Zafar Bhatti has been in prison since 2012 after being charged with sending blasphemous text messages. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017.
Diagnosed with diabetes, the 56-year-old Christian had two minor heart attacks in 2019 and suffers from eyesight problems. It was recently reported that he had another heart attack on 3 September. He received swift medical attention in prison to stabilise his condition but there are ongoing concerns for Zafar’s physical and mental health. His lawyers called on the Lahore High Court (Rawalpindi Bench) to grant immediate bail on medical grounds and allow him access to medical treatment outside of jail.
Due to threats from fellow inmates, Zafar is presently being held under tight security. His appeal hearings have been adjourned repeatedly, causing great distress to him and his wife Nawab. An appeal was due to be held on 7 September but was postponed for three days.
Following a brief hearing at Lahore High Court on 10 September, the Rawalpindi Bench instructed the local police superintendent to commission a medical report on Zafar. His lawyer from Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) later met the superintendent and was allowed to visit Zafar in prison.
The legal team from CLAAS reports the good news that Zafar’s faith in Christ remains strong and that he is recovering from his recent ailment. Zafar told them that his Saviour will protect him and that “soon I’ll be out of the jail”. In the meantime, he has asked for Christians around the world to pray that he will be proven innocent and thus released from prison.
Sources: Pakistan Christian News, Church in Chains
- Pray Zafar will receive suitable medical treatment and be kept safe from those in prison who wish him harm.
- Pray the Lord will grant Zafar favour to miraculously make a way for his safe release.
- Pray that the hearts of Zafar’s opposers will be radically transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit and the faithful witness of Zafar.
After spending 445 days imprisoned in Sudan on false charges that included “espionage” and “waging war against the state,” long-time VOM staff member Petr Jasek is finally home with his family in Prague.
For nearly 15 months, Petr was moved among five prisons in Khartoum, each worse than the last. Along the way, the Czech national shared a cell with drug smugglers, violent criminals and ISIS fighters, and he experienced physical and emotional abuse because of his Christian faith. Despite everything, he continually shared the Gospel with Sudanese, Eritrean and radical Muslim inmates, leading several men to Christ.
Just before being released, Petr spent three days in a cell without running water. This, he said, challenged him more than anything. He was sleep deprived for three days, as guards banged on his cell door to keep him awake, and mice crawled across his bed and body every time he lay down.
Petr recited Philippians 1:12 as he considered everything he has endured: Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel. “This is amazing how the Lord has used my imprisonment for spreading His Gospel,” he said, “encouraging many believers, those who were prisoners for various reasons, but who dedicated their lives to Christ while we were there in prison and who are now serving the Lord.”
For more than 15 years, Petr has served persecuted Christians as a field leader with VOM, travelling regularly into the world’s most hostile areas and restricted nations.
Though he lost 25 kilos in prison, an intensive medical examination following his release revealed no health problems whatsoever. Petr considers this to be a miracle. He didn’t expect this considering several fellow inmates had contracted malaria, and there was a cholera outbreak in the prison.
Authorities arrested Petr in December 2015 after he visited Sudanese Christians and provided a small gift to help with a man’s medical treatment. Three Sudanese men, Rev Kuwa Shamaal, Rev Hassan Abduraheem and Mr Abdulmonem Abdumawla, were also arrested. Petr received a life sentence, which in the Sudanese system amounted to 20 years for espionage and four years for additional charges.
Rev Shamaal was released on grounds of insufficient evidence. Rev Abduraheem and Mr Abdumawla remain behind bars, each serving a 12-year-sentence.
Petr saw evidence of the Sudanese church being emboldened by their circumstances in prison. Christian brothers and sisters from Khartoum, the Nuba Mountains and elsewhere in Sudan came to the courthouse during their trials. As police tried to prevent them from approaching the building, the believers sang Christian songs.
“While we were waiting for the court hearing, we were in the court prison and we could clearly hear the voices and we had tears in our eyes, especially the pastors from the Nuba Mountains, while we were listening to these songs behind some walls and barbed wire,” Petr recalled. “It was really great encouragement for us.”
Petr also found comfort knowing Christians around the world were praying for him. He is grateful for all who prayed and fasted for his safety, health, ability to witness and release.
“I can tell you how important it is for a prisoner to know people are praying,” he said. “I personally have made the commitment to the Lord that I will be praying daily for those who are prisoners, everybody, because it is so important. We all needed prayers from you.”
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
- Thank the Lord for the way he protected and strengthened Petr while he was in prison.
- Praise God for using Petr’s imprisonment to penetrate the darkness of the prison and bring several men to an understanding of the Gospel. Pray these men will grow in faith.
- Pray for Pastor Hassan Abduraheem and Abdulmonem Abdumawla; pray they too will be released from prison. Ask God to strengthen and protect them.
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
- 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.
Christians in Sudan are thankful that Rev Kuwa Shamal Abazmam Kurri, the head of the mission office of the Sudan Church of Christ, was released from prison on Monday 2 January.
He is one of four men detained since December 2015 in Khartoum who have been on trial on several charges.
The trial will continue for the three remaining defendants: Rev Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour; Abdulmonem Abdumawla Issa Abdumawla; and Petr Jasek (a Czech national).
At a court hearing on 2 January the judge freed Rev Kuwa due to lack of evidence against him, but ruled that the trial will continue against the other three men. Petr Jasek will be tried for charges which include waging war against the state, violating restrictions in military areas, spreading rumours to defame the state, espionage, and inciting strife between communities. The two other defendants will only be tried for the last two of these charges.
The punishment for some of the charges could include the death penalty or life imprisonment.
The next court hearing is due to take place on 9 January, when the lawyers for the three defendants will present their case.
Source: Middle East Concern
- Praise God for the release of Rev Kuwa. Ask the Lord to help him overcome all he has suffered. Pray the Lord will lead and protect him in this new season of ministry.
- Pray the three defendants will know the Lord’s strength and comfort during their ordeal.
- Ask the Lord to grant wisdom to the legal representatives defending these men; pray for a fair judicial process, and that the three men will be acquitted soon.
Kyrgyzstani believer Marat Niyazaliev remains in an investigative prison after being falsely accused of molesting a young girl. At the time of the alleged molestation, Marat was in a city about 95 kilometres away, renewing his passport.
He made a phone call on the bus ride home, and phone records from his service provider have verified his location.
Despite these facts, Marat was arrested in December 2015 and taken to an investigative prison, where he must remain while his case is processed. Before his December arrest, Marat told VOM workers that he had been greatly affected by the accusation and was having difficulty praying.
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
- Intercede for this brother; ask the Lord to bring light to this case. May the investigation be completed without agenda and these charges be dealt with swiftly and justly.
- Pray Marat will rely on the Lord to give him the words to say when they stand before accusing authorities (Matthew 10:19). Commit to the Lord Marat’s legal representatives.
- Pray for spiritual health and strength for Marat and his family. Pray Marat will feel the peace and presence of our Lord.