Over the next 12 days we ask that you Pledge to Pray:
- 14th December for abducted Coptic Christian Egyptian women.
- 15th December for imprisoned Christians in Libya.
- 16th December for imprisoned Christians in Sudan.
- 17th December for terrorised Christians in Nigeria.
- 18th December for threatened Christians in the territories under control of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
- 19th December for Christian converts risking their lives in Afghanistan.
- 20th December for Christian converts risking their lives in Saudi Arabia.
- 21st December for Syrian Christian refugees.
- 22nd December for Asia Bibi appealing her death sentence in Pakistan.
- 23rd December for Father Thomas Uzhannalil kidnapped in Yemen.
- 24th December for Iraqi Christian refugees persecuted in Turkey.
- 25th December for imprisoned Christians in Iran.
Pledge to Pray
Click on the tabs below to read more about each prayer points:
[accordion_content accordion_label=”23 December – Pray for Father Thomas Uzhannalil kidnapped in Yemen”]
In early March this year, militants attacked a Catholic retirement home in Yemen and murdered 16 people working there. In that attack, Father Thomas Uzhannil was kidnapped and is still being held prisoner. One of the nuns who survived described the brutal attack in an emotional visit with Father Tom’s family.
Originally, it was believed that ISIS was responsible for the attack and kidnapping of the priest, but later news reports indicate he was taken by a different anti-government militant group. The priest’s older brother, Matthew, said in April that he is very worried but trusting God. “Leave everything in God’s hands and trust in him. Everything is secure in God’s hands.”
Father Tom is originally from India, and his government has been working with the Vatican and the FBI to negotiate his release from the rebel group holding him in Yemen. Over eight months after his capture, the negotiations appear to have stalled. News about his condition is scarce, although we believe he is still alive. In November, the Salesian Catholic congregation that sent Father Tom to Yemen released another appeal to pray for his release.
Open Doors International estimates there are only a few thousands Christians living in Yemen, a country that has been in turmoil since 2012 as the rival Sunni terror groups Al-Qaeda and Islamic State fight Iranian-backed Shiite rebels for control. Yemen’s president and government were forced to flee the country in 2015, leaving the population at the mercy of the fighting militant gangs. In addition to severe religious persecution, Yemeni Christians are also facing a humanitarian crisis and extreme food shortage that affects the entire country.
Father Tom and the suffering Christians of Yemen are on our hearts during this holiday season. Please remember to lift them up in prayer today and during the rest of the year.
- For Father Tom’s safety and quick release from his kidnappers.
- For Father Tom and his family to be filled with supernatural peace and faith as they wait.
- For a peaceful end to the civil war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
- For the protection and spiritual strength of all Christians living in Yemen.
[accordion_content accordion_label=”22 December – Pray for Asia Bibi waiting for final appeal of her death sentence in Pakistan”]
For six years, Asia Bibi has languished in a prison cell after being accused of violating Pakistan’s Islamic anti-blasphemy laws. The Christian mother of five children has been sentenced to death, and her lawyers have appealed the court’s decision many times. The final appeal hearing was scheduled to take place in October, but was postponed after one of the judges recused himself. The new date for her final appeal has not been set at this time.
Radical Muslim clerics in Pakistan have demanded that Bibi be hanged regardless of the outcome of the pending hearing. An influential mosque declared that anyone defending Bibi will be treated as blasphemers themselves, and threatened anti-government demonstrations if she is released. Throughout her long trial proceedings there have been violent public demonstrations against her. A Pakistani governor who supported her case was murdered and his killer had widespread popularity even after being prosecuted. The judge who presided over the murder trial was forced to flee the country over threats to his own life.
Bibi’s family is in hiding. Her children are growing up without their mother, and her husband is trying to hold onto faith that his wife will return to their family. Their story has drawn international attention, and over half a million people have signed a global petition asking the Pakistani government to release her. Although the hostile environment in Pakistan makes impartial justice for Christians like Asia Bibi very difficult to achieve, we have not given up hope.
Asia Bibi is not the only Pakistani believer who will be in prison during Christmas this year. As she waits to learn her fate, her spiritual brother is also waiting for an appeal of his blasphemy conviction. Outside the prison walls, four million Pakistani Christians are preparing to celebrate Christmas amid very high tensions and threats against them. Pakistan’s government has pledged to provide security to Christian church services during the holidays, but the threat of attacks and mob violence is still very high. As we pray for the release of Asia Bibi, we also pray for the safety of every Christian in Pakistan.
- For Asia Bibi’s continued health and spiritual strength during her imprisonment.
- For the judges in her case to have the courage to deliver fair and impartial justice.
- For Bibi’s family to be safe and filled with peace.
- For every Christian in Pakistan to be protected from all threats against them.
