Vietnam: A country in crisis

“You are the salt of the earth. …  You are the light of the world. … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:13, 14, 16 NIV)

It’s easy these days to gloss over or ignore any news reports you read about Covid-related crises, especially as the entire world has been dealing with the pandemic for almost two years now. However, in Vietnam, a real and urgent Covid-19 crisis has been unfolding in the last few months, triggered by the highly contagious Delta variant that has hit the country particularly hard.

This recent Covid crisis has come as a surprise and caught people off-guard in a country that was applauded and admired last year for its success in keeping the virus under control through aggressive contact tracing and quarantine measures. Average daily cases of Covid-19 hovered around 200 at the start of June but surged to more than 12,000 a day last month. As of mid-October, daily cases are almost at 4,000. In total, there have been almost 850,000 infections and more than 20,000 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

In May, the Revival Ekklesia Mission house church in Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) was publicly singled out by authorities and blamed for an outbreak in June. They were threatened with criminal investigation and permanent closure despite numerous other outbreak sources left unmentioned by the government or reported in the media.

The government has since made a desperate bid to stem the sharp surge and spread of Covid-19.  In the outbreak epicentre of Ho Chi Minh City and 18 other provinces, the government imposed a strict lockdown that prevented citizens from leaving their homes, not even to buy food. Soldiers were deployed to enforce the restrictions by patrolling the streets. These lockdown restrictions were eased in early October.

The government has now abandoned the “Zero Covid” strategy that had been so successful before the Delta variant, but the impact of the lockdown has been widespread, with many of the poorest and those who have lost jobs going hungry without access to daily food and basic necessities.

There have been multiple examples of local churches going above and beyond to respond to this desperate need, even amidst the persecution and threats of prosecution after churches and Christians began to be blamed for spreading Covid due to two house churches that were traced as sources of two early outbreaks in March and April this year.

Church leaders have been delivering hundreds of food packages to the neediest members of their congregation as well as the poorest in their communities, despite the risk of exposure to Covid. One leader shared how there has been an opportunity to show compassion to the soldiers patrolling the streets in the heat and humidity without sufficient hydration, by loading his car with bottles of water and handing them out to the grateful soldiers.

In this dire situation, there have also been opportunities to share the gospel message. One example was a pastor including details of his online church service with food packet deliveries to those in need, many of whom are unchurched. He reported that average Facebook visits for his church exploded from a few hundred to 15,000, prompting him to make his services evangelistic.

While the Covid situation is starting to improve and the authorities are reopening the country, let’s press in to pray for Vietnam, specifically that:

  • the spread of Covid-19 and the Delta variant in particular ceases and cases drop significantly to safer and more manageable levels across the country.
  • the government secures more supplies of official vaccines, so they can boost the overall vaccination rate across the country which remains low (less than 10 percent of the population were fully vaccinated by the end of September).
  • aid, food, necessities and medical supplies reach those most in need, including the poor, unemployed and those suffering from Covid-19 infection.
  • those who have lost family members and loved ones during the pandemic have an opportunity to grieve properly, as many of those who died in this latest outbreak were buried industrially and family members were not permitted to hold funerals.
  • the local church and Christians in Vietnam are able to take advantage of this unique time and opportunity to share the redemptive message of the gospel to counter the despair and hopelessness during the pandemic and for persecution of the church by the authorities to stop.

 

Bangladesh: Villagers flee after attack on local church

“So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.’”
(Mark 10:29–30 N
KJV)

Christians in a southeastern Bangladesh village are living in fear after a group of Buddhist extremists attacked their small Baptist church twice and damaged the building. Local reports said the attacks came after weeks of threats to force church members to recant their Christian faith and return to Buddhism. The Christian residents of Suandrapara village in Rangamati district of the Chittagong Hill Tracts fled after they and the church were finally attacked in July.

The extremists had been angered when the church members built the brick and tin-roofed church in January. The Bangladesh Bawm Tribal Baptist Church had funded this building project, since the Suandrapara Christians, who were previously Buddhists, had been worshipping in a small house since they “met Jesus Christ” in 2005.

