Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.2 Corinthians 1:3–7
INDONESIA — West Java Authorities Try to Prevent Christmas Service — Compass Direct News
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
Government officials in West Java tried unsuccessfully to prevent the Indonesian Christian Church, or GKI, in the city of Bogor from holding a Dec. 25 Christmas service. Bona Sigalingging, a spokesperson for the church, said police telephoned church leaders and told them to cancel Christmas services that were scheduled for 7 p.m. Christmas day. The church worshiped anyway, with nearby Muslim demonstrators screaming, “Allahu akbar[God is great]!” and “Break it up!” The next morning, authorities prevented the Christians from holding their regular Sunday service. In a separate incident on Dec. 19, a local hard-line Muslim group persuaded police to remove items such as pews from a Huria Kristan Batak Protestant church in Rancaekek, Bandung. That church had already been closed by authorities. Thank the Lord for the faithfulness of Indonesian Christians who continue to meet in spite of severe opposition. Pray that they will be greatly encouraged by seeing the Lord’s continued work in strengthening the church and adding to its numbers.
ERITREA — Scores of Christians Arrested in Church Raids — Release International
I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.
More than 100 Christians have been detained since Dec. 30 in raids on churches in or near the capital, Asmara, and in the town of Nakfa in eastern Eritrea. In a Dec. 31 raid on the Philadelphia Church in Asmara, all 41 members present were arrested and taken in for questioning. They were also beaten at the police station. On Jan. 1, 27 more Christians belonging to various churches near Asmara were taken into custody and are reportedly still being held by police. On Jan. 9 in Nakfa, 35 believers, including two elderly men in poor health, were arrested during a worship meeting at a private address. The Eritrean church has been further shaken by the news that another Christian has died in custody. Seble Hagos Mebrahtu, who was 27, died at the Sawa military camp on Jan. 1, apparently because she was refused medical treatment for malaria. She is reported to have been tortured after being found reading a Bible at her home. Her death brings to 16 the total number of Christians known to have died in custody since 2002. Pray that Eritrean Christians will persevere in faith and continue to glorify God while enduring this harsh persecution.
PAKISTAN — Turmoil Surrounds Asia Bibi Blasphemy Case — VOM Sources
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Asia Bibi’s blasphemy conviction has caused turmoil and debate not only over the resulting death sentence but also over the blasphemy law itself. Asia, a poor Christian woman, was accused by her co-workers of blasphemy and sentenced to death by the courts. Her case sparked debate across Pakistan about the validity of the law, which prohibits speaking against the Prophet Muhammad or the Quran. The governor of Punjab province, who supported Asia Bibi and called for repeal of the law, was murdered by his own body guard. Asia’s life is also at risk. The VOM team in Pakistan is concerned for her safety both in prison and also as she moves between the prison and the courthouse for hearings. Asia’s family is in danger, too, and our team helped move them to a safe, secret location. Her husband and children are very worried about her. Pray for Asia’s safety and for the safety of her family. Pray that the blasphemy law, which is often used against Christians in Pakistan, will be repealed.
But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.Mark 13:11
LAOS—Villagers Destroy Christians’ Rice Fields—VOM Sources and Compass Direct News
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah
On Sunday, Dec. 26, officials and residents of Katin village destroyed the rice paddies of 11 Christian families. The families have been camped on the edge of the jungle since they were expelled from the village one year ago because of their faith. Since their expulsion, seven other families have decided to follow Christ. Village officials told the new converts that they, too, would be expelled unless they gave up their faith. The seven families refused and were kicked out of the village at gunpoint. They joined the other Christian families outside the village. A few days later, while the believers were worshiping in a temporary shelter, residents of Katin drained the water from the Christians’ rice paddies, burned fencing around their farmland and stomped on rice seedlings to ensure it could not grow. The 18 families now have nothing to eat, and authorities have done nothing to help them. Pray that God will provide the newly expelled believers with food, clothing and shelter. Pray also that their firm commitment to Christ will cause their persecutors to want to know him, too.
EGYPT—Bomb Kills 21 Outside Church in Egypt—VOM Canada and The New York Times
Then he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, “Rise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve the LORD as you have said.
At least 21 people were killed and 100 wounded on Jan. 1, when a bomb exploded outside a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt. The explosion occurred as churchgoers were leaving a New Year’s Eve service at the Church of the Two Saints. Witnesses reported that a driver parked a car near the entrance of the church, then ran away seconds before it exploded. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing. Attacks against the minority Coptic Christian community have increased greatly in the last two years. Last January, several Coptic Christians were killed by a gunman as they left church. Pray that all Christians in Egypt will remain firm in their faith, even as opposition against them grows. Pray that these attacks will cause Copts to welcome Christian converts from Islam into their churches and better understand their unity in Christ.
NORTH KOREA—North Korean Defectors Shot in China—VOM Sources
For I raise My hand to heaven,
And say, “As I live forever,If I whet My glittering sword,
And My hand takes hold on judgment,
I will render vengeance to My enemies,
And repay those who hate Me.
I will make My arrows drunk with blood,
And My sword shall devour flesh,
With the blood of the slain and the captives,
From the heads of the leaders of the enemy.”’
Five North Koreans were shot to death and two others wounded by North Korean border guards as they tried to flee the country. The seven crossed the frozen Yalu River into China on Dec. 14. They were pursued by North Korean border guards, who shot them after they had reached the Chinese side of the river. The two wounded North Koreans were taken back to North Korea. Border guards have never before shot a defector inside Chinese territory, and this incident may reflect a change in policy toward defectors. Observers say border guards must have new instructions. Please continue to pray for Christians in North Korea and China, as well as all North Koreans who suffer under an incredibly harsh regime.