[accordion_content accordion_label=”21 December – Pray for Syrian Christian refugees fleeing terrorists and civil war”]
The ancient Christian communities of Syria, established in the first century AD, have been decimated by the Syrian Civil War ongoing since 2011 and the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group. Syria is the fifth most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian, according to Open Doors International. The country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, is at war with several factions of rebels and Islamic radical groups, including ISIS. But Assad’s oppressive government is backed by Iran and its proxies such as Hezbollah, and Assad’s military is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Syrians. CUFI’s Erick Stakelbeck explained the complicated situation in Syria on this episode of The Watchman. Unfortunately, there are no “good guys” in this war except the innocent people trapped between the competing forces.
Syria’s Christians are caught in the middle with nowhere safe to flee. ISIS has specifically chosen to target, enslave, and brutally murder Christians as they try to take control of the region. Surrounding countries are unwilling to accept refugees, because of fears that terrorists will hide among the victims and infiltrate additional Middle Eastern nations. Israel is doing everything it can to provide humanitarian aid to refugees and victims of the war, but as such a small nation with its own precarious security concerns it cannot absorb the refugees. European countries, Canada, and the United States have accepted some Syrian refugees, but despite the targeted persecution of Christians by ISIS only a very small percentage of Christians have been among the refugees accepted by Western nations. Most of the surviving Syrian Christians are still trapped.
World governments have failed to stop the civil war or rescue the most vulnerable victims of this conflict, but some Christians have been saved by compassionate people who donated to ransom the captives of ISIS. However, giving money to ISIS is considered criminal activity and presents a moral dilemma for many in the West. In this conflict, there appear to be no good solutions.
Even Christians who escape Syria still face danger. In other countries where they live in refugee camps, Christians are ostracized, threatened, and attacked by the Muslim refugees. Life is extremely difficult for them in these camps, and they have little hope of a better future.
We may not know how to find a human solution to the Syrian Civil War, but we know God cares deeply for these suffering people. We must not forget the Christians who are bravely standing up for their faith and dying at the hands of ISIS. Please join us as we pray for their miraculous deliverance from all attacks against them.
- For God to intervene on the behalf of Syrian Christians under attack with supernatural miracles and divine protection.
- For world governments to do everything possible to rescue Syrian Christian refugees.
- For a peaceful end to the Syrian Civil War and the defeat of ISIS and other terrorist groups.
[accordion_content accordion_label=”20 December – Pray for converts risking their lives in Saudi Arabia”]
An estimated 1.2 million Christians live in Saudi Arabia, but most of these believers are migrants from other countries. By law, all Saudi citizens are considered Muslim. The Islamic government rules by strict Sharia law under which conversion from Islam is punishable by execution and churches are outlawed. In addition to government persecution, Christian converts are often the victims of “honor killings” by angry family members. In 2006, the government promised to allow Christians the freedom to worship privately in their homes but that promise has not been kept.
Despite intense persecution, the internet has made it easier for Saudi nationals to learn about Christianity and connect with believers in other countries. No one knows how many Christian converts exist in Saudi Arabia because it is too dangerous for them to reveal themselves, but missionaries and nonprofit organizations say that the number of underground believers is growing with the help of online evangelism.
One man, known only as Mohammed, came to faith after searching for spiritual truth online. Disillusioned and dissatisfied with what he’d been taught about Islam, Mohammed was captivated by what he read about the loving God of the Bible. He tried to visit churches in other Middle Eastern countries, but was not allowed to enter the buildings because of laws against evangelism to Muslims. But through the internet, Mohammed finally connected with other Middle Eastern Christians who welcomed him to their congregation and baptized him into his new faith.
Mohammed soon had to return to Saudi Arabia, but he was able to smuggle a Bible back into the country with him. He has had to keep his new faith a secret from even his wife and children, because they might turn him in to the religious police or alert family members who would kill him.
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ and the holiday season, we must remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia who are risking their lives to follow Jesus. They live in one of the cruelest and most dangerous parts of the world, and they need our support not just today but all year round.
- For the safety of Mohammed and all other secret believers in Saudi Arabia.
- For Saudi Arabia’s government to change the law and stop persecuting Christians.
- For the Christians in Saudi Arabia to have courage and hope despite the danger.
[accordion_content accordion_label=”19 December – Pray for converts risking their lives in Afghanistan”]
The Church in Afghanistan is heavily persecuted. Open Doors International lists this country as the 4th most dangerous place to be a Christian in the world. There are no established Christian communities still in existence after the rule of the Taliban. New converts, who usually hear about Jesus from outside sources, are on their own. The last public church was destroyed in 2010. Meeting in homes is very dangerous. The Taliban still holds a lot of power, and their radical militants will target, kill, and kidnap any known Christians. Conversion from Islam to Christianity is legally punishable with life imprisonment or death.
