(Voice of the Persecuted) Looking back, our first prayer letter of 2019 we want to praise and thank the Lord for giving Asia BiBi her release from prison and safe conduct into a country where she can be a Christian without fear.
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.
As we start a new year, I feel it would be prudent to pray for some of the countries with the most:
- Brutal dictatorships
- High level of Islamic oppression
North Korea – Population: 25.6 million; Christians: about 300,000
Eritrea 5.2 million; about 2.5 million
China 1.4 billion 97.2 million
- Pray for the protection of the secret believers.
- Pray for the secret believer who are sharing the good News.
- Pray that for the Christians that suffer, being tortured and being kept under inhuman prison conditions.
- Pray to the Lord that He will exercise His power and bring about a change in government.
- Pray specifically for Pastor Wang YI.
Yemen Population: 28.9 million Christians: a few thousand
Iran 82.1 million about 800,000
Afghanistan 36.3 million a few thousand
Pakistan 200.8 million 3.98 million
Nigeria 195.9 million 91.12 million
- Pray Believers from Muslim backgrounds, particularly for those who have been shunned by their families and community upon conversion.
- Pray to the Lord that the constitution that promises religious freedom will be fully implemented and that the laws banning Christian practices will be abolished.
- Pray that Christians Internet messages and websites will reach deep in the Muslim communities and encourage Christians.
- Pray to the Lord that the believers will have courage, wisdom and boldness to reach out to Muslim neighbors.
- Pray to the Lord that He will appear to many Muslims in their dreams and connect them with believers.
- Pray to the Lord that believers will love and forgive their persecutors
- Pray that the Lord will build His church by adding daily to the number of believers.
You are invited to join us on Thursday, January 3 in a prayer conference call for the persecuted church.
Andy, Prayer Call Moderator
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
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Call in number: 712 775-7035
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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.
(World Watch Monitor) Yemen is the country where the risk of genocide, or mass killing, rose most last year, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in its 2017 Peoples Under Threat index, which also includes a large number of countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
Nine of the Index’s top 12 are also in the top 12 of Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List– namely Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Nigeria.
MRG calculates its annual index based on a number of indicators directly linked to the level of freedom of religion and expression, including democracy and governance, conflict data, and displacement.
Yemen, for instance, ranks 8th on the MRG Index and 9th on the WWL. The civil war that erupted there in 2014 has caused chaos and lawlessness, creating a climate where oppression can flourish.
Radical Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State have exploited the power vacuum in Yemen to gain significant influence. Christians have been killed and abducted, including 16 people killed in an attack on a Christian care home for the elderly in March 2016.
According to MRG’s index, which lists the top 70 countries most at risk of genocide, mass killing or systematic violent repression, two-thirds of the countries where this risk has risen are in Africa.
Also, an increasing number of people are living at “deadly risk” in a growing number of “no-go zones” around the world. MRG says its reports shows “how a lack of access from the outside world allows killing to be perpetrated unchecked in disputed territories, militarized enclaves, and in some cases, whole countries… International isolation is a known risk factor for genocide or mass killing”.
Syria, for example, leads the list for the third consecutive year and, according to the report, UN human rights officials have been “granted no access to Syria since the crisis began in 2011”.
Meanwhile the civil war in Yemen has so far killed more than 8,000 people and injured over 45,000 civilians. The fighting between Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the north and the Saudi-backed government in the south has furthermore displaced more than 3 million people – over 10 per cent of Yemen’s population – reports the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
OCHA says these figures are most likely lower than the reality because of the lack of reporting capacity and people not having access to health centres.
Those who have not been killed or injured in the fighting might still lose their lives in the largest ever recorded cholera outbreak in a single country in a single year, aid agencies warn. With a crumbling health system, with less than half the country’s hospitals operational and a lack of available medication, nearly 2,000 people have died of cholera so far, with an estimated 5,000 Yemenis becoming ill every day. More than 600,000 Yemenis could have cholera before the end of the year, the International Committee of the Red Cross has warned.
(World Watch Monitor) The Church in India, especially in the southern state of Kerala, is breathing a sign of relief after Yemen confirmed to India’s foreign minister that Catholic missionary Father Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped in Yemen in March 2016, is “alive”.
