PRAY WITH US.
Join us in praying for the nations of Asia using the regularly updated prayer points below!
Join us in praying for the nations of Asia using the regularly updated prayer points below!
The recent discovery that a mountain shrub called ephedra could be used to make methamphetamine has caused a boom in the Afghan crystal meth industry. This new source is a game–changer for drug traffickers, making meth cheaper, easier to produce and thus more profitable.
In a country already termed the heroin capital of the world, this revelation could see the meth industry become equally widespread and destructive. While the drug may be exported worldwide, Kabul’s streets are feeling the impacts first and foremost. With 30% unemployment, the stress of the ongoing war and few mental health services, many are seeking a means of escape.
It has been over three years since 730,000 Rohingyas fled Myanmar to Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands remain in the Cox’s Bazar region to this day. This flood–prone area is a hostile place for the refugees to live with overcrowding, poor sanitation, and limited health care. COVID–19 further intensified existing hardships – food, education and health were all depleted. Then, on 14th January, a huge fire swept through the camps destroying the homes of 3,500 people.
“There is nothing left. There was nothing saved. Everything is burned down” said one refugee. Save the Children said this was “another devastating blow for the Rohingya people who have endured unspeakable hardship for years”.
Bhutan is proud of its freedom of religion laws guaranteed by the Constitution. However, evangelism is illegal. For Christians and seekers, this is clearly a challenge. Conversions are frowned upon, with reconversions back to original religions celebrated in the local news. We support pastors seeking to share their faith and grow the church despite these barriers. In different parts of the kingdom, the pastors run house churches, Sunday school classes, youth seminars and other activities. Lockdown moved some of these activities online but the churches continue to grow.
Although Christmas Day is a national holiday, celebrating it in any way has been banned in Brunei since 2015. Anyone found singing carols, decorating a tree or wearing a Santa hat could face up to 5 years in prison or a huge fine. These restrictions are “intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly, which could damage the beliefs of the Muslim community.” Non–Muslims can privately celebrate in their homes if they alert the authorities first, but the message is clear: the government is watching.
Before the last national election in 2018, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) cracked down on the only opposition in what many saw as an act to ensure a CPP election victory. Over 100 members of the opposition still stand accused of conspiring to commit treason. After fleeing the country, they are not being permitted to return to defend themselves in this month’s trials.
Those Party members still in the country are facing physical assault and arrests. Some are calling this a ‘death of democracy’, with a dangerous single party system now taking shape. With the country so scarred by political abuse, join us in praying for the future of Cambodia.
A new wave of COVID is spreading in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. Following strict new restrictions consequently put in place, a post circulated online pinning the blame on local Christians and foreign missionaries. The local priest of Shijiazhuang, the largest city in the province, told Asia News that the accused villages have no Christians in them and activities have been banned since Christmas Eve. He drew a comparison to Emperor Nero, who used Christians as a scapegoat for his own misdeeds and persecuted them as a result.
Thousands of farmers have flocked to Delhi to protest new laws announced by the Indian government. The relatively wealthy farmers from other northern states have been receiving guaranteed prices for their crops, but the new laws will allow the government to buy for unregulated prices. The farmers fear this will leave them at the mercy of private buyers. In addition to the tension and disruption, two police officers have tested positive for COVID and a report claimed 2–3 farmers per day have flu–like symptoms. With Delhi already being one of the most affected areas in the country, with little to no social distancing or sanitising, there are fears this will be a ‘super–spreader’ event.
Source: Hindustan Times
While countries rush to inoculate vulnerable individuals from coronavirus, Indonesia has put a surprising group at the front of the queue – social media influencers. Vaccinating the young, healthy and wealthy as a priority may raise eyebrows, but this has come as a response to vaccine scepticism. Instead of vaccinating elderly people first, Indonesia will target younger working people aged 18 to 59 after frontline workers. One government adviser explained, “We are targeting those that are likely to spread the virus.”
It is believed that Christianity is growing faster in Iran than in any other country. “Iranians are turning to other religions because they no longer find satisfaction in the official faith,” says one Shia cleric. The official census claims that over 99.5% of Iranians are Muslim, but a recent poll found that half of the 50,000 respondents said they had lost or changed their religion. Less than a third said they were Shia.
This decrease in Islam has given rise to more persecution. Six senior UN experts recently expressed “serious concern” over “systematic persecution” of Christians. The government claims they only take action against ‘Zionists’ or ‘cults’, a shrewd way of justifying the persecution of house–churches by pretending they are different from the general ‘Christian compatriots’. This month a network of Christians in several provinces was arrested for “promoting religious conversion”. Join us in praying that, as in the early church, there would be progress despite opposition.
In summer 2014, ISIS singled out the Yazidi people for especially brutal treatment. Roughly 9,900 Yazidis were either killed or kidnapped within a few days. Over 3,000 of those abducted were women and girls, viewed to the fighters as ‘spoils of war’. They were raped, forced into marriage and/or sold into trafficking. Many are still unaccounted for. Those who did escape continue to face enormous challenges with trauma and health issues.
Our partners in the refugee camps where these women and girls now live are sharing the hope and healing offered by Jesus. They rescue, rehabilitate and vocationally train the women, as well as mentoring and discipling them. The team are rejoicing at significant healing in all forms among the young women they support.
