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Tonight on Persecution Watch: Iran, India, Uganda, Nigeria

(Voice of the Persecuted) Saturday, 2/29/20 – Dear Prayer Warriors, Jesus asked, “do you love me?”

“15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”  John 21: 15-17

Because we love Jesus, we come in obedience of His calling as we feed His sheep by lifting them up to the Lord in time of need!

In Iran

It’s been confirmed that Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi is being held in Qarchak detention centre, south of the Iranian capital Tehran. It is a month today since Mary was arrested, as protests took place in central Tehran following the Iranian government’s admission of guilt in the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane. Since that time, there has been no word from Mary, although last week the Persian-language HRANA news agency.  Read more 

In India

Police find no evidence for accusations but yield to Hindu extremist pressure. India (Morning Star News) – Three Christians in northern India spent more than two months in jail suffering abuse from other prisoners, even though police found no evidence of wrongdoing and the complainant retracted his accusation, sources said. In Uttar Pradesh state’s Mau District, 23-year-old pastor Ajay Kumar, fellow pastor Om Prakash, 20, and another Christian, 62-year-old Kapil Dev Ram, still face fabricated charges after being released on bail late last month. Read more

In Nigeria

Islamic extremist militants from terrorist group Boko Haram on Friday night (Feb. 21) destroyed three worship sites and an unspecified number of houses in northeast Nigeria, sources said. Thousands of people were displaced as the militants set three church buildings and the houses on fire in predominantly Christian Garkida, in Adamawa state’s Gombi County, area residents told Morning Star News.  Read more

In Uganda

The pastor of a church in eastern Uganda faces a dilemma after receiving threatening messages from Muslim villagers last week. A large family is staying at his church site after Islamist threats for leaving Islam forced them to flee their home. His congregation is dwindling as members have stopped attending services out of fear of an Islamist attack. Read More

Dear Saints, We will pray for the dear ones affected by these atrocities, along with believers in these four nations. Lord willing we’re looking forward to praying with you, tonight.

In the love of Christ called to serve in prayer,

Nadia Dybvik, Prayer Leader for Persecution Watch

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

From any location on your phone

Time:

9:00 PM EST

8:00 PM CST

7:00 PM MST

6:00 PM PST

Call in number: 712 775-7035

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link or App Store – iTunes

What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own. With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers. Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. Since the passing of Brother Blaine Scogin, we thank you for your patience as we have transitioned into this new season. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.

Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today and join the team!

Family of 11 Homeless for Leaving Islam in Eastern Uganda

UGANDA (Morning Star News) – The pastor of a church in eastern Uganda faces a dilemma after receiving threatening messages from Muslim villagers last week.

A large family is staying at his church site after Islamist threats for leaving Islam forced them to flee their home. His congregation is dwindling as members have stopped attending services out of fear of an Islamist attack. Should he ask the family to try to relocate?

“On Feb. 20, I received some threatening messages that my church is going to be destroyed because of converting Muslims to Christians,” said the pastor, whose name is undisclosed for security reasons. “Some of my members have stopped attending the church for fear of their lives in a possible attack by the Muslims. Sending away the helpless family is not a good idea, but losing church members is also not good. We as a church are in a dilemma.”

Namuwaya (surname withheld), a 40-year-old mother of nine children in an area of Kamuli District undisclosed for security reasons, had first gone to an evening service at the church on March 18, 2019 after sleepless nights of unexplained anxiety. After the pastor prayed for her, she was still not at peace, she told Morning Star News by phone.

“As the church faithful were leaving, I shared with the pastor my troubled heart,” Namuwaya said. “He told me that it is only Isa [Jesus] who can heal a troubled heart, if only a person can put her trust in Him. The conviction was so strong that I could not resist. The pastor then prayed for my deliverance. After prayers, my heart was very peaceful.”

She did not tell her Muslim husband or children about her faith in Christ for three months, she said.

