IRAQ: Christians Facing ‘More than Desperate’ Crisis Sources: Release International, BBC
Canon Andrew White, known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” has requested urgent prayer for the church in Iraq during this time of intense violence in the country. With frequent bombings and shootings in cities such as Baghdad and Mosul, monthly death tolls have soared recently. January’s toll of more than 1,000 killed was the highest in almost six years.
Canon Andrew, a partner of The Voice of the Martyrs, recently shared that some of the young people at the church he leads have been among those tragically killed. His Christian friends are leaving and begging him to leave too.
“Hundreds of our people have left the church because they have left the country,” he explains. “The hundreds left are those who cannot afford to leave, so the poverty and needs seem greater than ever. I honestly cannot tell you how terrible things are. We are in more than a desperate crisis. We need your prayers.”
Yet Canon Andrew remains resolute. “I will not leave my people here, however bad it is,” he says. “I am not leaving, and neither is God.”
Trusting that God is indeed present and at work in Iraq, let us bring this country to Him in prayer. Pray that He will use Canon Andrew and other leaders like him to faithfully shepherd the dwindling Christian population. Through their example, may believers be encouraged to remain steadfast in their faith, despite the instability and the constant risks. May the church there be a vessel of God’s peace, extending love to all their neighbours. Pray, too, for an end to the fighting and bloodshed in Iraq which have been mainly caused by tensions between Sunni militants and the Shia-dominated government.
To learn more about Canon Andrew’s ministry and the powerful ways in which God is at work in Iraq, check out VOM’s recent 18-minute documentary at http://www.persecution.tv/iraq.
KENYA: Pastor Murdered While Guarding Church
Sources: VOM USA, Morning Star News, World Watch Monitor
Assistant Pastor Lawrence Kazungu Kadenge was murdered in the early morning hours of February 2nd while guarding the Glory of God Ministries Church in Mombasa. Although police are still investigating the murder, it is believed that radical Muslims may have killed the 59-year-old pastor for alerting police about security threats and for preaching the Gospel near a mosque. Pastor Lawrence leaves behind his wife, Lydia, and their 13 children.
“It is very hard for me because we worked very closely together,” said the church’s senior pastor. “His family has been hit very hard. All of us, the family and congregants, need prayer as we grieve his loss. We need God’s comfort. Please pray for us.”
Several days before Pastor Lawrence’s murder, a controversial mosque in Mombasa was raided by police on the suspicion that the mosque was being used to recruit Muslim youth to engage in terrorist acts against Kenyan civilians. Police arrested 125 young people during the raid. One person was killed, and two police officers were seriously injured.
Pastor Lawrence’s death has increased fears among other pastors in the area. Several other church leaders have been murdered, and radical Muslims, who are attempting to create an independent state along the coastal area, have attacked churches.
As Lydia and her children, along with members of their Christian community, mourn the loss of Pastor Lawrence, pray that through Christ they will be able to share abundantly in His comfort (2 Corinthians 1:5). Pray for guidance and strength for the church’s senior pastor, as well as the leaders of other area churches. May God grant them boldness to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ to others of their community, especially to those who oppose them. Finally, intercede on behalf of the mosque leaders and the Muslim youths, asking God to open their hearts to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
To post a prayer of support and encouragement for this grieving family and congregation, please visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall at http://www.persecution.net/prayerwall.
RECENT PRISONER UPDATE
KAZAKHSTAN: Pastor Receives Suspended Prison Term Sources: Forum 18 News Service, World Watch Monitor
On February 17th, a retired pastor accused of harming the health of a church member was handed a four-year suspended prison sentence. Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev was also ordered to pay his alleged victim “moral damages” of two million tenge (approximately $12,000 CAD).
The case against Pastor Bakhytzhan dragged on for months after his arrest in May of 2013, when he was charged with the psychological manipulation of Lyazzat Almenova, 34, through the use of a “red-coloured hallucinogenic drink.” In reality, the drink was a harmless, non-alcoholic beverage used as part of the church’s Holy Communion to represent red wine. Although she insists her pastor is “totally innocent,” Pastor Bakhytzhan was arrested after Lyazzat’s mother claimed that her daughter’s mental health had been damaged due to attending the church. (For more information on his arrest, please visit http://www.persecution.net/kz-2014-01-30.htm.)
“In my experience as a lawyer, this is one of the strangest cases I have seen in terms of legality,” said the pastor’s lawyer after the verdict was handed down. “It was not just strange but, from the standpoint of the law, all types of violations occurred when the case was opened, when it was being investigated, and during the trial.” Pastor Bakhytzhan will reportedly appeal the verdict.
As Pastor Bakhytzhan and his lawyers work towards appealing this latest verdict, pray that God will grant them wisdom and endurance. May the charges against him soon be dropped! Ask God to strengthen this pastor’s faith, encouraging him to stand strong as he weathers this storm. Pray, too, for Lyazzat and her family. May her understanding and acceptance of the Gospel increase each day, and may her family members come to a saving faith in our Saviour. Finally, bring the country of Kazakhstan to God in prayer, asking that He will enable His church to grow in faithfulness and in number.
For more information on the challenges Christians face in Kazakhstan, go to http://www.persecution.net/kazakhstan.htm.
The Persecution & Prayer Alert is a ministry of:
The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, P.O. Box 608, Streetsville, Ontario, L5M 2C1
Tel. (905) 670.9721. Website: http://www.persecution.net