Date:  August 31, 2022

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 660 

By Elizabeth Kendal


* BURKINA FASO [RLPB 656 (3 Aug)], where terrorism continues to escalate, particularly in the north and east, where Islamic terrorists have infested vast regions. They destroy telecommunications, control the roads, enforce Sharia (Islamic law) and terrorise populations. Many thousands are displaced and many Christian ministries — schools, health clinics, churches — have been forced either to close or restrict their services to major cities. Around 95 percent of parishes in the terrorist-infested regions live amidst terror and without pastoral support. It is a full-blown Christian crisis. Please pray.

hausa language map

Hausa language map

* ISLAMIC STATE [RLPB 657 (10 Aug)], after the resurgent terror group released three propaganda videos in languages other than Arabic: one in Hausa (a language either spoken or known by most Muslims across Northern Nigeria, Southern Niger and the Gulf of Guinea littoral states); one in Kurdish (spoken by Kurds in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey); and one in Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia). Furthermore, on 3 August, Islamic State Khorasan Province (greater Afghanistan) released an 18-page Pashtu-language fatwa (legal order) calling for attacks on Christian, Hindu, and Shi’ite places of worship. Wherever IS operatives or sympathisers lurk, the church now faces an increased risk of terrorism. Please pray.

* AFGHANISTAN [RLPB 658 (17 Aug)], 12 months after the Taliban takeover.

UPDATE: Heart4Iran’s new initiative — Heart4Afghanistan — has reportedly delivered 923 Dari (Afghan Persian) language Bibles in one month. It has also launched a Dari Virtual Church and streams weekly online services. Further to this, it has established a Dari-language call centre through which it provides prayer and trauma counselling 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Please pray.

* BURMA (MYANMAR) [RLPB 659 (24 Aug)], where the junta’s military operation against the predominantly Christian ethnic Chin of Burma’s western Chin State has reached genocidal proportions. It is a full-blown Christian crisis. Please pray.

AUGUST 2022 ROUND-UP - also this month:

Background: RLPB 393, ‘Hidden Genocide in Chittagong Hill Tracts,’ 8 Feb 2017.

languages of Bangladesh

Languages of Bangladesh
CHT = eastern green region; includes Mizo and Chin tribes.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, visited Bangladesh from 14-17 August. The government, however, did not allow Bachelet access to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) – the mountainous forested region which borders, and has more in common with, India’s Mizoram State and Burma’s Chin State. The indigenous peoples of the CHT — the Paharis (hills tribes) — comprise a mere one to two percent of the population of Bangladesh. As in India’s Mizoram and Burma’s Chin, the indigenous Paharis of the CHT are Tibeto-Burman; although, while most Mizo-Chin are Christian, most CHT Paharis are Buddhist, while three percent are Christian.

The CHT is the most militarised region of Bangladesh. The Paharis suffer appalling human rights abuses at the hands of Bengali Muslim settlers and their protectors in the military. According to indigenous leaders, violations include extrajudicial killings, disappearances, abductions (including child trafficking), land dispossession, and the rape and torture of women. The mass transmigration of Bengali Muslims into the CHT is a government-sponsored, military-enabled, mosque-driven Bengali-Muslim colonisation and land-grab, through which the Paharis are being driven from their lands. ‘The government does not want peace in the Hill Tracts and hence has prevented the UN top official from coming here,’ said Raphael Tripura, a development worker from Shanti Raj Church of Bandarban district. ‘I strongly condemn it.’

Apart from acknowledging ‘the continued allegations of human rights violations [in CHT], linked with land disputes and the need for demilitarisation’, Bachelet’s report (dated 17 Aug) essentially ignored the plight of Bangladesh’s critically imperilled Paharis, around three percent of whom are Christians. Please pray.


On Sunday 14 August fire erupted in Abu Sefein Coptic Orthodox Church in Imbaba village, Giza Province, during a worship service. Forty-one Coptic Christians — including the priest and 18 children — died in the smoke and stampede. The fire was caused by an electrical fault in an externally fitted second floor air-conditioning unit. It is the most deadly church fire in recent memory. Calls rang out for changes to Egypt’s discriminatory laws which make renovating churches extremely difficult.

