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RUSSIA: Place of Worship Shut Down

RUSSIA: Place of Worship Shut Down

Legislation governing religious communities in Russia is complex, contradictory, and often inconsistently applied. In one recent case, a church community was barred from using its place of worship, even though it has done so for two decades.

The Verkhnebakansky Baptist Church in Novorossiysk has been worshipping in a two-story building in a residential area for years. There were no problems until the spring of 2018 when a change of government administration brought new attitudes toward religious communities. One church in the city has been demolished and another banned from using its building. The door of the Verkhnebakansky church building was sealed in early July.

Authorities claim that churches are using residential buildings in ways they were not intended, even though a 1997 law permits religious worship on residential premises. The officials also claim that the buildings do not always meet necessary safety and planning regulations. This problem is further compounded as the construction of buildings designated for worship are being denied and the efforts of those affected by this opposition are refused. Despite the attempts of the Baptist church leaders to prove the building meets all regulations, they have only been met with roadblocks.

The church’s leadership has appealed the decision and intend to continue presenting this case to the courts, as far as necessary. According to one of the leaders, Yevgeny Kokora, they are prepared to take this matter to the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary.

Source: Forum 18

  • Pray for wisdom and direction for this church and others that are attempting to navigate through the maze of Russia’s most recently imposed legal regulations.
  • Pray for Christians to be able to freely meet for worship throughout Russia without any governmental hindrance or opposition.
  • Ask the Lord to work in the hearts and minds of the authorities. Pray that many will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel for themselves and find salvation in Christ.

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PHILIPPINES: Pastor Killed Amid Surge in Violent Attacks

PHILIPPINES: Pastor Killed Amid Surge in Violent Attacks

The murder of a pastor in Mindanao has fuelled fears that Christians are becoming political targets – in what bishops describe as “one of the most trying times in our history”.

Pastor Ernesto Estrella, who led the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Antipas, was shot dead by two men on motorbikes near Magsaysay. Police are investigating whether his death was linked to his alleged ties with left-wing groups.

The Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) says violent attacks on Christians speaking up for human rights have “increased alarmingly” since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016. It has also condemned the administration’s “oppressive policies”. Police have accused several church leaders of libel and sedition – following allegations of government links with the illegal drugs trade.

Meanwhile, in Manolo Fortich, soldiers have reportedly visited the home of Christian development worker and rights advocate Kristin Lim twice this month and ‘invited’ her to come in for questioning. As they had no legal warrant, she declined.

The church is also concerned that persecution may increase for the Christian minority living in the Muslim-majority Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BARMM), which was established in January with its own Islamic sub-government. BARMM leaders have given assurances that minority religious rights will be protected.

Source: Release International

  • Pray for Pastor Ernesto’s family and friends, and for Kristin Lim, that they will know God’s peace, comfort and protection.
  • Pray that the government in the Philippines will begin to see the church as a force for social good.
  • Ask God to strengthen His church in the Philippines, and especially in Mindanao. Pray that His people will be a powerful witness to His great love.

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INDIA: Government to Introduce Anti-Conversion Bill to Parliament

INDIA: Government to Introduce Anti-Conversion Bill to Parliament

The BJP-led government is preparing to introduce a nationwide anti-conversion bill in the next session of parliament.

Many religious minorities in India, including Christians, fear the enactment of such a law because of the widespread abuse of similar state-level anti-conversion laws.

The government has already started drafting a bill that will prevent any kind of religious conversion. This comes shortly after the BJP-led government passed a controversial bill that stripped Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, of its statehood and special autonomous status.

Radical Hindu nationalists often use the spectre of mass religious conversions to pass laws and regulations that limit religious freedom. Indian Christians are falsely accused of conspiracies where poor Hindus are fraudulently converted to Christianity.

However, according to India’s own population data, the conspiracy of mass conversions to Christianity does not hold up. In 1951, the first census after independence, Christians made up only 2.3% of India’s overall population. According to the 2011 census, the most recent census data available, Christians still only make up 2.3% of the population.

In states where anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttrakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists falsely accuse Christian leaders and evangelists of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook this harassment due to the false accusation of forced conversions.

To date, no individual has been convicted of forced conversions in India. This is in spite of the fact that some of the state-level anti-conversion laws have been on the books since 1967. 

Sources: International Christian Concern, Zee News

  • Ask the Lord to embolden Indian believers so that they may not be fearful of the government’s opposition but may be determined to love and follow Him.
  • Pray these believers will rest in the knowledge that the Lord is with them and that He oversees all things including the country’s leaders.
  • Pray this current threat will serve to grow the church in faithfulness and in number.

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ALGERIA: Another Officially Mandated Church Closure

ALGERIA: Another Officially Mandated Church Closure

On 6 August, a church in Bouidjima was officially closed by the National Gendarmerie for failing to have a permit. A government mandate, requiring permits for all churches, was issued in 2006. Yet, even though applications have been properly submitted, the requested permits were not issued. One Algerian church leader refers to the officials’ implementation of such authorisation as only a pretext, further surmising that “their goal is to end the church in Algeria”.

The church’s pastor, Messaoud Takilt, received notification of the closure only three days prior, giving the members limited time to vacate the building. On the closing day, they gathered for worship. When police arrived, the pastor convinced the officers to leave until after the completion of the service, at which time the building was officially sealed.

 Sources: VOM Canada, Liberté, Votre News

  • Uphold the leaders and members of this congregation and those of other Algerian churches facing similar uncertainty.
  • Ask God to imbue these Christians with strength and wisdom so they can continue reaching out with His love and grace.
  • Pray the church will continue to grow in spite of the opposition.

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NIGERIA: Leah Sharibu’s Mother Sends Message to President Buhari

NIGERIA: Leah Sharibu’s Mother Sends Message to President Buhari

Rebecca Sharibu, the mother of Leah Sharibu has pleaded with the federal government to intensify efforts towards her daughter’s release from Boko Haram captivity.

Rebecca who made the call last Wednesday in an interview said, “I still plead with the federal government, organisations and individuals to intensify efforts for the release of my daughter, Leah, who has been in the hands of insurgents for one year and five months.”

Leah was one of 110 schoolgirls abducted from a school in Dapchi in February 2018.  While five of the girls died in captivity, the others were released the following month, except for Leah, who was kept back after refusing to convert to Islam.

Also speaking, Aisha Kachalla, Leah’s friend, who was also abducted by the terrorists but was released, said she was worried about the whereabouts of Leah, who has been detained by the terrorists.

“I often cry when I remember my friend Leah. I don’t know where she is.

“I don’t believe she is dead because there is no proof of her death. Her corpse has not appeared in any television station or newspaper.” Kachalla said.

Reports of Leah’s death have been circulating in recent weeks. Grace Taku, an aid worker abducted by Boko Haram terrorists claimed that Leah Sharibu has been killed.

The claim of Leah’s death has not been substantiated and the government has not reacted to the news.

Rebecca Sharibu, had expressed hope that her daughter will return alive.

She has said, “No matter how long it takes, my hope is still alive that my daughter will come back alive from Boko Haram. I still look forward to that day and I am confident that she will return.”

Sources: Daily Post, Sahara Reporters, News Agency of Nigeria, Christian Today

  • Ask the Lord to comfort Rebecca and all of Leah’s loved ones as they continue to wait for news of her.
  • Pray for the perpetrators. Ask the Lord to bring great conviction and repentance.
  • Pray for all captives of Boko Haram; that the Lord would intervene, ensure their release and restore them to their families. Ask God to bring good from their great suffering.

Post your prayer in the comments below.