As we celebrate our Saviour’s birth during this month, let us not forget the struggles that Christians have in other parts of the world. Here are just some snapshots of situations facing Christians in the world.
Uganda: pastor murdered for his ministry
Pastor David Omara was ambushed and murdered by a mob of fundamentalist Muslims on 31 October. He had just finished a radio broadcast comparing Islam and Christianity, when he received a phone call from a person requesting a meeting.
Pastor Omara’s son was with him as he went to the meeting place and saw the atrocity. His widow and their eight children will face a very sad Christmas. A colleague remarked, 'Pastor Omara worked tirelessly for the kingdom of God to the day he breathed his last breath.'
Pakistan: abduction and forced marriage of young girls
The Sindh High Court is still not addressing the issue of forced conversion and forced marriage of minors. Sharia law permits marriage to girls who have attained puberty but that is a violation of the Pakistani child marriage act.
Commenting on the crime, the group Justice for Pakistani Minorities calls it Pakistan's 'real pandemic'.
Churches are preparing to petition the Supreme Court that it might 'give a clear direction to the government, law enforcement agencies and the subordinate judiciary to take concrete steps on this crucial issue'. Let us pray in solidarity with the Church in Pakistan, 'for laws that defend our daughters'.
The Christian crisis in Artsakh
Artsakh is a region between Armenia and Azerbaijan that has been seized by Azerbaijan. Thousands of people were lost in this process, and on October 8, Azerbaijani missiles struck the Cathedral of the All Holy Savior in Shushi, twice in one day.
Azerbaijan has the open support of Turkey and Syrian mercenaries and while Armenian soldiers did their best to protect people and their homes, they were overwhelmed. Azerbaijan is moving quickly to erase the rich Armenian heritage.
Armenia was the first nation to accept Christianity, in A.D. 301. While only one percent evangelical today, 93 percent of its population of 3 million belong to the Armenian Orthodox Church. Today the threat of cultural erasure is very real. But our God is able to reverse this – we need to pray.
Destabilization in Ethiopia
A battle (both spiritual and physical) for Ethiopia is underway. Opposition forces - particularly the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF, which dominated, terrorised and exploited Ethiopia from 1991 to 2018) - are threatening to destabilise not merely the nation, but the entire Horn of Africa.
Please pray that the Ethiopian National Defence Force led by Ethiopia’s reformist government, prevails. Destabilisation would be catastrophic for Ethiopia's Christians (who comprise around 63 percent of the population) and the resulting chaos would be a gift for the region's Islamic jihadists who are already primed and ready to pounce.
Cyprus is bracing for a storm
Cyprus has long been a hub for Christian mission into the Middle East. Turkey, which was sanctioned by the European Union for its belligerent behaviour in the Eastern Mediterranean, is upgrading its military forces and building up its troops in Turkey-occupied northern Cyprus, raising alarm among Greek Cypriots.
Please pray for all Christian leaders on Cyprus - political, civic and religious; may they have wisdom and insight (Ephesians chapter 1 verse 17) to navigate the challenging days ahead. May God protect and preserve his Church along with all the Christian ministries that serve the Lord in freedom in Greek Cypriot-ruled Cyprus (e.g. Nicosia-based Sat-7).
Christians are targeted in Egypt, Indonesia, Iran and the Ivory Coast
In recent weeks, Egyptian authorities arrested numerous citizens accused of 'blasphemy', including several Christians, and some, including a Coptic Christian businessman, have been abducted, amid fears for his safety.
This ‘blasphemy’ law is most often used to stifle free speech or as a weapon by members of the Sunni Islamic majority to attack religious minorities such as Coptic Christians. Used almost exclusively against criticisms of Islam, the law is rarely invoked against frequent, public anti-Christian comments. Judges and police are biased toward Muslims and against Coptic Christians.
More on ‘blasphemy’: Muslim cleric, Rizieq Shihab, has returned to Indonesia to launch a 'moral revolution'. In a recent 40-second video clip, Rizieq Shihab demands the Indonesian government act swiftly against anyone accused of blasphemy. 'To the government, especially the police, let us tell you: If you don't want what happened in France, where someone who insulted the Prophet was beheaded, then we implore you to [follow up on] reports on blasphemers. If [the police] fail to process [accusations of blasphemy], then don't blame the Muslims when a head is found on the streets.' The trend bodes ill for Indonesian Christians.
In Iran, Article 18 reported that on 17 November, four Christians had received prison sentences in under the same charge of "acting against national security by forming a house-church".
Little is known about their case. Article 18 also reports that on 11 November intelligence agents raided 12 Christian homes in Fardis, on the western outskirts of Tehran. Nobody was arrested, but phones, laptops, Bibles and everything that had anything to do with Christianity were confiscated.
Once a hub for Christian missions into West and North Africa, Ivory Coast is again on the brink of an ethno-religious civil war and full-blown Christian crisis. Alassane Outtara was confirmed president by the Constitutional Council in violation of the country’s constitution. Opposition supporters have been attacked or arrested, with thousands fleeing into neighbouring states, particularly Ghana and Liberia.
They need our prayers
Our Heavenly Father, the Commander of Angel Armies, we pray for these persecuted people in all parts of the world. While we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, we also pray for peace, courage and steadfastness for people in the face of injustice.
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science andtheology under her belt. Aira is an editor for PSI and indulges inreading, bushwalking and volunteering at a nature reserve. Aira’s husband Bill passed away in 2022 and she is left with three wonderful adult sons and one grandson.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html