In this issue:
- The Sultan of Brunei
- VIETNAM: Two evangelists sentenced to prison
- INDIA, ASSAM: Opposition and violence
- PAKISTANI MINISTER condemns reward for killing Christian women
- PAKISTAN: Five Christians murdered in a week under blasphemy law
- AFGHANISTAN: Authorities block lawyer from visiting Christian
- IRAN: Pastor faces execution
- LIBYA: Logos hope
- SOMALIA: Young teen murdered for turning to Christianity
- SUDAN: Referendum soon and war looms
- IVORY COAST: On the brink of war
- NIGERIA: Muslim militants kill three Christians
THE SULTAN OF BRUNEI
The Sultan of Brunei, His Majesty Hassanal Bolkiah, is generally considered the world’s second wealthiest royal. He has been reluctant to diversify the economy and liberalize government structures, believing that external influences might destabilize the nation. He has established a world-class university, and is working towards a smooth transition to his son The Sultan has also shown evidence of becoming increasingly spiritual.
PRAY for members of the royal family to desire and commit to become followers of Jesus.
PRAY the Sultan, in the pursuit of his commitment to Islam, will have a personal encounter with or vision of Jesus.
PRAY that many of his followers might also seek more deeply after spiritual truth and in so doing find Jesus.
VIETNAM: TWO EVANGELISTS SENTENCED TO PRISON
Two Christian evangelists, Ksor Y Du, 47, and Kpa Y Co, 30, were sentenced this month to six and four years in prison respectively for “undermining national unity.” Ksor and Kpa, of the Vietnam Good News Mission (VGNM) church, received the harsh sentences on Nov. 15. House arrest of four and two years respectively also was added to the sentences, according to church sources and Vietnam’s Phap Luat (Law) newspaper.
Both evangelists, who are of the Ede minority, live in Song Hinh district of Phu Yen Province, where there are some 20 VGNM congregations. Ksor was one of many thousands of ethnic minority people in Vietnam’s Central Highland that participated in demonstrations in 2004 against religious oppression and illegal confiscation of their traditional lands. They were held 10 months without charges, the area sources said.
During interrogation, authorities ordered them to accuse VGNM leaders of illegally starting the organization and to accuse Pastor Mai Hong Sanh of opening an illegal Bible school in Buonmathuot, sources said. The authorities grew angry when they refused. Ksor’s wife, A Le H’Gioi, told church leaders that the presiding judge of the People’s Court addressed the matter of their faith directly, asking her husband, “Do you still insist on following the religion?”
The judge also asked him, “After serving in prison already, do you still insist on staying with the Vietnam Good News Mission?” She said her husband answered that he would not give up his faith in God even if it meant death.
INDIA, ASSAM: OPPOSITION AND VIOLENCE
Christian believers in a village of Assam, India, were planning to construct a church building until their neighbors began to oppose them. The pastor of the church requests prayer for his congregation as they strive to build a church to finally call their own and worship the Lord Jesus freely.
In another area of Assam, tension between two religious groups escalated after a 45-year-old woman was allegedly raped by a member of the opposing group. The local news reported one person was killed and nine houses torched in the aftermath of that crime.
PAKISTANI MINISTER COMDEMNS REWARD FOR KILLING CHRISTIAN WOMAN
Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti has condemned the recent announcement of a reward for killing the jailed Christian woman Asia Bibi, calling it unjust and irresponsible. The Christian Post reported a hard-line imam offered about $6,000 to anyone who kills Asia Bibi should the president pardon her.
Imam Maulana Yousuf Qureshi made his offer during a sermon at the largest mosque in Peshawar. He also threatened the government to not amend or repeal the blasphemy laws “which provide protection to the sanctity of Holy Prophet Muhammad.” Qureshi said that if the appeals court judge freed Bibi then Muslim extremists would kill her.
Asia Bibi received a death sentence in November for allegedly speaking badly of Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Her case has sparked international outcry against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which often are used against religious minorities after a small non-religious-related dispute. The high court has yet to set a date for Bibi’s appeals hearing.
Please continue to pray for the safety and protection of Asia, her family and Christians throughout Pakistan. Thank the Lord for Shahbaz Bhatti’s willingness to speak publicly in Asia’s defence. Pray the Lord will use this case to repeal the blasphemy laws.
PAKISTAN: FIVE CHRISTIANS MURDERED IN A WEEK UNDER BLASPHEMY LAW
Muslim extremists are blamed for the murders of five Christians in Pakistan in less than a week. The marked increase in these cases has created a renewed call by human rights watchdog groups for an end to the “blasphemy law.”
Greg Musselman, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs Canada, says, “Christians are always under this kind of law. In recent days, it’s received international attention because of some of the other cases that are happening. The international community is saying, ‘This is ridiculous. You can’t have these kinds of laws.’ There’s a lot of pressure that I believe will be put on Pakistan.”