“I only continued praying for my family with the hope that Jesus will reveal Himself to them,” Namuwaya  said.

After four months, Namuwaya began telling her youngest five children, ages 5 to 12, about Christ’s atoning death and resurrection, and they accepted Christ as Lord and Savior a month later, she said.

Those children began sharing the message of Christ with the four older ones, ages 14 to 20, and by October 2019 all nine of her children had become Christians, she said. Namuwaya began sharing about Christ with her husband, 45-year-old Waiswa (surname withheld).

“When I shared Christ’s love to my husband, he was so furious at me and responded by slapping and kicking, which injured my rib on the left side,” Namuwaya told Morning Star News. “I was taken for medication. But I continued praying and sharing Jesus with him. After two months Jesus appeared to my husband in a vision, which led to his conversion to the Christian faith. He then stopped attending the prayers at mosque.”

Late last year the youngest child innocently told her grandfather, Waiswa’s father, that her father was attending church. Waiswa told Morning Star News that his angry father summoned him to a meeting where mosque elders and clan leaders would determine his punishment for leaving Islam. Under sharia (Islamic law), apostasy is often punishable by death.

“I did not attend the meeting, but instead we sought refuge at the church, where we have been residing since December 2019,” Waiswa told Morning Star News by phone.

Having fled his home and having lost his share of the family land, Waiswa is not sure where to go. His pastor is also in a quandary.

“The responsibility for the education of Waiswa’s family is a big challenge to the church, as well as the fears which have now entered the church for housing Waiswa’s family,” the pastor said. “We as a church need prayers for God’s protection for the church and the family of Waiswa, who are now landless.”

The case is the latest of many instances of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.

Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another. Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.

VOP Note: Please pray for this family, the pastor and the church members.

Nigeria: ‘Government is Boko Haram but without bomb’, says church leader

 

 

Wala Village attack Nigeria Photo: Voice of the Persecuted

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, went to the United Kingdom last week to discuss trade and investment amid increased criticism from church leaders back home who say the government is effectively enabling attacks on Christians in the country.

“They [the government] are using the levers of power to secure the supremacy of Islam, which then gives more weight to the idea that it can be achieved by violence,” Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto told the charity Aid to the Church in Need earlier this month. “With the situation in Nigeria, it is hard to see the moral basis they have to defeat Boko Haram.”

The bishop spoke out after the beheading of 10 Christians by the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) on Christmas day and an attack by the Islamist group Boko Haram on Christmas eve in which seven people were killed.

“The only difference between the government and Boko Haram is Boko Haram is holding a bomb,” the bishop said, adding the Buhari government had created the environment in which Islamist groups like Boko Haram could thrive.

“It is not a lie that this government is favoring Islam,” said Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, a prominent evangelical leader in Nigeria, pointing at how Buhari’s political appointments are all Muslim while Nigeria’s population is a nearly even balance of Christian and Muslim.

There have been too many unfulfilled promises, he told Nigeria Everyday. Para-Mallam has been an advocate for the release of Leah Sharibu, a Christian teenager who was abducted by Boko Haram almost two years ago and is believed to still be detained by the group. Last year Buhari promised her family he would do all he could to bring her back. “If the government is truly committed to ending some of these impunities, the crises and the attacks on Christians would have stopped, a lot more could have been done to achieve this,” said the pastor.

Nigeria is 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian. Just as in 2019, Nigeria’s score for violence was at maximum, due to attacks by Islamist Fulani militants, Boko Haram and other armed groups. Some 1,350 Nigerian Christians lost their lives in the violence.

Six Years after Girls Kidnapped in Chibok, Nigeria, Attacks Persist in Area

Destruction after kidnapping of Chibok high school girls in April 2014. (Voice of America, Yaroh Dauda)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Nearly six years after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a high school in northeastern Nigeria, the Chibok area in Borno state is under threat of “annihilation” from the rebel group and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), area leaders said.

