Date:  February 23, 2022

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 634 

By Elizabeth Kendal


INDIA [RLPB 631 (2 Feb)], where Intolerant Hindu nationalism is rising in the majority-Hindu Jammu Division of the majority-Muslim Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The rise in Hindu intolerance comes as the Hindu nationalist BJP - which has already abrogated J&K autonomy - moves to 're-organise' (i.e., gerrymander) J&K so as to get a BJP Chief Minister installed over J&K. Two very disturbing cases of persecution in Jammu Division's southern-most Kathua District bode ill for Christians. Please pray.

PAKISTAN [RLPB 632 (8 Feb)], specifically for the vulnerable and imperilled Church in Peshawar. Located just 55km from the Afghan border, Peshawar is exceedingly vulnerable to terror attacks from both the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and Islamic State (ISKP). The Sunday 30 January targeted assassination of Reverend William Siraj (75), the much-loved pastor of Shaheedan-e-All Saints' Church, has rattled the Christian community. The Church in Peshawar is probably more at risk now than at any time in Pakistan's history. Please pray.

CHINA [RLPB 633 (16 Feb)], where new draconian Measures on the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services herald a further tightening of repressive control. From Tuesday 1 March only people who have acquired an Internet Religious Information Services Licence from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may engage in 'religious information services' (i.e., may provide or disseminate religious information via the internet). After 1 March, anyone found posting religious information to the internet without a licence will have their internet service shut down and they will be categorised as a person with no social credit, limiting their ability to access to many essential goods and services. Please pray.

FEBRUARY 2022 ROUND-UP - also this month:

On 2 February officials in Tizi Ouzou Province commenced proceedings against the pastor of a church and his father who owns the land in Ait Atteli village where the church is located. No date has been set for the court to hear the case. Middle East Concern reports (4 Feb): 'The church was established in 2006 and joined the EPA (Eglise Protestante d'Algerie), the legally recognised umbrella of Protestant churches in Algeria, in 2011. It has more than 90 members.' In February 2006, in line with President Bouteflika's Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, the Algerian government amnestied thousands of Islamic militants. Then, in March 2006, Bouteflika signed presidential order 06-03 regulating non-Muslim religion in Algeria. The repression of Christianity is mostly driven by the need to appease Islamic fundamentalists. These days, post-Bouteflika, with Algerian politics being hotly contested, it is also driven by politicians and officials eager to establish their Islamic credentials. Pastors, evangelists and churches are in the firing line. If the repression continues to escalate, it could drive the Algerian Church underground. Pray for the Church in Algeria.


Gao Heng holds a sign June 4 pray for the country 4june2021

Gao Heng holding a sign that reads, 'June 4, pray for the country.'

(1) On 11 February Gao Heng of Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church, faced a secret trial charged with 'picking quarrels and provoking trouble'. Gao's crime was to stand in a station of Guangzhou Subway Line Two, on 4 June 2021 (the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre) holding a sign that read, 'June 4, pray for the country.' He also posted a picture of himself holding the sign to several social media sites. Alongside the image he posted these words: 'People usually attribute the cause of all social sufferings to the ugliness of politics and social systems. The root cause, however, evolves from the sinful nature of human beings. In terms of the sinful nature, no fundamental difference exists between us and decision makers, directors and executors. I say, Thank you, God. We are all sinners. But because of Your amazing grace, we have the opportunity to repent, accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, and become Your children.' In a totalitarian surveillance state like China, it would only be a matter of hours before Gao Heng would disappear. Though the trial has concluded, no verdict has been announced. Please pray for Gao Heng.

Pastor Hao Zhiwei left and her late husband Zhang Youwu SCMP CROPPED

Pastor Hao Zhiwei and her late husband Zhang Youwu.