The United People’s Democratic Front, a violent political party based in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, led the first attack on 15 July. During this attack, the church gate, cross and parts of the building were broken. The church members were given seven days to stop all church activities and re-convert to Buddhism. A week later on 22 July, the church was again attacked, and a wall, doors, and tin roofing were damaged.

The Christians were told to destroy the church themselves. However, the assistant pastor, Tubel Chakma Poran Adetion, said they refused to comply: “If we have to sacrifice our lives, we will. They threatened us to return to our old religion, but we will not return. Jesus Christ is our saviour. We will die for him.”

Pastor Adetion added that the church did not report the attacks to the police for security reasons: “We are a minority and Buddhists can do anything to us. We want to live in peace with them and discuss things with them.” However, the church may have to seek legal redress against the attackers if the standoff continues.

No mainstream media in Bangladesh reported the incident, but some people have posted about this on social media. The attackers have threatened serious consequences if the incident was shared with the media or the police.

Church leaders in Bangladesh are worried about the attacks. Rev. Leor P. Sarker, general secretary of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship, said he was concerned about the Suandrapara church members: “There are about 50. They live in fear. Most of them are staying away from their homes to protect their life after the attack. We are praying for the attackers, that they may change their way of thinking and let our people live there in peace.”

Christians represent only 0.4 percent of Bangladesh’s 166-million population, more than 90 percent of whom are Muslim. At the Chittagong Hill Tracts, however, there are roughly equal percentages of tribal peoples who mainly follow Theravada Buddhism and Bengalis who follow Islam. Open Doors ranks Bangladesh at number 31 on its 2021 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the greatest persecution.

Home Group Prayer

Lord Jesus!  May the light that sincere Buddhists seek be found through the gospel witness of the Suandrapara village church. Strengthen your followers, Lord, and let your perfect love cast out all fear. Confirm their witness with signs following. Help them find the people of peace whose hearts are ready to receive the good news of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Change the hearts of those who hate them and you. For you delight over your word to perform it. Amen!

 

Afghanistan: Christians at risk

“For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”
(2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV)

The world watched in shock as the Taliban regained  full control of Afghanistan in just 10 short days, following the withdrawal of U.S. troops leaving the Taliban to reestablish a new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Amidst the chaos and confusion, there have been conflicting and contrasting reports about the new regime and era for Afghanistan, making it hard to establish an accurate picture of what is actually happening on the ground at the moment.

Within this context, one thing is clear for the Church in Afghanistan: imminent persecution. Before the Taliban regained power, the situation for the fledgling church and Christians in the country was already dire. Afghanistan is ranked No. 2 on the Open Doors 2021 World Watch List (second only to North Korea) and it is nearly impossible to live openly as a Christian in a country where over 99 percent of Afghans are Muslims and most of the population have never heard the gospel message before.

Afghan Christians are forced to worship secretly in homes or other small and secret venues, while evangelism is strictly forbidden. Beatings, arrests, imprisonment, torture and kidnappings are all common place for believers as well as martyrdom.  Most Christians in the country are first generation converts from Islam which makes them especially vulnerable as apostasy is punishable by death under the strict and extreme Islamic doctrine prescribed by the Taliban. They are also persecuted by their own families and communities.

Despite all of this, Christianity has continued to grow against the odds and Afghan house churches have multiplied in the face of persecution and oppression.

The actual number of Christians in Afghanistan is generally said to be unknown .There are believed to be between 1,000 to 8,000 Christians secretly practicing their faith in Afghanistan according to the U.S. International Religious Freedom Report and only one officially recognised Christian church in the country which was the Catholic chapel situated inside the (now evacuated) Italian Embassy.

Access to Bibles is severely restricted and only available through underground ministry networks or in digital formats, while owning a physical printed Bible is effectively a death sentence.

Christians already faced the very real threat of death and persecution on a daily basis for simply converting from Islam or professing their faith, and with the Taliban now back in power, the situation will only realistically get even worse, if that were possible.