“We are thrilled to hear that good news,” Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the autonomous Syro-Malabar Church, to which the kidnapped priest belongs, told World Watch Monitor.
Abdulmalik Abduljalil Al-Mekhlafi, Deputy Prime Minister of Yemen, broke the news to Sushma Swaraj, Indian External Affairs (foreign) Minister on 12 July when they met for bilateral talks in the Indian capital.
“We are very hopeful now. The news brings great joy to us,” V A Thomas, first cousin of the kidnapped priest, told World Watch Monitor from their home in Ramapuram, near Palai, in the Christian heartland of Kerala.
“We are very happy with the developments and hope he will be released soon.” -V A Thomas
Father Uzhunnalil, 58, was kidnapped on 4 March in Aden in Yemen, from the Missionaries of Charity home for the elderly. Four nuns were murdered, along with 12 others, during the attack by unidentified gunmen.
While a first false rumour was of the crucifixion of the kidnapped priest on Good Friday 2016, a video of him in captivity surfaced around Christmas 2016, with the visibly unkempt and ailing priest urging the government of India and the Church to ensure his release from captivity.
That led to a series of assurances from the government of India, while the Catholic Church organised several demonstrations, including a day of prayer and candlelit vigils, urging the government to ensure the kidnapped priest’s safe release.
A second video appeal by the priest surfaced on the Internet in May, with the priest stating that serious efforts have not been made by the Church or the government to ensure his release. “They are treating me well to the extent they are able,” Fr Uzhunnalil said slowly in English. “My health condition is deteriorating quickly and I require hospitalization as early as possible.”
“In that video appeal, Father Tom had even requested us [his family] to put pressure [on the government] to ensure his release,” said his cousin, V A Thomas, who was also headmaster to Father Uzhunnalil when he was a student at the local Catholic school in the 1970s.
The extended Uzhunnalil family clan, Thomas pointed out, had been “consistently pleading with everyone to ensure Fr Tom’s release” and have called on several top government leaders.
After the second video emerged, Thomas said that he led a four-member Uzhunnalil delegation to meet P Sathasivam, the Kerala Governor, along with Oommen Chandy, former chief minister of Kerala, on 31 May.
Three days earlier, the federal government had dispatched Richard Hay, a Christian Member of the Indian Parliament (who’d been nominated by the ruling BJP government), to the family in Palai, to assure them that the government was making serious efforts “to bring the back the priest home safely”.
“We are very happy with the developments and hope he will be released soon,” Thomas said.
However, he added that “due to the big public interest in the safety of Fr Tom, there are reports that the demands of the kidnappers have gone up”.
The External Affairs Ministry in its press statement said that the foreign minister has “stressed the government’s concern for the safety and well-being of Father Tom Uzhunnalil … and reiterated the request for continued assistance from the Yemeni authorities in securing his safe and early release”.
According to reports, terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are said to have bases in parts of Yemen, resulting in instability in the country.
Islamist terrorists killed 16 at nursing home.
(Morning Star News) – A Catholic priest kidnapped in Yemen almost 10 months ago appealed for help in a video released this week by a terrorist group.
The Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil was kidnapped on March 4 in Aden, Yemen when a group of militants, thought to belong to an offshoot of the Islamic State (IS) movement, killed 16 people in an attack on the Aden Care Home, a nursing home facility.
In his statement on the video, which was released on Christmas Day, Uzhunnalil said he was kidnapped, “Because I was working for the Christian religion and the church.”
Uzhunnalil then went on to say he felt abandoned by his religious leaders and claimed that if he were a priest of European descent, his captivity would have been taken more seriously. The priest is a native of India.
“Nothing has been done by Pope Francis or the Bishop of Abu Dhabi to get me released, in spite of contact being made by my captors,” he said. “Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father please take care of my life.”
Uzhunnalil implored Christians in his native India to put pressure on authorities by using their “might to help me to safe my life … Please take care of my life.”
Before he was kidnapped, Uzhunnalil was clean-shaven. In the video he had a full beard and appeared weak and out-of-breath. Speaking hesitantly, he said his health was deteriorating and that he was “very sad and depressed.”
Bishop Paul Hinder, the apostolic vicar of southern Arabia, told Morning Star News that Uzhunnalil appeared to be under duress when the video was made.