While 112 of the kidnapped girls remain in captivity, Boko Haram abducted another 22 people in the predominantly Christian Chibok area in December, according to a statement from the Kibaku Area Development Association.

“The Kibaku Area Development Association (KADA) wishes to cry out and put it on the record that we are being targeted for attacks and annihilation, whether at home or wherever we are,” Dauda Iliya, head of the association, said in the statement issued from Abuja on Feb. 3. “Our people and homelands are in danger. Our homes, farms, barns, and places of worship are destroyed. We are unable to exercise our religious freedoms as we prefer. Our very existence is under grave threat.”

Iliya said 11 parents of the girls kidnapped in 2014 have been killed in subsequent attacks, and eight other parents have died from post-traumatic disorders such as heart conditions related to the abduction of their daughters.

“Of 20 Chibok girls’ parents – our kinsmen and women – who are now deceased, 11 were killed during the Boko Haram attacks, eight died of heart conditions as a result of trauma, with those alive subsisting with various degrees of heart conditions and trauma along with their resultant effects,” he said.

Among the 22 people kidnapped in December, five were abducted in the nearby Kwarangilum community in a Boko Haram attack on Christmas Eve, with the rebels burning down houses and carting away live cattle, sheep, goats and chickens, he said.

“Five days later on the 29th of December in Mandaragrau, 17 Chibok indigenes were kidnapped,” Iliya said. “We also do not notice much effort by the government to permanently end the scourge of Boko Haram terrorism, and restore peace in our homelands in particular, and the northeast in general; nor the return of our 112 daughters held in captivity for close to six years.”

The area has been under constant attack by Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, for 10 years, he said.

Boko Haram terrorists on Feb. 18 attacked two predominantly Christian communities in Chibok County, Kwarangilum and Forfor villages, residents said.

“The terrorists [simultaneously] attacked the communities around 6 p.m., shooting indiscriminately and burning down houses,” Maina Kapi told Morning Star News by text message. “Please, your prayer is needed because today Boko Haram entered Kwarangilum area of Chibok.”

Habakkuk Aboki, another area resident, said Islamic extremists also attacked another part of Chibok County in January.

“In January 2020, two Christians were killed in Payasatan-Bilaburdar village, also here in Chibok,” he said by text message.

Confirmation of the killings and names of the victims could not be obtained from the area, which is subject to frequent communications blackouts.

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution but second in the number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Pakistan.

Confirmed: Mary Mohammadi is in Qarchak Prison

Iranian Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi arrested and brutally beaten by prison officers

Article18 has confirmed that Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi is being held in Qarchak detention centre, south of the Iranian capital Tehran.

It is a month today since Mary was arrested, as protests took place in central Tehran following the Iranian government’s admission of guilt in the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane.

Since that time, there has been no word from Mary, although last week the Persian-language HRANA news agency reported that she was being held in Qarchak Prison.

At that time, Article18 was unable to verify this, but a reliable source has now confirmed that Mary is indeed being held there and that her bail has been set at 30 million tomans (around $2,250).

Mary’s family have been able to put together the amount, even though it is equivalent to more than the annual salary for Iranians, under the country’s current economic challenges.

However, Article18’s source explained that during the time it took for the family to obtain the amount, “Mary’s case was transferred from the prosecutor’s office to the court, which will now decide whether or not to grant her temporary release from prison”.

Mary has been charged with “disturbing public order by participating in an illegal rally” and provided with a lawyer not of her choosing.

She has been able to call home a few times to reassure her family that she is OK.

As the Iranian government has held celebrations to mark the 41st anniversary of the revolution, the legal system has slowed. With the Iranian New Year (Nowruz) only a month away, it is not clear whether there will be sufficient time for Mary’s family to secure her release before the holidays, or whether she may be forced to remain detained for longer still.

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, said that he was “extremely relieved” to know that Mary is OK, and hopes soon to be able to confirm her release – “albeit temporary” – from prison.