In this desperate and dire situation, the only – and yet also divinely the most crucial and key thing – we can do is to pray. As King Jehoshaphat prayed in the face of attack and desperation: “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” (2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV)

Christians in the country have now been forced to go even deeper underground and completely offline with many turning off their phones and moving to undisclosed locations to seek safety and protection from the current situation. It is now impossible for most people to get out of the country as borders are controlled by the Taliban while flights out are either desperately full or unable to get off the ground amid the chaos and panic at the last remaining exit of Kabul Airport.

How should we pray? With the advance of extremism, food and practical aid shortages and a pandemic that has continued to ravage a country that suffers from decades of war, systemic poverty and lack of development, the immediate future certainly looks bleak from a human standpoint.

Pray for miraculous divine intervention for:

  • The remaining believers in the country to be given supernatural strength, faith and peace to endure / persevere and for safety, protection and provision.
  • Newly displaced Afghan refugees who are desperately fleeing the new regime and expected to end up in many different parts of the world.
  • The sick / infected / dying for access to vaccines and healthcare and for healing and recovery from COVID-19 and other illnesses and infirmities.
  • Practical humanitarian aid to be able to enter the country and reach those most in need who have no access to food and basic necessities.
  • The new Taliban government that they would have compassion on the people of Afghanistan and implement a peaceful and humane era of government against all expectations and for God to be the ultimate sovereign authority in the country and for His name and Church to be glorified against the odds.

VIETNAM: Pastors blamed for COVID-19 Outbreak

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)

The Vietnamese government has accused a pastor couple of causing a major coronavirus outbreak and begun a criminal investigation into the activities of their house church, Revival Ekklesia Mission (REM).

Pastor Phuong Van Tan and his wife Pastor Vo Xuan Loan, and their son, daughter and son-in-law have all been hospitalised with the virus, and are further accused of not reporting their illness.

Health officials alleged that the couple allowed REM church members in Ho Chi Minh City to pray and sing without masks or proper social-distancing restrictions. They claimed they were able to trace a COVID-19 outbreak, which has since led to the city’s lockdown, to the church. This is despite the government banning meetings of more than 20 people since mid-May, the church gathering mostly online, and only seven people present in person at the meeting where the pastors purportedly contracted the virus.

The cluster of cases at REM church has coincided with outbreaks elsewhere in Vietnam and the discovery of a dangerous new variant of the virus that combines traits of the “Delta” and “Alpha” variants.

But the targeting of the church is clear. On 28 May, the Government Committee for Religious Affairs issued a bulletin requesting local authorities to specifically target house churches for inspection and education to do with COVID-19 regulations. On 30 May, REM church’s registration was “temporarily suspended.” Then on 1 June, local security police announced that the church was under criminal investigation for spreading COVID-19.

Christian leaders have responded by asking that the government show compassion to REM church and its members rather than hostility and persecution.

Christians in Vietnam fear that authorities are using the REM outbreak as a reason to impose extra restrictions on all religious bodies, especially house churches. Although authorities in Hanoi found that congregants at REM church’s two Hanoi branches tested negative for COVID-19, all religious gatherings in the capital have been forced to close with immediate effect.

From her hospital bed in Ho Chi Minh City, Pastor Loan has given her own account, which differs from some claims by the health officials. Though she had travelled to Hanoi before the meeting in question, she believes she contracted the virus only after her return from the capital, and was not the source of the cluster. She also denied that the congregation gathered without wearing masks.

“It is not true,” she said. “I am the one who always asked people from my church to wear a mask. I brought masks to all the people of the church and to people in the community.” Pastor Loan added that the church had received a donation of 2,000 masks that she distributed to church members and neighbours.

REM church was founded in the 1990s. As a small church in Vietnam, it joins the many others that have suffered harassment from the government. Vietnam is ranked 19th on the 2021 Open Doors World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Home Group Prayer 

Heavenly Father, we come before you humble and ready to follow in your way. We are thankful that within this turbulent and challenging time you remain the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Thank you that we can bring our prayers and petitions to you, knowing that you hear us, and you care for each of us and our every need.