One Afghani believer, who came to faith because of a vision he had of Jesus, told the story of how his family rejected him after his conversion. Six years ago, when he gave his testimony, he and his wife and children were hiding in the wilderness and living in a makeshift tent after losing everything for the sake of the Gospel. At the time, they were worried the Taliban would find them. We don’t know what happened to this family, but we hope and pray that they are safe.
Christians who dare to follow Jesus in Afghanistan are some of the most courageous believers in the world. They will certainly not be able to publicly celebrate Christmas this year. We must remember to keep them in our prayers and ask God for their safety.
- For God to protect and deliver Afghani Christians from their enemies
- For the hearts of Afghanistan’s leaders to change and provide protection to Christians.
- For Christians risking their lives to be filled with courage, peace, and joy in the midst of extreme suffering and danger
[accordion_content accordion_label=”18 December – Pray for Christians threatened with violence in the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas”]
Approximately 40,000 Christians live under the rule of either Hamas in Gaza or the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Life in these territories is often very difficult, and sometimes deadly, for Christians. Radical terrorist groups and extremist individuals know that the governing authorities will not punish them for attacking or harassing Christians.
The situation for believers in the Palestinian territories is even more complicated because of the political conflict with Israel. Speaking out in defense of Israel can get a Christian killed. There is intense pressure from their Muslim neighbors to join anti-Israel movements. Pastor Steven Khoury leads an evangelical church in Bethlehem, and has paid a price many times for both his faith and his public support of Israel. He’s been shot at, physically attacked, his family threatened, and his church vandalized. But he won’t stop sharing the Gospel or proudly standing with his Jewish brothers and sisters.
Converts from Islam to Christianity face intense persecution and risk their lives in Gaza and the West Bank. The son of a high-level Hamas leader famously converted after growing disillusioned with the radical life of terrorism he’d always known. Mosab Hassan Yousef secretly accepted Jesus as his Savior, helped the Israeli authorities thwart Hamas terror attacks for a decade, and eventually had to flee to America because of threats against his life.
Christmas in the Palestinian territories surrounding the Holy Land will not be easy for our Christian brothers and sisters. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this season.
- For the safety of Christians being persecuted and threatened in the Palestinian territories
- For supernatural courage and blessing for Christians willing to risk their lives to stand up for Israel and the Jewish people
- For God to change the hearts of Palestinian Christians who see Israel as a political problem and give them a biblical love for His people instead
- For God to use Palestinian Christians as a bridge for peace between Arabs and Jews.
[accordion_content accordion_label=”17 December – Pray for Christians terrorised by Boko Haram in Nigeria”]
The growth of the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has been devastating for the Christians living in Nigeria. Christians are a minority group in northern Nigeria, where they’ve been terrorized by Islamic militants for nearly a decade. Boko Haram’s goal is to completely take over the entire state of Nigeria and institute Sharia law.
Major attacks against Christians by Boko Haram have made international news several times in the last few years. Just a few days ago, they sent two 7-year-old girls into a market as suicide bombers. This attack came almost immediately after Boko Haram sent two other female suicide bombers into a crowded marketplace where they killed 45 people. While these two most recent attacks did not specifically target Christians, the terrorist group routinely goes after followers of Christ.
Earlier this year, Open Doors International found that the killing of Christians in northern Nigeria has increased by 62% in just one year. Approximately 30 million Christians live in northern Nigeria, and in 2015 over 4,000 Christians were killed in terror attacks there. In August 2016, the new leader of Boko Haram vowed to shift the attention of his terrorist group from attacking other Muslims to attacking Christians and churches.
In September 2016, Boko Haram militants opened fire on a group of Christians returning home from church services. Eight people were murdered in that attack. The most internationally famous attack on Nigerian Christians by Boko Haram took place in April of 2014. The militants kidnapped around 270 schoolgirls, mostly Christians, and held them prisoner for over two years. They released 21 of the captives in October of 2016, in exchange for prisoners held by the government. A few other girls have escaped on their own. Most of them are still missing.
As Boko Haram continues to massacre and terrorize Christians living in Nigeria, we must keep them in our prayers.
- For the safe release of all the schoolgirls still held captive by Boko Haram.
- For every evil and murderous plan against Christians in Nigeria to be defeated.
- For courage, protection, and spiritual strength for Nigerian Christians.
- For Nigeria’s leaders to have wisdom and success in stopping terrorism.
[accordion_content accordion_label=”16 December – Pray for Christians Imprisoned in Sudan”]
Sudan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians, according to Open Doors International. The Islamic government regularly arrests and imprisons believers with false charges. An estimated 1.9 million Christians live under constant threat.