Who is Mary Mohammadi?

Mary’s case has captured the world’s attention, with even the US President, Donald Trump, citing her arrest during his recent National Prayer Breakfast speech.

Mary is a rare example of a Christian activist still living in Iran and, prior to her current detention, had already served six months in prison for her Christian activities, for which she was convicted of “action against national security” and “propaganda against the system”.

Last July, Mary faced fresh criminal charges relating to her “improper” wearing of hijab. Those charges, which were eventually quashed, were brought against her after she initially went to police to complain of an assault.

Then in December, Mary was kicked out of her Tehran university, without explanation, on the eve of her English-language exams.

Just a few weeks later, on 12 January, Mary was arrested as protests took place in Azadi Square.

Beaten

HRANA reports that, during her detention, Mary has been beaten so badly – by male and female officers – that the bruises were visible for three weeks.

After her arrest, HRANA reports that she was taken to the Vozara detention centre in Tehran, where she was forced to sit in a yard, for hours, in extremely cold weather and opposite the toilets.

She was then interrogated by three officers, who gave her forms containing 30 questions. Mary refused to answer the questions in the absence of a lawyer.

Mary was not given any food until 24 hours after her arrest and her handcuffs were put on in a cross-shape, making them very uncomfortable.

Mary was also strip-searched twice by female officers, who told her that if she refused to remove her clothes, they would rip them from her.

The next day, she was taken to Evin Court, where she was charged. Her case was then transferred to the General and Criminal Court of Tehran.

Mary is now one of around 2,000 women prisoners in the overcrowded Qarchak Prison, which is considered the worst women’s prison in Iran and has been sanctioned by the US for “gross human rights violations”, including abuse, arbitrary beatings, little drinking water and “creating an environment for rape and murder”, noted Open Doors.

This article was updated on 13 February to include the new information from HRANA.

VOP Note: Please pray for Mary and Christian converts in Iran.

Tonight on Persecution Watch: North Korea (2/27/2020)

Dear Prayer Warriors,

(Voice of the Persecuted) Again, we want to lift up two persecuted witnesses for the Lord and pray for Leah Sharibu and Alice that this year will be the year where they will be set free. Also, pray for pastor Wang Yi to be released from prison.

North Korea

Population: 27.7 million, Christians 300,000

Constant stress, constant threats. If North Korean Christians are discovered, they are deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot. Driven by the state, Christian persecution in North Korea is extreme and meeting other Christians to worship is nearly impossible unless it’s done in complete secrecy.

Christians must keep their faith completely secret. If a Christian has a Bible, or part of one, it will be carefully hidden and only read when the believer is sure they are alone. Most Christians do not even tell their own children about their faith until the kids are older teenagers, for fear that they may let something slip. When Christians are discovered, they will be arrested and imprisoned in one of North Korea’s terrible labor camps, where they are worked like slaves and often tortured; most are never able to escape.

The news tells stories of the country’s ambitions on the world stage. Yet behind the headlines, a massive underground church of 200-400,000 Christians is growing in North Korea. And tens of thousands of these secret believers are held in North Korea’s infamous labor camps. It is a miracle that this underground church is able to exist. But more than that, it is thriving and growing.

There have been raids against Christians and killings, but no details can be published for security reasons. Pastor Dong-cheol Kim—arrested in 2015—and two Korean-American Christian lecturers at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), Tony Kim and Hak-song Kim, arrested in April and May 2017 respectively, were all accused of espionage but released ahead of the U.S.-North Korean summit in June 2018. In a change of hiring policy, PUST is now reportedly looking for non-US staff, a logical consequence of United States’ travel ban on American travel to North Korea. There have been more reports coming from North Korea, but for security reasons, no details can be given.