(2) On 11 February, after more than two and half years' imprisonment, Pastor (Mrs) Hao Zhiwei (51) faced Echeng District Court in Ezhou city, Hubei Province and was sentenced to 8 years in prison. Her lawyer, Mr Si Weijiang, has visited Pastor Hao in prison; he confirms she will appeal. Mrs Hao graduated from the CCP-approved Zhongnan Theological Seminary in 2001. She was subsequently hired to preach in the CCP-approved Egangqiao Church in Ezhou city. Mrs Hao's troubles only began after she objected to the way the Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) managed the church. In a totalitarian state like China, it would not be long before those who demand a 'united front' would step up efforts to remove her.

In 2007, the CCP's RAB rejected Mrs Hao's application for pastor certification. When the local government banned the church, the members resisted and continued to meet as an unregistered 'house church'. In 2013, following house church tradition, the church invited three house church pastors to ordain Mrs Hao as their pastor. In early 2018 the local authorities requested the church building be demolished; the members resisted. Later that year, Pastor Hao's husband, Zhang Youwu died of liver cancer. In July 2019 Pastor Hao was arrested and charged with 'fraud' for preaching and receiving financial offerings without CCP approval. In August 2019 the Egangqiao church building was demolished. Now a widow, Pastor Hao has two teenage children: Paul (18), who has left home to study in Zhejiang Province and Moses (14), who remains at home in Ezhou and is reportedly suffering severe depression. Unsurprisingly, Pastor Hao's health has deteriorated markedly in prison. Please pray.

Meanwhile, hundreds of believers remain incarcerated.

Patriarch Antonios pictured in 2020 csw

Patriarch Antonios, pictured in 2020.  (press release CSW)

On 9 February Patriarch Abune Antonios of the Eritrean Orthodox Church died at the age of 94 [see Church in Chains, 10 February]. In many ways, Patriarch Antonios had come to epitomise the suffering of the Eritrean Church. In May 2002 Eritrea's totalitarian dictator Isaias Afwerki launched a crackdown on religion. First he moved against the country's many small, independent, Protestant mission churches. Then he moved against a renewal movement, known as Medhane Alem, blossoming inside the Eritrean Orthodox Church, arresting three of its leaders. In January 2006, after Patriarch Antonios protested the persecution, the government had him deposed and replaced with a government-appointed administrator.

Patriarch Antonios spent the last 16 years of his life under house arrest - mostly incommunicado and regularly in isolation - in the servants' quarters of a villa which was occupied by two pro-government bishops. In a message smuggled out in 2019 he lamented that fellow clergy had abandoned him; some had even denounced and betrayed him - maybe because they objected to Medhane Alem, or maybe because they wanted to avoid persecution. Patriarch Antonios has been buried in the grounds of the Abune Andreas monastery where he grew up. Please pray for the Church in Eritrea. Pray especially for many imprisoned believers, some of whom have been detained since 2004. According to the US Department of State's Religious Freedom Report 2020 (published May 2021), 'the [Eritrean] government continued to detain 345 church leaders and officials without charge or trial, while estimates of detained laity ranged from 800 to more than 1,000.' Lord have mercy!

The blasphemy trial against Christian apologist Muhammad Kece [RLPB 619 (13 Oct 2021)] was twice postponed in January while Kece spent time in the Ciamis Regional Hospital, first with dengue fever, and subsequently in a critical condition with Diabetes Mellitus and low platelet count requiring a blood transfusion. The blasphemy trial continued in the Ciamis District Court on 10 February. The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday 24 February. Please pray.

Of the 121 Bethel Baptist High School students kidnapped on 5 July 2021, one remains in captivity. Aged 12, the boy was the youngest child in the group, and it seems its captors may have groomed and manipulated him. On 6 February Nigeria's 'Vanguard' reported that the terrorists had demanded a ransom for the boy's release. However, when the negotiator arrived with the ransom, the boy allegedly refused to leave. The negotiator - a member of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) - was himself taken captive. Rev Joseph Hayab, the Chairman of CAN in Kaduna State said, 'It's a very complicated situation that we are praying and managing with care. The man who has been helping us to deliver the money all this while went to deliver the money to free this boy they were confusing, and they kidnapped him. So, the whole thing is taking a different dimension and we need to be careful.' Please pray; and not only for this situation, but for all those impacted by Nigeria's Islamic jihad, gross insecurity, and never-ending kidnapping crisis. Lord have mercy!

