Persecution and Prayer Alert

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty
hand, that He may lift you up in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you."

~ 1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV


TANZANIA: Teacher Killed in Machete Attack

Sources: World Watch Monitor, Release International

Pastor Crodward Edwar (centre) at a
press conference about the Bukoba murder
Photo: Harakati News blog via World Watch Monitor

On October 9th, a Christian man was killed and another seriously injured when suspected Islamic militants attacked them with machetes in Bukoba.

The brutal assault occurred after Dioniz Ng'wandu, a 31-year-old secondary school teacher, and Temistores, 25, attended an early morning prayer meeting with their pastor, Faustine Joseph, and a fourth unnamed man at their church building. After the pastor and the other man left, masked assailants entered the building and attacked the two remaining believers, killing Dioniz and severely injuring Temistores' left foot. Dioniz leaves behind his wife, Faith, and their two children, four-year-old Michael and two-year-old John. According to Pastor Faustine, church members had been receiving threats from militants who vowed to decrease the number of Christians in the predominantly Muslim area.

"Attacks against Christians are increasing in Tanzania despite the efforts of the government to control them," reports The Media Project, a non-profit group that works globally with local journalists. "Some religious leaders and lay Christians have been killed, while others have been attacked by extremist Muslims wielding acid. Some of the perpetrators have been arrested and charged, yet their cases continue in courts."

In the aftermath of this violent crime, pray that God will comfort and provide for Dioniz's widowed wife and their two young children. May He also grant physical and emotional healing to Temistores as he recovers from his injuries and the trauma of the attack. Please pray that God's peace will rest on Pastor Faustine and the members of the congregation, and that His divine protection will be upon them as they continue to boldly worship together despite the risks. In addition, pray that the church in Tanzania will stand firm in the face of mounting pressure. Finally, please ask God to work in the hearts of the country's officials, giving them much wisdom in the process, so that they will endeavour to do more to protect vulnerable Christian communities.

To post a prayer of solidarity for those affected by this latest attack, visit our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.


CUBA: Christian Couple Harassed by Government Officials

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Rev. Mario and his wife, Yoaxis
Photo: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

A Christian couple was recently threatened with criminal charges if they refused to stop their work in advocating for religious freedom. On October 8th, Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a pastor and religious freedom activist, was summoned to the State Security Unit in Camajuani, Villa Clara. While there, an official pressured him to sign an "Acta de Advertencia" -- a document that can be used as justification for future arrests and criminal charges. Two witnesses, whom Mario did not even know or recognize, were present and offered testimony of his "counter-revolutionary" links.

According to the pastor, the official told him that the government was unhappy about his recent visit to the eastern part of the country where he met with church leaders who had reported religious freedom violations. The official added that if Mario did not change his behaviour soon, a criminal case would "probably be filed."

Days later, on October 15th, Mario's wife, Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez, was summoned for an interview with security services. The next day, she was arrested and authorities similarly pressured her to sign an "Acta de Advertencia," but she refused. Officials also warned her to stop having contact with "counter-revolutionary" elements or risk imprisonment.

Lift up Mario and Yoaxis in prayer, asking God to bless this couple richly as they work to advocate on behalf of those who are suffering because of their religious beliefs. May He grant them courage and wisdom as they now discern how to continue their efforts in light of these recent threats. Pray that God will protect them from potential harm, and that the country's governing authorities will cease their intimidation tactics. Furthermore, ask that God will use His children in Cuba to advance His Kingdom purposes and, as a result, increase the growth of the church in both number and faithfulness.

For more information on Cuba's persecuted church, visit our Country Report.


RECENT PRISONER UPDATE


IRAN: Three Believers Handed Prison Sentences

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Pastor Behnam Irani


Three Christian men -- Behnam Irani, Matthias Haghnejad and Silas Rabbani -- were recently handed six-year prison sentences. These believers had earlier been accused of capital offenses, but thankfully those charges were later dropped. (For more information on the capital charges, visit this page.)

This latest verdict dictates that Pastor Behnam will serve his sentence at a prison in the northern city of Zabol, while Pastor Matthias and Silas (a deacon) will be transferred to a prison in Minab which is located by the Persian Gulf. All three are appealing their sentences. The cities of Zabol and Minab are infamous for their extremely hot climates. Moreover, the prisoners' families will be forced to travel long distances for visits, which will prove to be both financially and physically challenging.

According to religious liberty advocates, these sentences are the latest examples of the surge in oppression against religious and ethnic minorities under the Rouhani presidency. This repression has occurred despite his earlier promise to uphold the rights of religious minorities during the run up to elections last year.

While thanking God that the capital punishment charges against these three men have been dropped, let us ask Him to now be very near to these dear brothers in Christ as they each face six-year sentences. In particular, pray that they will not despair, but would continue in their faith -- established and firm -- remaining grounded in the hope of the Gospel (Colossians 1:23). May their appeals be swift and successful so that they will soon be released to their families! Until then, ask God to meet their loved ones' every need, as they now face new challenges in caring for these imprisoned men due to the extended distance of the other prison locations. Additionally, intercede on behalf of Iran's leaders and authorities, praying that many of them will come to know Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

To find out how you can encourage imprisoned believers in Iran and other restricted nations through the ministry of letter writing, visit www.PrisonerAlert.com.

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