“Listening to the video, I got the impression that it has been produced under extreme pressure on Father Tom,” Hinder said.
He declined to comment further, citing ongoing efforts to secure Uzhunnalil’s release.
“It is part of the nature of such dramatic events that the steps undertaken cannot be revealed until their goal has been reached,” he said.
In a press statement on Tuesday (Dec. 27), vicariate officials said the church had made “countless appeals from the highest levels to secure his release.”
“Pope Francis made a heartfelt appeal to the kidnappers to release Father Tom on Sunday the 10th of April 2016, ‘In the hope given us by the Risen Christ, I renew my appeal for the liberation of all persons seized in areas of armed conflict: in particular, I desire to remember the Salesian priest, Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped at Aden in Yemen this past March fourth,’” the statement read.
The statement also mentioned the midnight Christmas Mass at the Cathedral Parish of St. Joseph’s in Abu Dhabi, where the bishop and tens of thousands gathered and prayed in silence for Uzhunnalil’s safety.
On March 4 at approximately 8:30 a.m., a group of militant Islamic extremists entered the nursing home in Aden and killed 16 people.
The Catholic news site Crux reported that the single survivor of the attack, a nun known as Sister Sally, said the gunmen first killed a guard and a driver at the home and then moved on to the four nuns. The militants then “tied them up, shot them in the head and smashed their heads” as others in the home screamed for the militants to show the nuns mercy, according to Crux.
The slain nuns were identified as Sister Anselm from India, Sister Judith from Kenya and Sisters Marguerite and Reginette from Rwanda.
The surviving sister escaped the attackers by hiding behind a door in a walk-in refrigerator.
During the attack, Uzhunnalil rushed to the chapel tabernacle in an attempt to consume all the sanctified hosts used in Communion, apparently to keep them from being desecrated, before he was abducted. The militants then set about destroying all the Christian symbols and liturgical articles in the tabernacle. The entire attack and kidnapping lasted 90 minutes, according to the nun.
Since the kidnapping, essentially no information about the safety or whereabouts of Uzhunnalil has been available. Weeks after the kidnapping, Archbishop of Vienna Christoph Cardinal Schonborn claimed publically that Uzhunnalil had been crucified on Good Friday. Photographs, allegedly of Uzhunnalil’s corpse, were circulated as evidence of his death, but research by Morning Star News showed the photos were actually from the funeral of another priest in the region who had just died.
According to indigenous missions support group Christian Aid Mission, .2 percent of Yemen’s 27.4 million people are Christians. Yemen consistently places high in studies ranking countries for their mistreatment of Christians. Plagued by low-intensity conflicts for years, the country plunged into a full-scale civil war in March 2015 along Shia and Sunni lines. Several terrorist groups, including IS and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have taken advantage of the power vacuum that exists in the country and have set up bases of operation.
Warning: graphic images
ADEN, YEMEN (ANS – March 18, 2016) — A lone surviving nun is telling the world her personal account of a recent Yemen massacre she witnessed in a chilling handwritten letter.
According to CBN News, a peaceful morning on March 4, 2016, at a Catholic nursing home in Aden, Yemen, suddenly turned into 90 minutes of horror as men, believed to be Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists, raided the facility with the intent of murdering every nun and volunteer there.
According to reports, the nuns were first handcuffed and then shot at point blank range.
Sister Sally is the only eye witness to the event. She recounted her story in a conversation with another nun, Sister Rio, who then wrote down her account in a memorandum.
According to India-born Sister Sally, the assailants stormed the facility on the morning of March 4 after the nuns and volunteer aids had their usual breakfast and prayer time.
Armed terrorists dressed in blue stormed the compound at 8:30 a.m.
“Ethiopian men (Christian) began running to tell the sisters ISIS was there to kill them. They were killed one by one,” Sister Sally recalled.
Another 12 others at an elderly facility were also brutally slaughtered.
CBN News then went on to say that the terrorists proceeded to gun down every nun and volunteer they could find until Sister Sally was the only one left. She then tried running to warn the nearby convent before she was forced to hide behind the door of “the refrigerator room.”
“The [Islamic State] ISIS men were everywhere, searching for her and even entered the refrigerator room at least three times without finding her,” Sister Sally witnessed.
Sister Rio comments in the memorandum that Sister Sally’s survival is nothing short of “miraculous.”
