Date: December 24, 2019
The celebration of the first Advent of our Saviour is a time of great joy for Christians. We delight to raise our voices together in songs of adoration and praise of the King of kings. But in places of persecution around the world, many believers will risk their safety, even their lives, when they worship during the Christmas and New Year period, during which there is a heightened threat of anti-Christian violence.
Please join with us in lifting up our persecuted family around the world, asking that they will be protected from harm as they celebrate the Lord Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.
Jehoshaphat’s choir sang and their enemies were conquered (2 Chronicles: 20:21-22). In prison, Paul and Silas sang, and their chains were shaken free (Acts 16:25-26). The Lord’s “songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:2) are real instruments of His divine grace – we pray they will surround our persecuted family at this time, and for the year to come.
Faith shines brightly through destruction and loss
The year 2019 brought untold loss and destruction to West Africa in the surge of anti-Christian violence across the Sahel countries. India too saw persecution mounting against Christians, and other minorities, as the nationalist agenda of Modi’s government gained momentum.
The hardening stance of the Chinese communist government against Christians, and other minority groups, seems to bring more and more restrictions, scrutiny, harassment and pressure to everyday life and worship.
But, in every situation, we continually hear resounding testimonies of faith, perseverance and compassion. One came from distraught Gabriel in Burkina Faso, who was separated from his family after a militant attack and found them after a desperate search. He prayed that Barnabas supporters, whose gifts had fed and sheltered his loved ones, will know God’s deliverance in times of trouble, just as he had.
We also recall the compassionate elderly Imam, Abubakar Abdullahi, who was commended by the US this year for courageously risking his life to shelter 262 fleeing Christians from Muslim gunmen in Plateau State, Nigeria.
Positive breakthroughs, significant turnarounds
Significant positive outcomes came in 2019 too, including steady gains and remarkable turnarounds.
Church registration has gathered pace throughout the year in Egypt with a further 695 church buildings being registered for Christians to freely and legally worship in. In Uzbekistan, we saw a historic breakthrough for church registrations under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s softer policies, with four new validations passed – one in the notoriously strict region of Karakalpakstan.
We were heartened when a spectacular turnaround came from the Muslim-majority world early in the year, when the Indonesian Muslim political party and world’s largest moderate Muslim movement, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), made an unprecedented break with Islamic conservatism to abolish the legal category of “infidel” (kafir) for non-Muslims.
And we were delighted to finally share the news that Aasia Bibi and her family, who Barnabas have been helping, had safely settled in Canada.
And a story of miraculous deliverance
We heard, in March, the most astonishing story of a wonderful deliverance in which God’s intervention had saved Nigerian Christian children from a Boko Haram firing squad as they took aim at point blank range. Four men from a group of 76 captives had already been killed by the terrorists.
Through a very reliable source, we were told of how Jesus appeared to the remaining 72 Christians, telling them not to fear, not to renounce Him, and that He would protect them. The day after, the militants lined up all the children. When their mothers refused to deny Christ, they took aim. But before they could fire, the gunmen started grabbing at their own heads and screaming “Snakes!” Some dropped dead as they fled.
A Christian man picked up the gun of a dead militant, but a little girl stopped him from using the weapon, saying, “You do not need to do that. Can you not see the men in white fighting for us?”
As we celebrate the Incarnation of God the Son we pray for deliverance and relief for all our brothers and sisters who suffer oppression, discrimination and persecution. But, most of all, we remember that the miracle of salvation is already ours through our perfect Deliverer who came to bring us into His Father’s eternal Kingdom.