  • Pray North Korean officials will come to know God, for change within the regime and that the power of evil will be broken.
  • During a year when North Korea raised its profile on the world stage, Kim Jong Un continues to consolidate his power. Pray he will accept the one, true God.
  • Open Doors provides North Korean Christians with food, medicine and clothing and safe houses for North Korean refugees in China. Pray the church is strengthened and encouraged to endure by this provision.
  • Pray for Christians who suffer in prisons, labor camps and remote areas to have hope.
  • Pray for NGOs like Open Doors and Helping Hands can continue to deliver much needed physical and spiritual support. Another NGO which was pushed out of China is now feeding 15,000 children a day from their base in Vladivostok, Russia.
  • Pray that covert organizations will be able to smuggle more people out of K and bring them to safety In South Korea.
  • Pray for those dealing with the effects of recent violence against them. Please pray for the Lord’s provision in in all their physical and spiritual need
  • Pray to the Lord has His hand of protection over the believers that have courage and boldness to reach out to their neighbors.
  • Pray that the believers know that the body of Christ is praying for them.
  • Pray that the Lord will strengthen His believers and that it will continue to grow despite the hostile environment.

Many blessings,

Nadia Dybvik and Andy, Prayer Moderators for Persecution Watch Prayer Call

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

From any location on your phone

Time:

9:00 PM EST

8:00 PM CST

7:00 PM MST

6:00 PM PST

Call in number: 712 775-7035

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link or App Store – iTunes

What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own. With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers. Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. Since the passing of Brother Blaine Scogin, we thank you for your patience as we have transitioned into this new season. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.

Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today and join the team!

Christians Suffer Two Months of Abuse in Jail on Baseless Charges in India

Pastors Om Prakash (left) and Ajay Kumar face baseless charges in Uttar Pradesh, India. (Morning Star News)

Police find no evidence for accusations but yield to Hindu extremist pressure.

India (Morning Star News) – Three Christians in northern India spent more than two months in jail suffering abuse from other prisoners, even though police found no evidence of wrongdoing and the complainant retracted his accusation, sources said.

In Uttar Pradesh state’s Mau District, 23-year-old pastor Ajay Kumar, fellow pastor Om Prakash, 20, and another Christian, 62-year-old Kapil Dev Ram, still face fabricated charges after being released on bail late last month.

Pastor Kumar said the time they spent in jail was a “nightmare.”

“Every night was a traumatic night for us,” Pastor Kumar told Morning Star News. “We did not know when a mob would wake us in the middle of the night and torment us.”

Accused of forceful conversion by Hindu extremists who disrupted their Nov. 26 worship at Ram’s home in Daraura village, the two pastors were released on bail on Jan. 27 after two months and a day in jail. Ram was released on Jan. 29 after spending two months and three days in jail.

In spite of the ordeal, the pastors managed to explain the gospel of eternal salvation to many prisoners in their barracks, with one putting his faith in Christ.

Pastor Kumar said they faced the same kind of Hindu nationalist opposition in jail as they did outside it.

“Prisoners inside the jail showed their religious bias,” Pastor Kumar told Morning Star News. “We did not lie when our co-prisoners asked us the reason for us being in jail, and when we told them that it’s a case of [forcible] conversion, they despised us and spread the word around.”

A group of prisoners came on many nights to wake him and Ram, who were in one barrack while Prakash was in another, he said.

“They used vulgar language and asked us how much foreign money we have earned by carrying out conversions,” Pastor Kumar said. “They demanded money from us, asking us to share the supposed loot with them. And when we explained that there was no money involved, they beat me with fists and legs. They spared Kapil from beatings as he is a senior citizen and said that I have to take his share of beating as well.”

They faced continuous threats, including warnings that they would not be spared after their release, he said.

“‘We will deal with you outside the prison for carrying out conversions,’ said many of them, but we always spoke to them politely,” Pastor Kumar said. “There are things that happened to us that I cannot even share about.”

One day an influential prisoner summoned him and asked him to pray for a man who had been unable to sleep at night since his arrest months before, Pastor Kumar said.

