Looking Out, Looking Up
The government introduced the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill in January which will legalise gay marriage and see amendments to marriage laws to include same-sex couples. The bill, which saw fierce opposition from Conservative MPs, was passed by the majority of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs in early February. The new law could have possible repercussions on teachers, hospital and prison chaplains, and even churches, if they hold to the traditional Biblical view of marriage and refuse to teach about or preside over same-sex marriages. The Catholic Church mobilised a campaign to oppose the bill, while the Church of England has asked that the law still allow churches the religious freedom to decide such matters for themselves.
PRAY for Christian MPs to uphold Biblical values. Pray for churches, Christian leaders and advocacy groups to know how to engage the public square on this matter. Pray for the Lord's mercy to preserve and raise faithful believers to intercede for this nation.
Christian leaders claim the number of the believers recorded in the 2011 census is far below the actual figure. The census puts the number of Christians at over 300,000 or 1.4% of the country's population, but church leaders say the figure should be 2.5 million based on the more than 8,500 churches throughout Nepal. In effect, Christians are being marked as Hindus. The National Council of Churches of Nepal has alleged data manipulation. This comes amidst Nepal's transition to a secular democracy after two centuries of Hindu monarchy. The consequences of such manipulation can affect the outcome and extent of religious freedoms for Nepal's minority groups.
PRAY for the Christian leaders who are engaged in Nepal's public square as they work on building a democratic nation where all groups are protected. Pray for the continued growth of the church in Nepal and the nurturing and equipping of believers. - WEA-RLC
Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zinsheng is in prison for defending house church Christians and Falun Gong practitioners. Gao was first detained in 2009. In March 2010, he told Associated Press that he had been severely tortured. In April 2010, he disappeared and was not heard of again until December 2011, when the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, reported that he had been returned to prison. Only recently on 12 January 2013, were Gao's brother and father-in-law allowed to visit him at the Shaya Prison in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The visit confirms that Gao is still alive but the lack of information about his well-being, schedule of release and access to legal representation is troubling.
PRAY for God to minister strength, comfort and His presence to Gao in prison. Pray for his family members to remain strong and faithful. Pray for God to move the authorities to ensure safe treatment and release for Gao. Remember the house churches and other religious minorities which face persecution in China. - CSW
An evangelist, Nelson Ramos, was killed by National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas in January 2011. Four months ago in 2012, his wife Alicia Castilla was warned to abandon her home by the same guerrillas. She didn't. On 7 January 2013, assailants entered her house and shot Alicia in front of her three children and father. Her eldest son, aged 18, has now been warned to leave the area along with the rest of the family or face death. Ramos and Alicia had both ministered in Colombia's border area with Venezuela where ELN insurgents are fighting to control oil resources. The Church is targeted for standing against the violence, and between 25 to 30 church leaders are reportedly assassinated every year.
PRAY for the Ramos' orphaned children that God will protect them. Pray for Colombian Christians who have lost loved ones to the conflict. Pray for changed hearts among rebel groups to lay down arms and to seek peace instead. Ask God to stir the Colombian government with a longing for peace and justice. Praise God for Christians who remain strong despite having lost everything. - CD, CSW
Central African governments are struggling in the face of spreading extremism. Nigeria has denounced the terror group, Boko Haram, as a threat to all of west, north and central Africa. The sect, which seeks to install conservative Syariah law across Nigeria, routinely targets Christians, police, soldiers and ordinary citizens. On 21 January 2013, they opened fire on a market in Damboa, killing 18 people. This was followed by another attack in Kano where gunmen shot at people playing an outdoor board game. Boko Haram has been blamed for some 1,400 deaths in Nigeria since 2010 and have now reportedly expanded into Mali. Meanwhile, Kenya's government has sent its army into Somalia to assist in the fight against Al-Shabaab militants. In retaliation, the group has inflicted attacks on the Kenyan population.
PRAY for the leaders of these countries as they respond to extremist elements and deal with corruption and other abuses within their own administrations. Pray that the rest of Africa and the international community will support the fight against terrorism. Pray for the churches caught in the middle of this conflict, that God will bring healing, comfort and courage to continue standing as a witness for Christ. Pray that Africa would be freed from the cycle of violence. - BBC, VOA