Lord! Today, we lift to you our brothers and sisters in Vietnam, and we think especially of Pastor Tan and Pastor Loan. Lord, would you heal them, their family, and church members fully from the virus. Please help them to have the courage to continue with their ministry in spite of the difficulties. We are so thankful for their hearts for you and we pray you encourage them in their work.

We pray also for the health officials and other government bodies. Lord, soften their hearts and turn them towards you. Lord, would you reveal yourself to the people of Vietnam, that they might know your love and your mercy.

Amen.

MALAYSIA: High Court rules that Christians can refer to God as ‘Allah’ in their worship

“May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun.
Then all nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed.”
(Psalm 72:17 NIV)

The High Court (third-highest in the land after the Federal Court and Court of Appeal) in Malaysia has overturned a ruling made in 1986 to prohibit the use of the word ‘Allah’ in any non-Muslim worship and literature.

This follows a lawsuit that was launched almost 13 years ago in 2008 when an indigenous Christian woman, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, had eight CDs confiscated on return to the country because  the name ‘Allah’ was contained in the recordings.

Jill Ireland’s lawyer challenged the confiscation as an infringement of “the fundamental freedom of religious rights for non-Muslims” enshrined in Malaysia’s constitution.

Christians in Malaysia mainly worship in English, Tamil or various Chinese dialects, and call upon God in those languages. However, for some Malay-speaking Christians living on the island of Borneo (which is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei), the only word in their worship and literature for ‘God’ is ‘Allah’. Bahasa Malaysia is the Malay language used in Malaysia; Bahasa Indonesia is the variant used in Indonesia; in the latter, ‘Allah’ is an unproblematic term for ‘God’. It is from Indonesia that Borneo Christians obtain much of their Christian worship material and literature.

The word ‘Allah’ comes from Arabic, and Christian Malay speakers argue that they have used the word as far back as the 1600s in their Bibles, songs and prayers, long before the 1986 ruling. Malaysia is the only country to have banned the use of the word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims; it is used in other Muslim countries which have a large Christian population, such as Indonesia. Jill Ireland had brought her CDs into Malaysia from Indonesia.

In the 1986 ruling, the Malaysian Home Ministry had prohibited the use of the word in any non-Muslim publications, along with three other words with Arabic origins. These were ‘Kaabah’, which refers to Islam’s holiest shrine in Mecca, ‘Baitullah’, meaning house of God, and ‘solat’, meaning prayer.

In the High Court’s overturning of the 1986 ruling, the judge stated that the Cabinet under the Prime Minister of the time, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, had not in fact banned the use of the four words and that the Home Ministry had overstepped its authority. The Home Ministry had claimed that using ‘Allah’ would cause confusion among Muslims and could subsequently lead to conversion to other religions. Rather, the Cabinet’s policy recommendation had been to allow the word ‘Allah’ to be used in Christian materials as long as they indicate clearly that they are “Untuk Agama Kristian” (for the Christian religion).

In Malaysia, Muslims comprise around 61 percent of the population of more than 32 million, and Christians comprise around 13 percent.

Home Group Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank you for the judgement made in Malaysia to allow Malay-speaking Christians to worship your Holy Name in the language of their choosing. We thank you that the religious freedoms enshrined in the constitution have been upheld and that your Name can be used in their Bibles, songs and prayers.

We pray for those around the world who are forced to worship your Name in secret. Please be with those who risk everything in order to share your Word and make your Name known to Christians and non-Christians in persecuted lands.

We thank you for our own freedom to worship you, and ask you to soften the hearts of those who persecute Christians wherever they are in the world, that they may know your redeeming love.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Amen.

 

 

 

BANGLADESH: Church attacked by extremists and failed by police

“For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
(Psalm 1:6 ESV)

                                                                                                                                                         (Photo courtesy UCAnews)

Christians in Bangladesh have called on the government to protect them after a group vandalized and looted a church in the northern part of the country.  Pastor Lovlu S. Levy of Emmanuel Church in Aditmari upazila, Lalmonirhat district, which is the northernmost part of the country, said four men on motorcycles broke the lock on the church door, damaged the church’s sign, and cut down trees. They also took 30 chairs and two floor mats worth 14,000 taka (US$165).