“He will go crazy and die in the prison, I was told,” he said.

Pastor Kumar went to the man, prayed for him and began to spend time with him, he said.

“One day he broke and began to confess his sins in prayer; he started to get sleep at nights,” Pastor Kumar said. “The troublesome prisoners began to trouble this man too, questioning him as to why he has started to pray along with the Christians, to which he answered, ‘When I was upset, nobody helped me. It was Ajay who told me about Christ and comforted me.’”

The day that Pastor Kumar and Ram were about to leave jail, the man told them that he believed in Christ and wanted to follow Him, the pastor said.

“I was full of joy,” he said.

In the other barrack, Pastor Prakash was suffering from chickenpox and was quarantined for nearly two weeks. He received no medicine for his illness.

“There was no neatness inside the jail. I could not sleep for the first full month. The food was extremely bad. Only because one must survive, one had to eat,” Pastor Prakash told Morning Star News.

The 70 to 75 prisoners in his area came to know that he was a pastor, and he told each of them the gospel of eternal life, he said.

“I spent time in prayer for two hours in the morning, and two hours in the evening,” he said. “People started to come to me with their prayer requests. I shared the Good News with all the prisoners in my barrack.”

Of the nine prisoners released from his area while he was incarcerated, five said they wished to connect with him and attend his church after release, Pastor Prakash said.

“Though I went through a lot of troubles and hardships, I was happy I was inside, doing the Lord’s work,” Pastor Prakash said.

Baseless Accusation

Pastors Kumar and Prakash, who help lead Sharon Fellowship Church in Mohammadabad, Gohana about five miles from Daraura village, were visiting Ram’s home for the time of fellowship when the Hindu extremists intruded.

After the arrests on Nov. 26, three other pastors arrived at the Ranipur police station to speak to the Station Officer (SO).

One of the other pastors, Raj Kumar, told Morning Star News that the station officer said he questioned villagers who had attended the fellowship and found no evidence of forceful conversion.

“He said the people testified of the miracles that happened in their lives after attending prayer in Kapil’s house,” Pastor Raj Kumar said. “He met a lady who said that she could not conceive for 15 years and that after getting prayed for, she is six months pregnant now. The SO said that he found no ‘forceful conversions’ taking place in the village, and that these people have done nothing.”

The officer told him and the others that he would keep the Christians in custody for one night and release them after their appearance before a judge the next day, he said.

“We returned home only to learn later that a group of people from the Hindu organizations reached the police station after we left and pressured them to charge the Christians severely,” Pastor Raj Kumar said.

Police registered a First Information Report (FIR No. 236) based on a written complaint from Prakash Paasi, chief of Daraura village. The High Court in Allahabad would grant the Christians bail in January based on Paasi’s deposition in favor of the accused Christians, Pastor Raj Kumar said.

“Prakash Paasi submitted a sworn affidavit in the court that stated that he was not in a proper frame of mind due to some domestic disturbance in his family, when some people came to his house and obtained his signatures on some documents that he had no idea about,” Pastor Raj Kumar said. “He also said that he later went and enquired of the people attending the prayer meeting and learned that there was no conversion taking place, but that it was a normal prayer meeting taking place in Kapil’s house.”

The Christians posted bail of 400,000 rupees (US$5,555) each, sources said.

They were charged under Indian Penal Code sections for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, outraging religious feelings and inducing a person to believe that he will be rendered an object of the Divine displeasure, besides the charge under the religious institutions act. Under the Religious Institu­tions (Prevention of Misuse) Act, they were charged under Section 3, which prohibits a religious institution from promoting disharmony, feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill-will between different religious communities.

Offenses under the religious institutions act are cognizable, meaning police can make an arrest without a warrant, and non-bailable as per Section 7 of the Act. It is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 rupees (US$140).