- three cases of great concern from Morning Star News.
(1) On Monday 24 January Christian apologist Charles Kamya (43) debated Muslims in Jinja, 80km east of Kampala. He used the Quran Sura 72 ( to teach about evil jinn (demons), before assuring his listeners that Issa (Jesus) is greater than all jinn. To the horror of a local sheikh, many Muslims turned to Christ. On Saturday 29 January Kamya was scheduled to participate in a debate about Christianity and Islam in the Bwaise area of Kampala, organised by Bwaise area churches. But as Kamya approached the debate site, Islamic fundamentalists ambushed his car and beat and cut him almost to death. One of the assailants told him, 'You have been terrorising our religion. Today Allah has called you, and you are going to meet him.' Knocked unconscious by a blow to the head with an iron bar, Kamya was left in a pool of blood until a passer-by found him and called the police. Because the assailants were monitoring his movements, Kamya could not remain in hospital, but had to be removed to a secure location. Please pray.

Malingumu Bruhan was attacked near Nawaikoke Kaliro District Uganda on Feb. 6 2022. Morning Star News

Malingumu Bruhan, 6 Feb 2022
(Morning Star News)

(2) On Sunday 6 February Christian evangelist Malingumu Bruhan (34) - who converted from Islam in 2017 - was in Kaliro District, Eastern Region, having returned home to attend his grandfather's funeral. After the funeral, Bruhan accepted his uncles' invitation to stay for a visit. When the mourners had all left, Bruhan's uncles started rebuking him. Bruhan told Morning Star News that they 'accused me of being an infidel by converting to Christianity and that Allah will reward them in Jannah [garden paradise] if they kill me.' While some of Bruhan's uncles started beating him, others gathered firewood, while another went for petrol. Meanwhile, a convert who had accompanied Bruhan to the funeral came looking for him. Finding nothing but a shoe, he phoned his friends who helped in the search. When they found Bruhan beaten and bound on a stack of firewood they called the police. Despite being hospitalised with head injuries, Bruhan had to be transferred to secret location for his own security. Concerning Bruhan, MSN reports: 'An evangelist well-known in Mbale, Iganga, Jinja and Kampala for his public debates with Muslims about Christianity and Islam, Bruhan has survived 11 murder attempts.' Please pray.

(3) On Sunday 6 February a Muslim youth named Sadi Bwanga (20) attended a church service in Kadama, Kibuku District, Eastern Region, where he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. After the service the evangelist was driving Bwanga home on his motorcycle, when they were ambushed by Sadi's Muslim relatives who seized Sadi and sent the evangelist away. Waiting at a distance, the evangelist could hear Sadi scream and cry as his family beat him. The evangelist called his pastor, who immediately organised two vehicles to attend the scene. Church members found Sadi lying half-naked outside his cottage in a pool of blood with serious head and leg injuries. The believers rushed Sadi to hospital, while his relatives demolished his cottage. Church leaders reported the attack to the area chairperson, a Muslim who took no action. The pastor told MSN, 'We need prayers on the next course of action to take.' Please pray.


language map research.gate 2017

Ukraine Language Map

For background and prayer points see: 'Ukraine: praying for a breakthrough' [RLPB 274 (20 Aug 2014)]. The conflict that commenced in 2014 was supposed to have ended with the Minsk Agreement (2015) which would have granted Ukraine's eastern Russian-speaking regions of Luhansk and Donetsk greater autonomy within Ukraine. Unfortunately, it was never implemented and peace never materialised. So yet again we fall to our knees to pray for a breakthrough in Ukraine. For while this is not strictly a religious liberty issue, the conflict will pit traditionally Christian Slavic peoples and Christian denominations against each other, which will impact religious liberty in the long run.