Pastor Levy said this was not the first time he and the church had come under attack and received threats. He received death threats in 2015 from extremists and in 2019 a group attacked him on his way to church.

Bangladesh continues to wrestle with Islamist militancy, which has been on the rise since 2013. The church has traced the recent violence against Christians to a locally organized waz mahfil (religious discussion). The hate speeches that resulted against minorities, especially Christians, have been circulated on social media platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook.

Pastor Levy said he has been afraid since the attack took place and the 46 members of the church are also living in fear: “Our constitution allows freedom of religion in the country but fundamentalists have put the freedom under threat. The waz mahfil made various provocative statements about minorities and especially Christians, which encouraged the fundamentalists to attack our church.”

The church filed a complaint at the local police station, but the police have so far failed to take any action or arrest those involved. Instead, local Muslim leaders have accused the pastor of converting Muslims. The police have since dismissed the incident as a land dispute and denied the presence of any church, an officer even claiming there were no records or listing of the church in government documents.

The Bangladesh Christian Association rejected the claim, saying that they know the pastor and church well, and that they had provided blankets and some money for the church members before Christmas. The Association’s president, Nirmol Rozario, stated, “The incident is a result of the predominance of Islamic fundamentalists who want to intimidate Christians. The government must take proper action to stop such violence.”

Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries, and has a moderate Muslim majority. The Christian population comprises less than 1 percent of the population, yet faces persecution from radical Muslim groups.

HOME PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

We ask for your blessing on the Christians in Bangladesh, and cry out in particular for the Emmanuel Church in Aditmari and their Pastor Levy. We ask that you protect them from further violence and attacks. We ask that they be left in peace to worship you without disturbance. We thank you for their songs of praise in your name in spite of the difficulties they face and their steadfastness in the face of suffering.

May your righteousness be an example for all in Bangladesh to put aside religious persecution and violence. We ask that the government of Bangladesh and local communities and the police take the necessary actions to protect the Christians of Emmanuel Church and all minorities in Bangladesh.

May we all pray for the Christians of Bangladesh and be emboldened by their courage to stand up ourselves for an end to religious persecution in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world. Comfort the Christians who are fearful and keep them in the palm of your hand. May you guide us with your wisdom so that we may help persecuted Christians throughout the world to be able to worship you freely.

In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

A prayer for those who intercede for our brothers and sisters who suffer for their Christian faith

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4 ESV)

DEVOTION: PRESSING THROUGH THE ‘BITTER’ (Rev 10:9-10)
– a prayer for those who intercede for Christ’s persecuted Church
by Elizabeth Kendal

Without a doubt, the message of the gospel (Good News) is sweet: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’ (John 3:16,17 ESV). So too is the promise that this salvation will extend to the ends of the earth (e.g., Genesis 6:3Psalm 22:25-31, Isaiah 54:1-3, Habakkuk 2:14, Acts 1:8), reaching many tribes, peoples, nations, languages, and kings (Revelation chapters 5 and 10). Yet often it is the case that we joyfully ingest this gloriously sweet gospel, only to find it makes our stomach ‘bitter’: ‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you … Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God’ (from John 15:18-16:4). Yes, the sweetness of salvation is commonly followed by the bitterness of persecution. After all, both are integral to the cosmic spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12) – a battle which Christ has already won (Colossians 2:13-15) and in which we are now ‘mopping up’ as Satan continues (to quote Jacques Ellul) ‘to resist his demise with the energy of despair’.

As Christians, we pray for God to send more workers into his harvest field (Matthew 9:37,38) and to bless all ministry and witness with effectual Holy Spirit power (1 Corinthians 4:20). We press through times of waiting as the soil (mission field) is weeded (to remove falsehoods), fed (with the blood of martyrs) and watered (with the tears of intercessors) that it might receive the gospel seed and yield a blessed harvest (Matthew 13). In love, we press on through frustration, spurred on by faith-fuelled hope rooted in the promises of God. ‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Jesus, in Matthew 16:18). ‘Behold, all of [my adversaries] will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up’ (the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 50:4-9). So, no matter the circumstances, we just press on and pray for our missionaries, along with all who witness for Christ: may the Lord sustain them to just keep nibbling (like the moth) as he (the Lord) keeps building! [See: ‘Prayer Fuel from the Servant Songs of Isaiah’ http://www.elizabethkendal.com/ (tab: Devotions).]