According to The New Arab (22 Aug), that fact that Egypt has seen six church fires in the space of eight days — in Cairo, Giza, and Alexandria — led Egyptian security to suspect ‘foul play’. A high-level source told The New Arab, ‘After inspecting and analysing the crime scenes of the burned down churches, and the operations carried out against Christians in Egypt, it turned out that the perpetrators were the same in each one, carrying out similar steps each time.’ Consequently, the ‘state security agency has launched “a state of high alert” in search of “a terrorist group allegedly responsible for the recent systematic attacks against Coptic Orthodox churches across Egypt”.’

church fire collage for RLPB 660 31aug2022

(left) source of Abu Sefein church fire; (right) widow of priest Abdul Masih Bakhit (Reuters).

As explained in RLPB 557, ‘Islamic State Calls for Attacks on Churches,’ 10 Aug 2022, the IS fatwa (legal edict) of 3 August, ordered that Christian, Hindu and Shi’ite places of worship be destroyed. Furthermore, the IS fatwa referred directly to an incident in the life of Muhammad when he ordered the ‘Masjid-e-Zarar’ – or ‘mosque of dissent’, a Christian place of worship — be burned. Which begs the question: are Islamic State operatives or sympathisers burning churches in Egypt? Please pray for the Church in Egypt.


In August 2019 the Himalayan north Indian State — famous for its capital, Shimla (the summer capital of British India) — passed the HP Freedom of Religion Bill, 2019, which replaced the 2006 Bill while broadening its scope and increasing its penalties [see RLPB 522 (2 Oct 2019)]. On 13 August 2022 the state’s ruling Hindu nationalist Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) passed the HP Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which bans ‘mass conversions’ and further increases penalties. As is increasingly the case across India, ‘mass conversion’ is defined as ‘two or more people converting at the same time’. Any person found to have contravened the law ‘in respect of mass conversion’ may be liable for a fine and sentence of up to 10 years in prison. The United Christian Forum (UCF), a Delhi-based umbrella body of various Christian organisations, told Times of India (29 Aug) that UCF lawyers were preparing to challenge the new law in the courts, on the grounds that it is ‘an attack on religious freedom and could become a tool to create fear among minorities.’ Please pray.


IRAN Homayoun and Sara credit Article18

Sara and Homayoun

(1) HOMAYOUN AND SARA. Homayoun Zhaveh and his wife, Sara Ahmadi, were first arrested in June 2019. Whilst Homayoun was subsequently released on bail, Sara was held and mistreated for a total of 67 days, including 33 days in solitary confinement. In November 2020 Judge Iman Afshari sentenced Sara to 11 years in prison for her leadership of a house-church, and Homayoun to two years for membership of the group. The couple appealed and, in December 2020, Sara’s sentence was reduced to eight years in prison, along with other deprivations. In April 2021 their lawyer applied for a retrial with Iran’s Supreme Court [RLPB 595 (28 April 2021)]. On 9 June 2021 the couple were notified that the Supreme Court had rejected their appeal for a retrial. However, the couple was never taken into custody, presumably due to Iran’s COVID crisis. On 13 August 2022 Homayoun (64) and Sara (44) answered a summons to an administrative office of Evin Prison. They were hoping their confiscated property would be returned; instead, they were both detained. Iranian Christians and advocacy groups are extremely concerned about the couple’s well-being, especially as Homayoun suffers from advanced Parkinson’s disease. Lord have mercy!

(2) FIVE PLUS ONE MORE. Article 18 reports (17 Aug) that an Iranian court of appeal has upheld the fines and prison sentences awarded to five Iranian believers from Tehran. As an Iranian-Armenian pastor who witnesses to Persians, Joseph Shahbazian (58) [see RLPB 564 (26 Aug 2020)] was sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by two years internal exile and work restrictions. Persian converts Mina Khajavi (59) and Malihe Nazari (48) were both sentenced to six years in prison. Somayeh (Sonya) Sadegh and her mother, Masoumeh Ghasemi, were both permitted to pay fines instead of serving custodial sentences. Two other converts, Farhad and Salar, who had been sentenced to one and four years in prison respectively, were not part of the appeal. On 29 August Pastor Joseph was given 24 hours to hand himself in to the authorities at Tehran’s Evin Prison. He commenced his sentence on 30 August. Mina has been granted a six-week stay to recover from a badly broken leg. Article 18 could not confirm if Malihe had been summoned to commence her sentence. Please pray.

