me.”

“I am happy you have found salvation,” the officer responded. “I am the only Christian police officer in this vehicle. Let me untie you, then find a way to leave this town.”

Since that moment, David has dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel among Fulani Muslims and serving his persecuted brothers and sisters.

Reaching a nomadic culture
David immediately began to use his Fulani background to witness to Muslims, leading many to Christ. As the first in his fellowship of Christian Fulani to experience persecution, he feels called to share the Gospel with his Muslim neighbours one at a time.

He has spent years translating Bibles into Fulfulde for the Fulani, and he regularly works to build relationships with his sometimes distrustful neighbours. The Fulani are semi-nomadic herdsmen and farmers who live in temporary settlements and are very protective of their cattle.

Although the Fulani are devout Muslims, they sometimes engage in fortune-telling and various animistic practices. They also brutally attack Christians for various reasons. Often, it’s because they perceive Christians as infidels, but sometimes it’s simply because they want the Christians’ land for their cattle. In addition, when a cow gets injured, they commonly blame someone outside their tribe.

More than a year ago, David partnered with VOM to help provide practical and spiritual assistance to new Fulani believers facing persecution. The Gospel has since spread quickly among the Fulani, due in part to his ministry activities. More than 800 people, including 400 from David’s clan, have accepted Christ, joining the very small minority of Fulani Christian converts in Nigeria.

A bold church
Once Fulani people come to know Christ, they’re often completely dedicated to living — and even dying — for Him. They understand and expect persecution. With David’s guidance, they learn how, as Christians, they should respond.

“They believe they have to face these things and believe they want to have a better home after they leave this body,” David said. “They’re always praising God in that and always trying to be happy. If you go to the fellowship, the main lesson they are teaching their children is, ‘You have to try always to love those who hate you.’ They want to live a life that those people can ask them questions; they want to live in a community where they can be close to those people.”

Standing with them
David is one of two VOM partners serving the Fulani people. Within his fellowship network, VOM has helped distribute everything from mobile phones and methods of transportation to clothing and blankets to fertiliser and cows. In addition, VOM will distribute more than 3,000 audio Bibles among the largely illiterate Fulani this year, with plans to distribute more in the coming years.

“The more they are getting persecuted, the more they are getting stronger,” David said. “In fact, when they saw the support they got from Voice of the Martyrs, it encouraged their faith more than anything knowing that other people are praying for them. They didn’t even know that. It really, really encouraged them.”