No matter how sweet it is for us to hear stories of amazing conversions, we must always remember that, for many new believers, life is bitter. Indeed, conversion is where their battle begins! Rescued from the doomed kingdom of darkness, they are now free to live for God in the kingdom of light, except that they live behind enemy lines where the cost of discipleship is high. Maybe they live in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Tibet, Afghanistan or Somalia where the church has been forced deep underground. Maybe they live on a spiritual front line where the battle is raging, such as in Egypt, Mesopotamia (Syria-Iraq) or the Caucuses (Armenia, Artsakh, Azerbaijan) where the world’s most ancient Christian peoples are under sustained attack. Maybe they live in a village in Northern Nigeria, India’s northern tribal belt, or a city anywhere in Iran where Satan is desperately fighting a losing battle to keep his disillusioned captives in! Or maybe they live in a household deeply hostile to Christianity; a household long captive to Islam, Eastern religion, or atheism and scientific materialism; a household into which our gracious Lord Jesus is reaching. Any believer who is truly engaged in the advance of God’s kingdom will find themselves continuously see-sawing between the sweetness of kingdom growth (which lifts us high and into the light) and the bitterness of persecution (which takes us into the darkness and drives us low).

Every day, faithful intercessors put on their armour and willingly enter that darkness precisely so they might pray for – that is, engage in spiritual battle on behalf of – Christ’s imperilled, persecuted, wounded Church. They enter that darkness voluntarily, precisely so they might see, listen to, understand, lift up and support their suffering brothers and sisters – God’s precious children, Church and bride – in their time of need. Filled as it is with greed, hatred, megalomania, war, lies, repression, persecution, and terrible suffering, that darkness is not a nice place. That said, Christ is there! Indeed, the darkness is where the Redeemer, Jesus the ‘true light’ who brings ‘grace and truth’ (John 1:1-18) does his greatest work. Furthermore, Jesus invites us, even implores us, to come and join him in his great redemptive work, a work that includes caring for and supporting his embattled persecuted Church (Hebrews 13:3). The only way to endure such a task, the only way to press on through the bitter, is to keep one’s eyes fixed on Jesus who has come and secured victory and trust that ‘all the promises of God [will indeed] find their Yes in him’ (2 Corinthians 1:20a ESV).

MY PRAYER FOR THOSE PRESSING THROUGH THE BITTER

I have prayed this for you.
I ask that you each might pray it for all our fellow intercessors.

Dear Father,

I bring before you all those faithful intercessors who willingly enter the darkness and press through the bitter precisely so they might intercede for and fight on behalf of your persecuted Church, which risks so much to live, minister, witness and shine there.

Driven by a deep love for your Church, a zeal for justice and a yearning desire to see ‘your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’, they voluntarily subject themselves to the worst of news comprising all the ugliest aspects of fallen humanity. For the sake of your Church, and so they might intercede, they resist the seductive lure of ‘blissful ignorance’ and ingest news of repression, incarceration, abuse, assault, rape, abduction, torture, murder, massacre, genocide, abandonment and seemingly endless injustice. It is a critical and strategic ministry; but it can bring intercessors low and make their stomachs bitter.

Father, it is with this in mind that I pray for every intercessor: may the Holy Spirit be so powerfully at work within each one that love, and faith-fuelled hope rooted in the promises of God, will always prove greater than any despair or hopelessness Satan – ‘the father of lies’ (John 8:44) – might wish to fire into their hearts (Ephesians 6:16).

May prayer for the persecuted continue to grow as God knits together his increasingly global Church using chords of love forged in the flames of persecution, in answer to the prayer of our Lord which he prayed in the garden: that we might be one, that the world might believe (John 17:20-23).

AMEN

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”(Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV)