Praise Reports


British Isles


Praise Reports

Aasia Bibi allowed to leave Pakistan

Death row Christian Aasia Bibi will be allowed to leave Pakistan, after the country’s top court upheld her acquittal on blasphemy charges. Ms Bibi, who spent eight years on death row, will now be free to join her daughters who fled to Canada and were granted asylum there. The 54-year-old was acquitted in October (eight years after she was convicted for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a dispute with her neighbours); but she has remained under guard at a secret place since her acquittal. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has attempted to quell anger over her exoneration by radical Islamists, who staged nationwide protests and almost brought the capital Islamabad to a standstill. More than 3,000 members of the radical Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) group were arrested on charges of terrorism after the protest, with its leader and high profile members still in prison.

Praise: God that Aasia can now live in peace. May God heal her mind and spirit. (Matthew 5:10)

Oyster cards for homeless

A London church, run by Steve Chalke, is launching an appeal to help the homeless by providing them with Oyster travel cards to offer them some respite from the cold as temperatures worsen. He said, ‘With the cold coming in, some of them will freeze to death. In fact, I know of one man who has frozen to death on the street near here since Christmas.’ The church are encouraging people to donate £20. The first £10 will go directly toward purchasing an Oyster card with adequate credit for rides on public transport and the second to help the longer-term response to homelessness. Chalke explained, ‘They can ride on the night bus, they can sit in the warm, they can get out of the bitter cold. We are also keeping endless cases out of our A&E departments in the already stretched and strained NHS system’. The cards allow people to travel widely on London’s public transport.

Praise: God for faith in action as temperatures worsen. (Matthew 5:7)

Praise Reports

Brexit: May goes back to Brussels but EU says nothing has changed

Theresa May was handed a two-week deadline to resuscitate her Brexit deal last night and pledged to go back to Brussels to demand changes to the Irish backstop, with only 59 days to go until exit day. But within minutes of the Commons result, the European council president, Donald Tusk, announced that the EU was not prepared to reopen the deal. Steve Baker, the deputy chair of the backbench European Research Group, announced that its members could still reject any renegotiated deal she brought back. ‘A vote for the Brady amendment is a vote to see if the PM can land a deal that will work. If not then we are not committed,’ he said. Pray for the swirl of media comments around Brexit to be free from conjectures and distressing summaries.

Pray: for God’s purposes be in every negotiation, discussion, and decision. (Jeremiah 22:29)

UK churches threatened

In the past two months fifteen UK churches have been sent anonymous threatening letters telling them to stop services or be attacked. The letters were handwritten, threatening petrol bomb attacks and mass stabbings. ‘Stop all your services straight away’, said one letter sent to a Sheffield church. ‘If you don’t, your church will be petrol bombed while in service. Continue behind closed doors and your congregation members will be stabbed one by one. Blood on your hands. You have been warned.’ One of the handwritten letters, bearing a West Midlands postmark, demanded that they stop their services and threatened to bomb the church. Services are continuing, and police have been deployed to the churches affected. A local faith school decided to withdraw pupils from services after they received the threatening letter. A police investigation has been opened, and inquiries are ongoing. See also last week’s article on violence against clergy here

Pray: for God’s powerful protection, for faith to replace fear, and for felons to be caught. (Psalm 121:7)

Our shameful discrimination against Christians

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt recently launched a government review on the global persecution of Christians. He stated, ‘The UK can and must do more for the many Christians facing persecution and discrimination worldwide, but first we must look to our own discrimination against Christians at home’. The Sunday Times says that the Government is ‘repeatedly failing to provide sanctuary in Britain for a fair proportion of Christians’, and warns that this policy ‘appears to discriminate in favour of Muslims and risks embarrassing the Government’. Barnabas Fund is also calling for an end to discrimination against persecuted Syrian Christians seeking a safe haven in the UK. MP Sir John Hayes called for people to stand up for religious freedom and warned, ‘The “golden era” of religious liberty may be coming to an end. Religious believers are facing increased pressure to restrict their faith to the private sphere’.

Pray: for the Government to reassess its attitude towards persecuted Christians. (Matthew 25:35)

Islamisation through halal products

Christian Concern for our Nation asks, ‘Is the widespread availability of halal products an example of Islamic religious freedom? Or does halal have a deeper effect on society?’ Its new report shows how halal spreads through supply chains impacting laws and economics, and recommends how to deal with the deepening roots of sharia. The report states, ‘The aim of Islam is to create a supreme worldview, whereby all other laws come under Islamic law. Halal food markets, Islamic dress markets, sharia-compliant finance and banking, Islamic education, sharia courts.’ See also article 1 in the Europe section, on sharia law.

Pray: for any irregular secretive Islam activity to be recognised for what it is. (Psalm 74:12)

Facebook – suicide images – fake news

Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, has called on social media giants to ‘purge’ material promoting self-harm and suicide, in the wake of links to teenager Molly Russell’s suicide. They could be banned if they fail to comply. The 14-year-old took her life after viewing disturbing content about suicide on Instagram. Her father believed Instagram ‘helped kill my daughter’. Instagram owners, Facebook, said they were ‘deeply sorry’. The charity Papyrus, working to prevent youth suicide, had a spike in calls to their helpline after the BBC reported the link between suicide and social media. Meanwhile, Facebook removed 364 ‘fake’ pages (with 790,000 followers) for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour as part of a network that originated in Russia. Facebook said the page administrators and account owners represented themselves as independent news pages or general interest pages, but all were linked to employees of Russian-owned Sputnik and the facts were false. See

Pray: for Facebook to remove all self-harm and fake content from its pages. (Psalm 30:3)

Spring Harvest focuses on prayer

In 2019, its 40th anniversary, Spring Harvest’s theme is Unlimited: When You Pray. There will be many stands promoting prayer, and many talks and seminars to encourage people to grow in intercession. Musalaha, one of the exhibitors, will invite people to pray for its work. It is a non-profit organisation promoting reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. Palestinian Christians will be present on all three sites: manning stalls, participating in seminars, and even appearing the main stage at two venues. Please pray for Musalaha and for all the prayer organisations exhibiting this year. Pray for arrangements to go smoothly, for people to be inspired and responsive, and for a wave of intercession to sweep across the nations. See

Pray: for Spring Harvest to inspire unlimited prayer, going ‘beyond borders’. (Isaiah 40:31)

Praise Reports

Spread of sharia law

In some European territories sharia law is applied, challenging human rights. Greek Muslims in Western Thrace use sharia judicial power to rule on disputes concerning inheritance. Muslims can choose between a mufti or Greek courts. In the UK, the ‘Islamic Sharia Council’ is an independent arbitration tribunal issuing private law decisions and able to grant Islamic divorces. These divorces may also be included in a civil procedure. There are believed to be some thirty sharia councils, affiliated to local mosques. In Russia’s Northern Caucasus: family and property matters are usually judged under sharia law under the guise of ‘tradition’. Women and girls are victims of violence and discriminatory practices such as early marriage, abduction for forced marriage, ‘honour’ killings, female genital mutilation and polygamy, despite the provisions of Russian federal law. In Turkey Muslim religious education is compulsory in schools. The government publicly favours a Muslim viewpoint, linking Turkish nationality with Sunni Islam.

Pray: for the European Convention on Human Rights to end alternative justice systems. (Psalm 11:7)

Migrants needing Christ’s compassion

Millions are fleeing tyranny of war, famine, and heartache in the largest movement of people in modern history since WWII. For most, Europe offers the only hope of safety, and many risk the very real threat of death on their journeys. Often these people are seen as a problem, and while our enemy can use people to kill, steal, and destroy, God sees each one as a unique and loved creation. Christian mission agencies working in refugee camps and across Europe want to introduce each refugee to the God who loves them. Meanwhile many European countries are rejecting them, the latest being the Dutch government who refused to accept 47 refugees currently on a ship run by a humanitarian group who rescued them off the Libyan coast over a week ago. Since then it has been sailing through high winds and seven metre-high waves.

Pray: for God to stir nations to aid desperate refugees with physical and spiritual needs. (Psalm 22:24)

Praise Reports

Nigeria: Boko Haram threat displaces 30,000

Fear of renewed attacks by Boko Haram is prompting the exodus of 30,000+ people from the town of Rann. UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters in Geneva on 29 January that the town’s population ‘seems to be panicking; they are on the run as a pre-emptive measure to save their lives.’ Rann, near the border with Cameroon in northern Borno state, has already seen an exodus of 9,000 people to Cameroon after a Boko Haram attack on 14 January, killing 14 people. Baloch said that Cameroon had sent back the 9,000 refugees, and initially deployed troops as part of a multinational task force to protect the town, but that task force has now left. A recent upsurge in violence in northeastern Nigeria has driven more than 80,000 civilians to seek refuge in already crowded camps or in towns in Borno state, ‘where they are surviving in tough living conditions’. The hostilities have strained humanitarian operations there and forced aid workers to pull out from some locations.

Pray: for God’s comfort to all living in fear, or in desperate need in refugee camps. (Psalm 37:40)

What next for Venezuela?

With their country in turmoil, both Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó claim to be president, and neither has any incentive to back down. Guaidó has huge popular support, and is backed by many western powers (including the EU), but has little control over the levers of power. Although Maduro is still backed by allies such as Russia, Turkey, and Cuba, he is under unprecedented international pressure. Military top brass still support him, but there have been defections by junior officers. If he is to survive, he will need to keep the army loyal, which means finding a way to keep the ordinary soldiers paid. Another solution – but not one that would benefit ordinary people – is a military coup, but that might well mean a return to kleptocracy, mismanagement and authoritarianism. In any case, a change at the top would not placate the opposition, now emboldened and set on restoring democracy. Maduro has nothing to gain and everything to lose from stepping down, as he would probably be called to account for his authoritarian rule. Guaidó has promised an amnesty for any members of the armed forces who ‘contribute to the reestablishment of democratic order’. Another possibility, even if very unlikely, would appear to be outright conflict with the USA. Donald Trump, who publicly supports Guaidó, has just imposed sanctions on the country’s state-owned oil company.

Pray: that our mighty God will have His hand over all the options for this troubled country, to bring about the best possible outcome. (Psalm 47:8)

Gender-based violence against Christians

Afghanistan, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, and Somalia are the five worst places for women to live, according to the 2019 World Watch List of ‘50 most difficult places to be a Christian’. The list reports that, in contexts which restrict women’s legal rights to equal representation, minority Christian communities are especially vulnerable to having their women and girls sexually attacked, forcibly married, subjected to domestic abuse, stripped of their inheritance, or even killed – all with impunity. Sexual violence is used as a means of power and control against Christian women. Discrimination based on stereotypical roles of men and women is one of the most widespread human rights violations worldwide. It can assume cruel forms and deprives many women and girls of their rights to life, freedom, and respect for human dignity. In Afghanistan, ‘women found to be married to new converts from Islam and sharing their husbands’ Christian faith, are punished by being raped. The same happens with children of converts who are at risk of child abuse.’

Pray: for an end to the imbalance of human rights for vulnerable women and girls. (Psalm 119:173)

Brazil: dam collapse

On 25 January Brumadinho dam, at an iron ore mine in south-eastern Brazil, collapsed. This caused a sea of sludge to bury a workers’ cafeteria, homes, hotels, cars, buses, and a train. At the time of writing, the death toll is 99, with at least another 250 unaccounted for. 192 people were rescued alive. The chance of finding anyone alive now is minimal. Israeli engineers, doctors, and members of an underwater missions unit joined the search team. The Brazilian police arrested three employees of the giant mining company Vale, and two engineers working for a German company which inspected the dam last year. Many residents were evacuated as a safety measure. The first funerals were held on 27 January. Having a body to bury may be a twisted privilege, with hundreds of people buried and colossal challenges to find them. Greenpeace said it was ‘a sad consequence’ of lessons not learned by the government and mining companies.

Pray: for God to comfort all affected by the tragedy, and for safety to be put before profits. (Proverbs 17:15)

North Korea: secret money

Lim II went to a construction site in Kuwait, where he worked day and night for five months, but was not paid. His salary was sent straight to Pyongyang. Over the years, an estimated 150,000 North Korean men and women have been recruited and sent abroad to work for the ruling Kim family. Toiling in factories and on construction sites around the world, they have generated billions of dollars for the pariah state. Reporters in a documentary met defectors who confirmed that the cash earned overseas was going directly to fund the development of the country’s nuclear missile programme. A former high-ranking official spoke of Office 39, which manages thousands of companies and factories overseas and provides half of the country’s gross domestic product. ‘Our main goal was to make foreign cash, and this foreign cash business is a complete secret.’

Pray: for an international crackdown on this form of slave labour. (Deuteronomy 24:14)

Pakistan: Christians sentenced to death

Two Christian brothers have been sentenced to death for blasphemy. Qaisar and Amoon Ayub have been held in jail since their arrest in 2014, allegedly for posting ‘disrespectful material’ on their website. A legal aid centre, CLAAS-UK, which represents the brothers, has said it plans to appeal the sentence, taking it to the Lahore High Court. CLAAS-UK stated on its website, ‘In this case the trial judge did not apply his judicious mind and convicted the accused in a very casual manner’. The story dates back to 2011 when Qaisar, following a quarrel at his office, started to receive death threats, and the brothers had to flee the country. They were arrested on charges of blasphemy on their return four years later. For their full story, click the ‘More’ button; also see

Pray: for God to comfort and encourage the men and their wives and children. (Isaiah 51:12)

Central African Republic (CAR): new peace talks really matter

90% of CAR’s population are Christian; Islam is practised by 9%. All the people are suffering. As a new round of peace talks between armed groups and the government began on 22 January, the UN’s top humanitarian official in CAR warned that continued violence could push the country closer to famine. Around 2.9 million people (63% of the population) need humanitarian assistance and protection. Of those, 1.9 million require acute and immediate aid. Food security and protection are the main concerns. Increasing levels of violence drive the ongoing crisis, with near-constant conflict since 2012. Although a peace agreement was reached in 2013, rebels seized the capital two months later, forcing President Bozizé to flee. Rival militias have fought each other ever since. Much of the country is overrun with armed groups, despite the 2016 election of President Touadéra.

Pray: for peace, and for attacks against civilians and aid workers to end. (Psalm 58:6,7)

USA: dangerous deep freeze forecast

All across the Midwest, preparations have been under way for a bone-deep, relentless chill called a polar vortex. Extreme cold, which is expected to break all records, has already been blamed for one death in Minnesota. Officer Kraig Kalka is spending his time driving between homeless shelters, arranging transportation for those stuck on the streets, and collecting blankets and hand warmers to dole out downtown for some of Madison’s most vulnerable residents. ‘What we’re going to see, I don’t remember ever seeing something like that before.’ The cold has caused statewide declarations of emergency, school closures, postal service interruptions, and 1,000 airline flight cancellations. Diesel fuel can turn to gel, clogging vehicles’ fuel filters and leading to breakdowns. If a bus falters on a rural route, the wait for help can be lengthy.

Pray: for the elderly, homeless and frail to survive the vortex. (Psalm 72:12)

Praise Reports
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