“This case is not only the longest custody case in the year 2019, where the Christians have remained in jail for more than two months, but also a case where they have been strategically booked for ‘misuse of religious institutions for political and other purposes,’” Christian rights activist Dinanath Jaiswar told Morning Star News. “A lot of homework has been done before putting this section on the Christians.”

Christian leaders in Uttar Pradesh reacted strongly to the use of the Religious Institu­tions (Prevention of Misuse) Act.

“We had no clue as to what the Religious Institu­tions (Prevention of Misuse) Act meant,” Pastor Prakash told Morning Star News. “The police officials did not bother to explain or tell us what they have booked us under.”

A lower court initially rejected their application for bail. Morning Star News efforts to reach their attorney were unsuccessful.

According to the terms of the bail granted by the higher court, the three Christians must present themselves in court nearly every two weeks or whenever the court demands, Pastor Raj Kumar said.

“The three presented themselves before the Court on Feb. 6 and then on Feb. 20,” he said. “It is a very tedious procedure, and we do not know how many years it will take for them to prove their innocence.”

Since his arrest, Ram’s licence to run a government ration store in his village has been cancelled, Jaiswar said.

“It is heart-breaking that the only source of income of Kapil’s family has been snatched away from him,” Jaiswar told Morning Star News. “It was his livelihood.”

Hindu Pressure

As part of their regular visits to church members’ homes, pastors Kumar and Prakash had gone to Ram’s house on Nov. 26, where about 10 to 12 people were gathered for worship, when it was disrupted by members of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV).

The HYV is a Hindu youth militia founded in 2002 by Yogi Adityanath, now the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.

At about 11:45 a.m., seven or eight Hindu extremists charged into the house and began to video record them on their mobile phones, Pastor Kumar said. The intruders harshly questioned the women, asking what they had received for becoming Christians, he said: “Are you given money for medical treatment? Are you promised free rations? What do they give you to make you follow their faith?”

“When they began to shout at us, Kapil asked them to leave his house, objecting to the hostility they created inside his house,” Pastor Kumar said.

When pastors Kumar and Prakash left Ram’s house, they found a large crowd waiting outside. Ram’s family spoke with the Hindu extremists for more than 20 minutes, and twice when the pastors tried to leave, the extremists snatched their motorbike keys from them.

“They blamed us for carrying out forced conversion and threatened to kill us and smash our faces,” Pastor Prakash said.

The extremists continued to record videos as they tried to make the pastors confess to forcible conversion.

“They argued with the members of Kapil’s family, trying to lead them into acknowledging that they have received some kind of monetary help or any other benefit to convert to Christianity,” Pastor Prakash told Morning Star News.

The Hindu extremists called police, who arrived and detained the two pastors and the homeowner. Pastor Kumar said he was shocked that police allowed the extremists to shoot video of officers interrogating the Christians.

Officers took them to Ranipur police station.

“When we were still sitting in the police station, some police personnel were sent to the village to investigate about the case, who returned to report that there was no conversion taking place,” Pastor Prakash said. “A police officer made his report and booked us under a single section of the law. He was about to set us free to go home around 9 in the night when a crowd that belonged to various Hindu organizations entered the police station. They began to pressure the officer, demanding that strict action should be taken against us.”

After spending the night in custody and appearing before the judge, the next afternoon Pastor Prakash asked the station officer when he would let them go.

“He responded that he is going to put us in jail,” Pastor Prakash said. “He said, ‘We are tired of what is going on in the state – the whole state is upside-down because of this conversion matter.’”

India is ranked 10th on the Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has worsened since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Tonight on Persecution Watch: The Coronavirus Panic

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear Prayer Warriors, the 2019 novel coronavirus, officially named as Covid-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), has now spread to 37 countries, according to the CDC. More than 80,000 have been infected globally, with at least 2,700 deaths, including nearly 78,000 cases in China, along with the majority reported death toll. The epidemic is alarming public health authorities and citizens across the globe. Authorities are working hard to contain the spreading of the virus and scientists are doing fast-track research for Coronavirus Treatment and Vaccine.