Meanwhile, on 30 July, Christian convert Mohammad Golbaz (34) was arrested by plainclothes intelligence agents while working in his motorcycle repair shop in Karaj. He has not been charged with any crime. When loved ones inquired as to his whereabouts, they were told that Mohammad was an ‘apostate’ and would held ‘for a while’. It seems Mohammad is being punished (mistreated, possibly tortured) for daring to leave Islam to follow Jesus Christ. Please pray.

collage for rlpb 660 31aug2022

left to right: Malihe, Mina, Pastor Joseph, Somayeh, Masoumeh, plus Mohammad


Iraq’s Chaldean Church held its Synod from 21-27 August. In his opening remarks, the Patriarch of Baghdad of the Chaldeans, Cardinal Raphael Louis Sako, warned that in the absence of major systemic political, social, and economic changes, Christians in Iraq are heading for extinction. ‘Iraqi Christians,’ he said, ‘and perhaps Christians of other nations as well, are heading towards disappearance... The Islamic heritage makes Christians second-class citizens and allows the usurpation of their assets…’. He exhorted the Church to move forward in its mission of, ‘helping our people to open themselves to hope, and to arm themselves with faith, to face challenges with the same courage as Christ’. Cardinal Sako requests prayer that Iraq and its Church will be kept ‘under the protection of the Lord’. Please pray.

‘Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me’ (Psalm 57:1-2 ESV).


In predominantly Catholic Nicaragua, the Marxist-Leninist former Sandinista Revolutionary now President Daniel Ortego has ramped up measures to silence the Catholic Church. The situation has been escalating since April-May 2018 when the Church opened its doors to shelter the victims of deadly state violence. In the words of the exiled Rev Rafael Bermúdez (26 Aug), ‘The church is in favour of justice. When there is unjust persecution, when silence is imposed, when all freedoms are taken away, it becomes a total social crime.’ In such situations, the Church has a duty to lead with hope, faith, and courage.

Bishop Rolando Álvarez june2020 cropped

Bishop José Álvarez (55) of Matagalpa

On 1 August, the Ortega regime ordered the closure of seven radio stations owned by the Catholic Church. On 3 August, authorities confined Bishop José Álvarez (55) of Matagalpa to the episcopal complex where he lives, as punishment for protesting the closure of the radio stations. The bishop subsequently took to Facebook to live broadcast the Mass for Catholics. On 13 August hundreds of Nicaraguans attended a large-scale Mass at the Cathedral in the capital, Managua, under a heavy police presence after the government prohibited a religious procession, citing ‘internal security’. At 3am on Friday 19 August, security officials abducted the bishop, along with others, including three priests, two seminarians, a deacon and a photographer. While Bishop Álvarez was placed under house arrest, the other seven were sent to El Chipote, a prison notorious for torturing opponents of the regime. Please pray.



Residents of north-west Pakistan’s tribal areas are alarmed to find that militants belonging to the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) are not merely moving around openly in several areas of mountainous Swat’s Matta tehsil (subdivision) but have set up a check-post in Balasoor Top. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) — the Pakistan military’s media wing — insists that only ‘a small number of armed men’ have been observed ‘on a few mountain tops’ located ‘far away from the population’. However, alarmed locals with long memories are not so sure. Residents of Swat (north-west of Peshawar) and North Waziristan (south-west of Peshawar) report a dramatic increase in TTP activity, including kidnappings and targeted assassinations. Peace talks have faltered. Fear is rising. Pray for the Church in N-W Pakistan.


On 30 July, Malik Ilyas Awan, the Vice President of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) in Punjab, applied to the Deputy Commissioner of Khushab District to have the Ahmadiyya community expelled and ghettoised in Chenab Nagar, the only Ahmadi-majority city in Pakistan. Critically, he demanded that their protection be withdrawn, leaving them exposed to Islamic jihad. Ahmadiyya Muslims follow a subsequent prophet named Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a Muslim reformer from the late 1800s. Like the Baha’is of Iran, and the Alevis of Turkey and Syria, the Ahmadiyya reject intolerance and jihad. However, their greatest sin is to reject the fundamental doctrine that Muhammad was the final prophet. That makes them not mere ‘hypocrites’ (the Quran’s term for Muslims who reject jihad), but heretics, apostates and infidels, to be killed. According to Awan, granting protection to Ahmadiyyas makes a mockery of Pakistan’s Islamic Constitution. ‘It is requested,’ writes Awan, ‘that their security must be lifted immediately, and enquiry be held in this regard. Those who don’t have faith in the finality of prophet-hood must be ousted from the district.’

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan strongly condemned Awan’s move. Analysts suspect that Awan is playing the religion card for political gain. Of course, it is very possible that after the Ahmadiyya, it could be the Christians. After all, Christians deny the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad, insisting Jesus is God’s Son and final Word and Muhammad is actually no prophet at all. Are Christians to be stripped of protection and herded into ghettos too? If this goes ahead it will bode ill for the Church in Pakistan. Please pray.