This part of the criminal code has come under fire for its vague writing and broad interpretation. It’s a dangerous weapon in Pakistan’s criminal code. “The blasphemy law, for the most part, is used to intimidate Christians from evangelizing. But I think they need to know that we’re praying for them [and] encouraging them.”
“The Bible tells us that if one part of the body suffers, we all suffer,” says Musselman, “so we should be concerned about that.”
AFGHANISTAN: AUTHORITIES BLOCK LAWYER FROM VISITING CHRISTIAN
A Christian in Afghanistan facing “apostasy” charges punishable by death is still without legal representation after authorities blocked a foreign lawyer’s attempt to visit him in prison, sources said. A Christian lawyer from the region who requested anonymity travelled to Kabul on behalf of Christian legal rights organization Advocates International two weeks ago to represent 45-year-old Said Musa (alternatively spelled Sayed Mossa). Authorities denied him access to Musa and to his indictment file.
After several court hearing postponements, Musa appeared before a judge on Nov. 27 without prior notice. The judge sent Musa’s case file to the attorney general’s office for corrections, according to the lawyer. The prosecutor in charge of western Kabul, Din Mohammad Quraishi, said two men, Musa and Ahmad Shah, were accused of conversion to another religion, according to Agence France-Presse. But Musa’s letters from prison and other sources indicate that Shah is a government informant posing as a Christian.
Musa and Shah appeared before the judge on Nov. 27 “shackled and chained” to each other, according to a source who was present. Musa and the other sources claim Shah sent images of Christians worshiping to the country’s most popular broadcaster, Noorin TV, which aired them in May. The broadcast put in motion the events that got Musa arrested, sources said. In early June the deputy secretary of the Afghan Parliament, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, called for the execution of converts from Islam.
Another Afghan Christian is in prison for his faith, sources said. Shoib Assadullah, 25, was arrested on Oct. 21 for giving a New Testament to a man who reportedly turned him in to authorities. Assadullah is in a holding jail in a district of Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan.
IRAN: PASTOR FACES EXECUTION
The fate of a Christian pastor in Iran is in the hands of Iran’s judicial system. Youcef Nardarkhani, pastor of a church of about 400 people, was convicted of apostasy and has been sentenced to death for allegedly renouncing his Muslim.
On September 22, Iran’s 11th Circuit Criminal Court of Appeals for the Gilan Province upheld the death sentence and conviction of Nardarkhani for apostasy. The delivery of the death sentence is being delayed. According to reports, the goal is to put more pressure on him to turn away from Christ.
Todd Nettleton with VOM USA says, “[Nardarkhani’s] attorney has now formally appealed the verdict, or asked for the verdict to be set aside. So now we wait and see what the appeals court will do in this case.”
Nardarkhani would be the first Christian convicted of apostasy to be executed in 20 years. Nettleton says Christians are facing more persecution. “The church of Jesus Christ is growing at an incredibly high rate, and Muslims are coming to follow Christ in huge numbers. That has the government running scared.”
Two articles in Iran’s constitution grant Christians “the right to freely worship and form religious societies.” Another article “obligates the Iranian government to uphold the equality and human rights of Christians.”
Pray God will fill Pastor Youcef and his family with peace and that they will continue to stand on the Word, knowing that God protects His children. Pray for those in charge of Pastor Youcef’s case, that God would soften their hearts and cause them to overturn their decision.
LIBYA: LOGOS HOPE
A historic visit
During Logos Hope’s historic five-week stay in Libya, over 130,000 people came on board with the opportunity to browse the book fair, learn more about the ship, and connect with the multicultural staff. Visitors ranged from high government officials and diplomats, university students, expatriates, schoolchildren and even the Prince of Swaziland.
Through a dinner and musical performances on board planned by the ship’s host organisation, crewmembers were able to taste and experience rich Libyan food and culture. Crew and staff were thankful for the many organised outings to cultural and historical sites around Libya that allowed them to see more of this beautiful country. One group was even invited to separate parts of a wedding celebration.
Visitors were not only surprised by the multicultural staff but also how peacefully they live and work together. Crewmembers were encouraged by positive comments from visitors, like Mardia who said, “I think it is a wonderful way to bring people from all over the world together, thank you for coming to my country and giving us beautiful memories.” Logos Hope’s visit to Libya was very well received and the host organisation is eager to see the ship return to Libya again.
SOMALIA: YOUNG TEEN MURDERED FOR TURNING TO CHRISTIANITY
A 17-year old girl was shot and killed in Somalia for her faith in Christ. Voice of the Martyrs Canada reports that the girl had been tortured by her parents since May, when she turned from Islam to Christianity. Believing she’d gone crazy, they gave her medication and regularly tied her to a tree. The girl fled to live with relative, but was soon murdered – likely by family – in an “honor killing.”