This Covid-19 is much like influenza, both are respiratory viruses. The symptoms include cough, fever, and pneumonia. To learn more about the virus, it’s symptoms and prevention, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html.

The (WHO) reports,

“Given that COVID-19 is a new disease, it is understandable that its emergence and spread cause confusion, anxiety and fear among the general public. These factors can give rise to harmful stereotypes.

Stigma can: • drive people to hide the illness to avoid discrimination • prevent people from seeking health care immediately • discourage them from adopting healthy behaviors

Such barriers could potentially contribute to more severe health problems, ongoing transmission, and difficulties controlling infectious diseases during an infectious disease outbreak.

We have an important role to play in preventing and stopping stigma. We need to be intentional and thoughtful when communicating on social media and other communication platforms.”

Italy, my native country, has a total of 283 coronavirus confirmed cases as of 25 February. The country also reported 7 deaths. Stunned by Europe’s biggest surge of the coronavirus and what I’m hearing from my relatives, it appears Italy is operating in near panic mode. Whole communities have been quarantined. Though there is not a food shortage, people are on a rampage to clear out markets and grocery stores. Also, there are sad stories of healthy people from infected regions and those of Asian descent being stigmatized and even attacked as if the virus was their fault. While speaking to one of my very concerned family members, who is an unbeliever, I relayed that we should be crying out to the Lord, the One who can perform miracles and asked my relative to consider that. The next day he shared that he looked at himself in the mirror then called out, “God help me!” As the Church, we need to share the Lord with unbelievers at every opportunity. They need Him!

As newly infected cases, deaths, and the global spreading of the Coronavirus are reported, fear and panic is growing around the world, this week.

It is for this reason that I’m calling all Prayer Warriors, and I urge you to pray in the Spirit.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  Ephesians 6:18

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

* Pray for the safety of our brothers and sisters from the Coronavirus all over the world, that they will trust Jesus and not grow weary.

* Pray for healing of the believers who are currently affected by the virus in USA, China, Italy and around the world. Pray that they would respond well to treatment and that they would recover quickly.

* Pray the Kingdom harvest, that our brothers and sisters all around the world will show the love of Christ, God’s hope and salvation in the Lord to the lost who are sick or consumed by fear for the outcome.

* Pray for them not to be afraid but trust in the Lord.

* Pray that missionaries will be able to reach those who do not know the Lord.

* Pray that the lost will turn away from their sins, repent and choose to follow Christ as their Savior.

* Pray for jailed pastors & believers in China as news of coronavirus outbreaks in the prison systems of at least 3 provinces (Hubei, Zhejiang, and Shandong) surfaced. Ask God to give grace to prisoners across the nation.

* Pray for all of those being kept under quarantine globally that God would bring them peace until they can return or leave their homes.

* Pray for the medical workers across the world fighting this virus. Pray that they would remain safe and strong while they carry out this vital work.

* Pray that God will protect the nations and stop the virus spreading further.

* Pray for authority figures working to combat the spread of the virus. Pray that they will be kind, wise, and that their efforts will be fruitful.

* We will continue to lift up our dear precious Leah Sharibu and Alice who continue to suffer as captives of the Islamic Boko Haram group in Nigeria.

* and for Pastor Wang Yi from China, who has been sentenced to 9 years in prison for boldly sharing the love of God.

In Christ love,

Nadia Dybvik & Merlaine Smokes, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Moderators

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

From any location on your phone

Time:

9:00 PM EST

8:00 PM CST

7:00 PM MST

6:00 PM PST

Call in number: 712 775-7035

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link or App Store – iTunes

What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own. With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers. Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. Since the passing of Brother Blaine Scogin, we thank you for your patience as we have transitioned into this new season. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.

Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today and join the team!

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