A message from the World Assemblies of God Fellowship Commission on Religious Liberty (CRL)
Dear Superintendents, Bishops and Presidents of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship:
This year, November 13th and 20th have been chosen as days of prayer for the suffering church. We ask you to encourage your churches to use one of these dates for a special time of prayer. Pastors can highlight the subject of the suffering church during regularly scheduled prayer meetings, call for special prayer meetings, or use time in Sunday services to focus on this need. It is also a good opportunity to encourage churches not to forget their suffering brothers and sisters.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Cor. 4:7-9, NASB
The General Situation of the Suffering Church in 2016
Unfortunately we have to report that worldwide religious-motivated persecution has increased.
Among the leading 50 countries on the index of persecution of Christians worldwide there are 16 African nations. Kenya experienced the worst terrorist attack in 15 years. At the university in Garissa 147 Christians were murdered because they refused to profess the Muslim creed.
Never before have so many Christians had to flee their cities and countries. In Nigeria tens of thousands of Christians were driven out of the Sharia states in the North. Many thousands more fled from the violence of the nomadic Hausa-Fulani people group in Central Nigeria. In the last five years 90 percent of the 400,000 Christians in Aleppo, Syria have definitely left the city as of February 2016.
We suggest prayer for the following countries:
The religious intolerance that is revealing itself in various ways in Algerian society remains difficult for Algerian Christians. They face open opposition against the founding of churches, stigmatization, expulsion from families, intimidation and threats from radical Islamists, defamation, contempt and pressure in the workplace.
Whoever is caught giving away a Bible or talking about God can be imprisoned for up to five years.
The situation is especially precarious for Christian converts from Muslim families. They are not only exposed to legal arbitrariness but also face discrimination and hostility within their own families.
Despite the persecution and difficulties, the Algerian church is lively and bold. Christians are caring for and supporting each other in their difficult situations as much as possible. Many churches are offering discipleship classes to their members to help Christians grow in faith and persevere in times of persecution.
- For Christian converts that are suffering in their families.
- For Christians that are being divorced because of their faith. This situation is extremely difficult for them because they automatically lose custody of their children.
- For the abolition of the regulation 06-03 that regulates non-Muslim worship services.
The systematic persecution of Christians in Sudan calls to mind a policy of ethnic cleansing. Islam has deep roots in this society. Already in the 19th century the movement of Mahdi sought to establish an Islamic state after the tradition of the early period of Islam.
Today, freedom of press and expression are severely limited. Christians from the traditional church as well as from Protestant free churches are subjected to persecution. The pressure on believers has strongly increased. Christians with a Muslim background are affected the most by the persecution.
Due to surveillance by authorities and Islamic leaders they can hardly lead a normal life. The punishment of former Muslims, the destruction of church buildings and the imprisonment of Christian pastors and priests are but some of the aspects of the persecutions of Christians.
Persecution is especially severe in the Nuba region. There are constant attacks on churches, schools and hospitals, especially in South Kordofan and the province Blue Nile.
- For protection and special steadfastness for Christians of Muslim origin that are faced with major difficulties within their families, comfort for imprisoned and maltreated Christians, healing of their physical and emotional wounds and willingness to forgive.
- For God to work in the hearts of and Jesus to reveal Himself to politicians, and for Muslim influences in the government to be pushed back.
- For a compassionate society that does not automatically view Christians as enemies.
Malaysia is still the best example of a liberal, tolerant Islamic country. Under the surface, however, the symbol of a harmonious multi-ethnic state is increasingly divided. Malaysia has always been a Muslim country, Najib Razak said before he became Prime Minister. For some years an increasing divide has become visible in the Malaysian society, due to the clear favoritism of the Malay-Islamic key population group over the ethnic-religious minorities.
The churches are very involved in providing education and heath care, thus providing a valuable contribution for the whole of society. Besides the tribal population in East Malaysia, most Christians are found in the Chinese and Indian minorities. Their churches are very dynamic and fast-growing. Through the Christian Federation of Malaysia the traditional Protestant churches, Evangelicals (under the umbrella of the NECF), and Catholics have a joint voice by which they can go public on a regular basis. However, the MBBs (Christians of Muslim origin) are treated as a taboo in society. The government is doing everything possible to hinder them from coming into contact with the gospel.
- Give thanks for the growth of the Church among the Chinese, Indian and tribal minorities:.
- Give thanks for the hitherto peaceful protest. Pray for the government to serve the whole population and to deal with tearing down the divide between the races and religions.
- For greater acceptance of Christians and for the possibility of officially changing faith.
- That the many Christians forced to keep their faith a secret will experience fellowship and encouragement and will grow in faith and doctrine.
- For the Church in East Malaysia that wants to offer the younger generation more Bible schools as an answer to the aggressive Islamization.
Rev. Max Schläpfer
Chairman, WAGF Commission on Religious Liberty (CRL)