Pray for the salvation of her parents and for the Gospel to spread in Somalia despite persecution.
SUDAN REFERENDUM SOON AND WAR LOOMS
War looms over Sudan as Southern Sudanese prepare to vote on 9 Jan 2011 in a referendum on independence. Years of neglect and failure to implement the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement make unity unattractive to the mostly African-Christian Southerners who will almost certainly vote to secede.
However, 80 percent of Sudan’s oil lies in the South and Sudan’s neighbouring allies oppose Southern secession. The Arab-Islamist regime in the North is highly likely to reject a referendum result that recognises an independent South Sudan. Government forces recently bombed Southern army positions in Kiirabem, displacing thousands of people.
Northern MPs are accusing the Southern leadership of supporting Darfur rebels which they assert is akin to declaring war against the North. Please pray for the long-suffering Church in Sudan.
IVORY COAST ON THE BRINK OF WAR
Ivory Coast held elections on 28 November 2010 and both the incumbent Christian president Laurent Gbagbo and his Muslim opponent Alassane Ouattara are claiming victory. The US, European Union and African Union have recognised Ouattara as the winner and Gbagbo is being called upon to ‘respect democracy’ and step down. The stakes are extremely high. Decades of Muslim mass immigration has tipped the demographic balance so that Ivory Coast — officially around one third Muslim — is now actually majority Muslim with immigrants from Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea comprising up to 40 percent of the population. Ivory Coast’s non-Muslims are traumatised, fearing that their homeland — once a strategic Christian centre — is about to come under the political domination of Muslims. War threatens. Please pray for the Church in Ivory Coast.
NIGERIA: MUSLIM MILITANTS KILL THREE CHRISTIANS
When Will the Pogrom Against Nigerian Christians End?
International Christian Concern has learned that on November 25, Muslim radicals killed three Christians and wounded one in Kwata Zawan village, near the city of Jos.
According to the report by Stephanos Foundation, the attackers, who spoke Arabic and Fulani languages, invaded the Christian village at 10 PM local time. The Muslims were dressed in military uniform. Though one of the villagers reported the incident, the Nigerian security forces failed to intervene and stop the attackers.
Sonshak Amos, who lost his cousin during the attack, said, “I ran to the nearby military post [to report the attack] and told them what had happened. They couldn’t do anything immediately but attempted to make contact to their superior, which never went through. In the process, we met policemen and before they could come to the area, the armed bandits had escaped and I discovered that my cousin Alfred was among those killed.”
Muslim radicals have been waging jihad attacks against Christians near the city of Jos. On March 7, they invaded Christian villages surrounding Jos and killed 500 Christians, mainly women and children. On April 13, they killed 13 Christians in Bei village. There were a number of other attacks, the most recent of which happened on October 25, when Muslims killed six Christians in the village of Ruwenku.
Jonathan Racho, said, “We are extremely concerned by the never-ending jihad attacks by Muslims against Christians in Jos. We are outraged by the failure of Nigerian security forces to protect Christians in the face of such incessant attacks. Nigerian authorities have an obligation to protect their citizens against attacks. We are afraid the pogrom against Christians will continue unless the perpetrators are brought to justice and the security forces provide effective protection.”
Cuts from the Wycliffe Prayer Focus Bulletin
French-speaking Africa: Translating key documents
Praise God that He has provided competent translators who are delighted to serve him through the French-English Translation Service (FETS). This service is crucial for building capacity in French-speaking countries.
Please pray for the current translators who often have a heavy workload; pray especially for those based in countries that are politically unstable.
Pray for their safety, strength and good health in often stressful living conditions.
Pray too for additional translation staff to translate presentations for a training workshop for finance and project funding staff. Currently FETS does not have the capacity to meet this important need.
Nigeria: Tsikimba New Testament delivery
Tsikimba is one language in a cluster* of three that are referred to as the Kambari Language Project. In March 2010, the Kambari Language Project team reached a primary purpose milestone: The Tsikimba New Testament was submitted for printing. Delivery of the published books is scheduled for January 2011. Great hurdles were overcome as people prayed and fasted for this to become a reality.
Please keep the process of printing, delivery and distribution to the people in your prayers.
*A language cluster refers to languages that may be linguistically related, and/or from similar geographic regions or cultural backgrounds.
Asia: New Testament dedication
The Rakali* New Testament was dedicated in early November, with great rejoicing. One of the highlights was seeing 50 people divided into groups to compete in a Bible memory contest focused on Matthew 5:1-20. One group even composed a beautiful song on the beatitudes. There were messages and songs of thanks to God for his Word.
