After more than 30 years of Islamist rule, Sudan has passed a series of legal reforms. Two major changes involved the abolishment of public flogging and the repeal of apostasy laws for those leaving Islam. Other regulations relate to the consumption of alcohol, female mutilation, and the opportunity for women to travel with their children without having to obtain permission from their husbands.
“We will drop all the laws violating human rights in Sudan,” claims Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari, signalling that other changes may yet be coming. He further states that these changes are a way of safeguarding the rights of non-Muslims, who make up approximately three percent of the population. These changes reflect significant steps forward in the continuation of reforms announced this past April.
Sources: Release International, BBC, Mission Network News, Barnabas Fund
- Praise God for these encouraging changes to Sudan’s legal system.
- Pray that these reforms will truly be a major step towards freedom of religion for all citizens.
- Pray for Christians who still encounter opposition from their leaders and neighbours. May these believers be encouraged by the fact that though positive reforms are a ‘work in progress,’ they will eventually achieve greater freedom and enhanced unity.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
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.
A new strategy has raised the level of fear among the church in China. Anyone renting to a house church can be punished with a steep fine – up to $45,000. The measure, supported with much publicity, has left many churches homeless.
A Christian from an impoverished household in Luanchuan County used to host small religious gatherings throughout the year. When she saw banners displayed throughout the city threatening to impose huge fines, she stopped, fearing that she would be unable to find the money for the penalty.
In another case, the police and local officials have been harassing the landlady of a house church meeting venue in Jinshui district of Henan’s Zhengzhou city since last year. Her property was used by a church which has more than 100 congregation members.
The authorities demanded she stop allowing the Christians to use her property. At first the woman refused to obey, so in April, officials told her that “religious issues are political” and threatened to fine her if she continued renting the venue to believers. The landlady said that officials would call her practically every day to put pressure on her, they even threatened to arrest her. The woman was told that even after she ousts the believers from her property, she will still have to report to authorities when she rents out the building again. Pressured and intimidated, the landlady had no choice but to obey, and the house church ceased gathering in April.
“We have the largest number of house churches in Henan. The government is implementing such severe measures in its crackdown to eradicate house churches completely,” a member of a house church commented.
Similar situations have occurred in various regions. Sometimes, the police don’t even need to appear in person to shut down a church: a threatening phone call is sufficient to make the landlord fear repercussions.
For house churches that generally rent their venues, the suppression tactic to threaten landlords with hefty fines is detrimental – they are left with no place to congregate.
Source: Bitter Winter
- Thank the Lord that nothing can come against the work of His Holy Spirit in building His church.
- Pray the believers will be granted other opportunities to meet. Pray they will continue to be faithful in encouraging one another.
- Pray the witness of the Christians in China may be used by the Lord to encourage many in authority to examine the Scriptures for themselves.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
A Three-Self Church preacher in the Demonstration Zone of Shangqiu city, in China’s central Henan Province, was disappointed when the sermon that he had sent to the local authorities for approval was denied. The reply, which he received on 15 March, stated that the content of the sermon was substandard: too much religion and not enough communist ideology.
Two major concerns were indicated: the statement that “God made heaven and earth, and created everything”, and that the quotes from the Bible were given without any Chinese interpretations or the inclusion of any traditional Chinese culture aspects.
The censorship of sermons is a common occurrence in today’s China. The clergy of the government-approved churches are required to submit for authorities’ review everything they plan to say to their congregations.
A colleague of the censored preacher said that the government wants all sermons to be in accord with the Party ideology and its current policies; they should always praise the goodness of leaders and beauty of China’s nature. Sermons should include topics like the evolution or the Communist Party’s faultless leadership and kindness as the reason for the good life of China’s citizens.
“We’re in a very difficult position now,” the preacher said helplessly. “By making us write these sinicised sermons, isn’t the Chinese Communist Party forcing us to tell lies and go against the Lord’s words?”
A massive new wave of persecution of Christians has been taking place in China since China’s president, Xi Jinping, introduced a five-year plan to sinicise all the nation’s religions by infusing them with ‘Chinese characteristics’ such as loyalty to the Communist Party.
About 100 million Christians live in China, but only 30 million are affiliated with the government-authorised Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the state church controlled by the communist government. The remaining 70 million worship in unapproved house churches.
Sources: Bitter Winter, The Voice of the Martyrs USA
- Pray the Lord will grant great wisdom to the leaders of official churches in China, especially when they must deal with the authorities.
- Pray they will remain faithful and be resolved to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).
- Thank God for the faithfulness of Chinese Christians and the continued church growth.
Post your prayer for China in the comments below.
Churches, priests and Christian missionaries working in Wa, a mountainous region in the eastern state of Shan, are victims of the repression of Myanmar’s largest rebel army, the United Wa State Army (UWSA). It is the armed wing of the United Wa State Party (UWSP), the state’s China-aligned political wing.
On September 9 more than 200 Christian pastors, deacons and elders were arrested, along with 41 Bible students.
Our contact in Myanmar recently visited the state and reports the following:
More than 60 Churches in the WA State have been closed. Three Churches have been burnt down and several pastor’s houses have been destroyed by JCB (machinery).
Bibles from churches and Christian houses were confiscated and burned. The rule now is, that if the WA government sees a person in possession of a Bible he/she will be arrested and imprisoned for at least three years.
The 41 Bible Students that were arrested in September were forced to join the Wa army. No one knows exactly where they are.
The 200 plus Christians, who were arrested and imprisoned, were forced to sign a declaration, in front of the WA government and under threat of death, for their release.
The declaration included:
- I no longer believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour
- I will not preach about Christ
- I will not lead a church
- I will not worship in a church building or in a house church.
- If I do preach, worship and believe in Jesus, I will be fined, and sentenced to five years in prison.
More than 200 signed the declaration and were released. Nine pastors did not sign, saying they will never sign a declaration stating that they will no longer believe in Jesus. They are still in prison.
Sources Asia Times, Voice of the Martyrs
- Please pray that the nine pastors will be released, without having to deny their faith.
- Pray for the pastors’ families and churches
- Please pray that all closed churches will be again be open and that rebuilding of the destroyed churches and houses can begin.
- Pray for religious freedom in WA State.