“The terrorists murdered every other nun and any volunteer aids they could find. After the rampage the Islamic extremists destroyed all religious articles and Christian symbols at the facility,” CBN went on to say.
“The martyred nuns were Sister Judith from Kenya, Sister Anselm from India, and Sister Marguerite and Sister Reginette from Rwanda. They were all associated with Members of the Missionaries of Charity, an order founded by Mother Teresa.
“Indian priest Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil was also kidnapped by the terrorists and is yet to be found.”
The murdered sisters had left their homes in India and Africa to serve the poor, elderly, and disabled in the war-torn country of Yemen. They worked together with volunteers at the convent’s home care center, where they served around sixty to eighty patients of all religions.
“They were serving all poor people irrespective of their religion. Their duty was to help the poor,” a representative from the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia told the Catholic News Agency (CAN).
Sister Sally and her community are still grieving the victims’ deaths but say they have “fully surrendered” to the will of God.
In the memorandum, Sister Sally urges Christians “to pray that their blood will be the seeds for peace in the Middle East and to stop ISIS.”
According to PressTV (http://www.presstv.ir), no individual or group has so far claimed responsibility for the carnage, but sources close to Yemen’s fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi blamed it on the Islamic State [Dae’sh] (IS) terrorists.
Yemen has been under Saudi airstrikes on a daily basis since the regime in Riyadh launched its military aggression against the impoverished country in late March 2015, in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and restore power to Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
Exploiting the chaos in Yemen, Islamic State (Dae’sh), which is mainly operating in Syria and Iraq, has been able to infiltrate the country.
The Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has also taken advantage of the volatile conditions and the breakdown of security in Yemen since the beginning of the Saudi war to tighten its grip on parts of southeastern Yemen.
By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
Please faithfully remember Sister Sally’s prayer request.
Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate the horrific suffering of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
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In a heartbreaking report from Fides, the Mother Teresa Sisters killed in Aden were described as being loved by the locals and admired for their love of serving those most in need, regardless of their faith. Bishop Paul Hinder OFMCap, Vicar Apostolic for Southern Arabia, told Fides, suggests this could be the root of the hatred, “diabolic hatred”. The affection the locals had for the Sisters could be the precise reason behind the massacre last Friday in the port city of Yemen. Four Catholic Sisters serving at Missionaries of Charity, which was founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, were slaughtered together with 12 other helpers and the elderly and disabled people whom they assisted at the Mother Theresa Home. Photos show that the Sisters were wearing kitchen aprons at the moment of the killing over their religious habit.
Bishop Hinder confirms that nothing is known of the whereabouts of Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was at the residence when the terrorists attacked. The Bishop said, “We imagine he is still being held by the assailants, Yemen bureaucracy keeps searching for him but so far with no result.” The only survivor, Missionaries of Charity local Mother Superior, Sister Sally who is also an Indian from Kerala is preparing to depart.
A year ago when country war broke out between government troops and Huthi rebels, Bishop Hinder remembers discussing with the Sisters the risks of remaining in such a dangerous scenario.
“They told me there was nothing to discuss: they would not leave whatever happened, because they wanted to stay with the people entrusted to their care. It was clear that on the part of the Sisters this was no exhibition of heroism, it was purely their desire to follow Jesus Christ. I respected the Sisters’ decision, and am convinced that their martyrdom will bear fruit also for the lives of other Christians living in the Arabian peninsula”.
BEIRUT: In a Middle East torn apart by war and conflict fighters are increasingly using food as a weapon of war.
Millions of people across countries like Syria, Yemen and Iraq are gripped by hunger, struggling to survive with little help from the outside world.
Children suffer from severe malnutrition, their parents often having to beg or sell possessions to get basic commodities including water, medicine and fuel.
The biggest humanitarian catastrophe by far is Syria, where a ruinous five year civil war has killed a quarter of a million people and displaced half the population.
All sides in the conflict have used punishing blockades to force submission and surrender from the other side, a tactic that has proved effective particularly for government forces seeking to pacify opposition-held areas around the capital Damascus.
Since October,…Read more
Please pray for those in a magnitude of suffering, pray for help. Pray for an end to the conflicts, pray for the presence of the Lord and pray for the lost to be found.