Please pray now that the Gospel will transform the lives of many by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Southeast Asia: Scripture distribution
The dedication of the Rakali* New Testament was held in November. Pray now for continued distribution work along a local border. All the New Testaments in one area have been distributed and there are small group Bible studies being held. Some in that area do not yet have a New Testament, and would like one. Pray for the leaders as they decide on numbers for another printing. Pray that the Gospel will come to them with the power of the Holy Spirit bringing deep conviction (I Thessalonians 1:5). *pseudonym
Kenya: i-DELTA training course
The Anglophone* General Training and Assessment (GTA) Course of the Institute for the Development of Languages and Translation in Africa (i-DELTA ) will be held in Kenya, January 3-28, 2011. Sixty students are coming from Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Sudan and Tanzania. The disciplines covered will be Bible Translation, Scripture Use, Community Mobilization, Results-Based Management, Linguistics, Academic Writing, Anthropological Insights, and Computer Training. Students who excel will go on to further academic studies over the next three years.
Pray for the students’ preparations, leaving their families and work responsibilities behind for a month and for the staff as they finalize their preparations.
*’Anglophone’ means ‘English-speaking’
Worldwide: Digital publication
Praise God for a successful pilot phase for a new digital publishing company that focuses on language communities where access is difficult. Many staff and volunteers have worked hard to pave the way for setting up websites and adapting translated Scripture and other materials for electronic transmission to computers, mobile phones and other hand-held devices.
Pray that this agency’s services will be a blessing to many people in restricted access countries, where the Internet may be the only way they can find the Bible in their own languages.
Global: Old Testament textual project
Participants in the Common Text Project are researching a number of Old Testament textual issues that impact translators and translations. The project will post its findings on a website, and translators can go there for help to deal with these issues quickly and consistently.
Please pray that enough researchers will join this effort and that the pilot phase of the project will be completed by January 2011.
Global: Finding the right word:. Pray for wisdom for Bible translators in the linguistic complexities they encounter. For example, how should Galatians 6:2 be translated in the Koma language of Ghana? It says, “Carry one another’s burdens…” This language has five different words for ‘carry’: ‘chii’ carry on the head; ‘dogi’ carry on the hip; ‘mili’ carry on the back; ‘vigi’ carry on the shoulder; and ‘pogili’ carry in front of you. They carry their heaviest burdens on their heads, so ‘chii’ is the right one to use*.
*The right question to ask is “What do Koma people carry in these different places?” “On the back” is always a baby; “on the hip” is always a small child; “on the shoulder” is usually a piece of firewood or a hoe; and “in front of you” is something light, almost like “hold.”
Mexico: New Testaments nearing completion
Please pray for three New Testaments in the publication process outside of the country, that each one will be printed and delivered to Mexico in a timely manner.
Ask the Lord to work strongly through His Word to produce much spiritual fruit in the lives of those who speak these languages: Lachixío Zapotec, Yaganiza Zapotec and Southeastern Puebla Nahuatl.
Central African Republic: Church grapples with health problems
Praise God for people in the Gbaya, Ngbugu, Sango and Yaka people groups who, in November 2010, translated “Kande’s Story” into their languages. “Kande’s Story” is a course aimed at helping churches develop a biblical approach to people with AIDS. The course gives medical information about HIV/AIDS. It also challenges Christians to care for sufferers and for orphans left behind when their parents die.
Central African Republic: National elections
January 2011 is the month for presidential and legislative elections. Pray for a peaceful process. Reporting on the current Bible translation status in CAR, one person commented, “Wars and rumors of wars have plagued this nation for at least the last decade, but the hearts of the Body of Christ are strong and firm. The Wycliffe organization, Association Centrafricaine pour la Traduction de la Bible et l’Alphabétisation (ACATBA), is … sending Central Africans to be trained to do Bible translation.”
Cameroon: Francophone Initiative steering committee meetings
Please pray for a meeting of the steering committee (COSIF) of the Francophone Initiative (FI) that will be held in Douala, Cameroon, 12-14 January 2011. At these meetings, team members will finalize plans for a consultation of Francophone African theologians to be held in August 2011. They will also discuss details for the new FI website and preparations for a comprehensive plan for Francophone Africa*.
*’Francophone Africa’ refers to French-speaking African countries.
Francophone Africa Region: Training translation consultants
Praise God that he has already provided two thirds of the translation consultants needed for the work in West Africa. A third of the needs are being met at country level and another third through the region.
Please pray that sufficient numbers of potential consultants can be identified and trained to meet the final third of needs that are currently not being met. The consultant’s role is vital: a consultant thoroughly goes over the translation with the team, checking for accuracy, clarity and naturalness, and looking for omissions, extraneous thoughts or possible misconceptions.
Paraguay: Translation project
Pray for the translation project among the Aché people of Paraguay, for the printing of the four gospels and funds for the same. Literacy materials have been turned in to the Ministry of Education for approval.
Please pray for a positive response. The Aché people number about 1400. They are agriculturalists.