For a year, four Christian men have been in a Sudanese prison and charged with espionage. Reverend Kuwa Shamal, Reverend Hassan Abduraheem, and Mr. Abdulmonem Issaa Abdumawla are native Sudanese pastors. Their friend, a Czech citizen named Petr Jasek, was arrested along with them in December 2015.
The Sudanese government accused the men of conspiring against the state because they were preaching the Gospel and providing care to a sick rebel in the Darfur region. The government also accused the men of spreading propaganda internationally that damages the reputation of the state. If convicted of espionage, the four men could face the death penalty.
Another Sudanese pastor who faced the same charges last year, Pastor Peter Yein Reith, said:
“It is very sad that the pastors have been in prison for close to a year. I know what they are going through because I was once in chains for the Gospel, but God’s word cannot be chained.”
Many other Christians are imprisoned in Sudan, under one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. Christians in Sudan can be arrested for apostasy from Islam and for blasphemy, and if found guilty of these crimes they face execution.
One man who converted from Islam to Christianity recently shared his story with Mission Network News. He described the persecution he and his fellow Christians suffer in Sudan, and said, “The West has forgotten, not just the suffering Church in Sudan, but also the suffering human beings in Sudan in general — in the Nuba Mountains, in Darfur. I pray that people will start to come back again and to look [at] the disasters that are happening in these areas and try to bring relief and help and pray for the safety of those who are persecuted there.”
Please stand with CUFI this holiday season as we pray for our brothers and sisters in Sudan, particularly those who have been imprisoned for their faith.
- For the release of the four men who were arrested last December
- For the health, protection, and spiritual strength of Christians in Sudanese prisons
- For God to change the hearts of Sudan’s leaders and bring an end to the persecution of Christians
[accordion_content accordion_label=”15 December – Pray for Christians Imprisoned in Libya”]
Open Doors International released a report in May 2016 describing Libya as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. The civil war in 2011 resulted in a divided government and the growth of the Islamic State. Both government forces and ISIS are hostile toward Christians, who have no religious freedom in Libya.
Rough estimates put the Christian population of Libya between 20,000 and 25,000. They are not allowed to hold church services, evangelize, or own Bibles. ISIS has built secret prisons where many Christians are held for months or years in terrible conditions. The captives are tortured, starved, and often forced to convert. And even conversion does not relieve them of their suffering and imprisonment.
Even when the Libyan military pushes ISIS out of an area, their prisoners are not released. Suspected of being collaborators, many Christians remain trapped in their cells. They feel hopeless and afraid, kept from their families and not allowed have contact with the outside world. No one will tell them if or when they might be released.
As Libya convulses with war and the struggle for power, these Christian prisoners are forgotten. They live in unsanitary conditions, without medical care, and are given hardly any food. Many of the women in these prisons have young children or are pregnant. They are clinging to their faith, and we need to lift them up in prayer.
– The faith of Christians imprisoned and persecuted in Libya will be strengthened.
– God will heal the sick and provide for every physical need of those in prison.
– The captives will be released and allowed to return safely to their families.
– The evil plans of ISIS and other terrorists in Libya will be defeated.
[accordion_content accordion_label=”14 December – Abducted Coptic Christian women”]
The entire Coptic Christian community in Egypt has been under intense persecution for many years. Their situation has grown even more dangerous since the Arab Spring in 2011. Just a few days ago, the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo was bombed and 25 Christians were killed. Although Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has made admirable rhetorical efforts to unify Egypt’s majority Muslim population with the Coptic minority community specifically, the Egyptian government has done little to protect Christians from terrorism, mob violence, kidnappings, and murders that are on the rise.
Coptic women are especially vulnerable targets. Between 2011-2014, over 550 young Christian women and girls were kidnapped. In the first half of 2016, International Christian Concern documented 17 abductions. Most of these girls are never heard from again, and in many cases Egyptian authorities refuse to investigate their disappearances. The few girls who escape tell horrific stories of torture, rape, forced conversion to Islam and sometimes being forced to marry their captor.
In April 2016, Sandy Shehata was kidnapped while shopping for Easter clothes. A man hit her over the head, and the 16-year-old girl awoke in the mountains far away from her home. For two weeks she was beaten and raped as her kidnappers attempted to force her to renounce her faith and convert to Islam. Eventually the men abandoned her, and a stranger helped her call her parents and return home. Sandy’s emotional reunion with her family was an answer to prayer.
One of the oldest Christian communities in the world, the Copts, desperately need our prayers. Hundreds of Coptic women and girls are still missing, and their families have no idea if they are alive or dead. Please join CUFI this Christmas season as we lift them up in prayer.
· God will protect and enable the rescue of Coptic women abducted in Egypt.
· The entire Coptic community will be sheltered from harm according to Psalm 91.
· The Egyptian government and law enforcement authorities will pursue, find, and prosecute the criminals who are terrorizing this community.