Among many other factors, one reason for roughly 99.7% of Japanese people not being Christians is the country’s toxic work culture. There is even a term coined for death by overworking: ‘Karoshi’. Gospel witness and the workplace are seen as fundamentally incompatible, meaning most Christians feel they cannot say anything about Jesus to their colleagues.
We recently heard of one lady who had worked in the same office for eighteen years without discussing her faith with any one. However, one group of believers are encouraging Christians to partner with each other in reaching their workplaces. Small groups meet weekly in the office to encourage each other, and some bring along non–Christian colleagues. The lady who had not shared in eighteen years was so encouraged that she decided to stand up in the office and suggest they all go for coffee after work. They did, opening up opportunities for personal conversations. From that bold step, one colleague came along to a meeting and heard the good news of Jesus.
Despite Christianity being the second largest religion in Kazakhstan, with some form of Christian faith professed by a quarter of the population, believers here face persecution on two fronts: from the government, and from Muslim neighbours. Since legislation was introduced in 2011 to restrict worship, control over religious expression has steadily increased with surveillance, raids on church meetings and arrests. Believers from Muslim backgrounds are confronted with the worst persecution. Men face abuse, rejection and loss of inheritance, while women may be placed under house arrest or abducted and forced to marry. It is no wonder many keep their faith a secret.
Source: Open Doors
Kyrgyz news has been dominated by the presidential campaign of Sadyr Japarov; who was broken out of prison by protesters and swiftly became president. A key to this story is gold. It was through protesting in favour of nationalising the Centerra Gold’s Kumtor mine that Japarov was imprisoned in 2017, and his first major order as president was to ban foreign companies from future large mining projects.
As well as political contention, the mine has also caused social and environmental harm. Local communities nearby have been neglected for years, with waterways and glaciers being damaged and evidence hidden from the public. Further, community activists have been arrested and tortured. The Bible makes clear the dangers of valuing gold over God (Psalm 115). What a stark example of how gold can corrupt – while mining it contaminates water, the gold itself contaminates hearts with greed.
In October, local authorities in the province of Salavan chased seven Christians from their homes because they refused to renounce their faith. The two families have been forced to live in makeshift huts in the woods and although relatives have sought to provide assistance, their efforts have been stopped by village heads.
Source: Christian Post
As the world’s largest palm oil producers, Malaysia and Indonesia are teaming up this month to fight the growing opposition to this ‘golden crop’. It is a hugely profitable commodity which can be found in roughly half the products on our supermarket shelves, from shampoo to noodles. But like so many of the products we buy there is a dark side, and as awareness in the West grows of the industry abuse such as trafficking, toxic hazards, child labour and deforestation, the producers are growing increasingly nervous.
The Maldives has begun to welcome tourists once again, much to the relief of those involved in the hospitality industry. Visitors with a negative coronavirus test are now able to stay on the islands with masks not required in many resorts. However, whilst the government may be relaxing its attitude to the risk of the virus, it continues to take a strong stance against the risk of Christ to its religion and ways of life, banning Christian literature and proclamation of the gospel.
According to the most recent records, Mongolia has the 12th highest abortion rate in the world, higher than both the UK and the USA. A group we work with set up the first ever pro–life centre in the country, and now runs five facilities. They offer counselling, share the gospel and provide the opportunity for babies to be adopted rather than aborted. Hundreds of women have decided to keep their babies as a result, and many have also become Christians. In November in just one of their centres, 68 women visited, 27 of whom chose to keep their babies. 25 professed faith in Christ, and 15–20 women now attend weekly Bible studies.
Source: World Population Review
At a children’s home in southern Myanmar, an orphanage supported by AsiaLink has begun homeschooling the children after all schools were closed amid the pandemic. Please pray for ‘S’, who is teaching the children. She recently graduated from Bible school and is teaching the Bible alongside other key subjects. She is also running Bible studies for others from the village.
“Greetings from the unreached mountains!” began a recent report from our partner in the Himalayan nation. His team has just spent 12 days driving and hiking over 1600km around the country, preaching to the unreached and encouraging believers.
They met with pastors in six locations, gave out over 1500 pieces of Christian literature, reasoned with Hindus and Muslims, taught youngsters in a village, preached in a church, conducted house to house evangelism and were invited into many homes for meals. They gave out reading glasses, a new bike and lifts in their car, deepening friendships and making new ones. The Lord provided places to sleep, food to eat and people to speak to.
People are joyfully gathering together, drinking in celebration of the birth of a ruler this Christmas time. Except, this isn’t the Christmas birth we all know and love. Christmas Eve is the birthday of Kim Jong–Suk, the deceased grandmother of King Jong–Un; Jesus’ birthday the following day passes by unnoticed here. Since being a Christian is a crime punishable by death, it is not surprising that celebrating Christmas is banned in North Korea. Believers meet in complete secrecy, maybe only sitting on a park bench with one other and saying a quick prayer, or whispering praises together in a wood. As our nation publicly celebrates this day together, let us remember in our prayers those for whom that is not possible.
Source: Open Doors USA
What starts as a small loan ends with generations trapped in slavery. This is the reality for millions in Pakistan, especially in Punjab, a hotspot for brick–making bonded labour. Often needed for medical care, small loans subsequently spiral out of reach as minimal wages fail to catch up with the rising interest. The work is hard, long and dangerous, and is not just for the men. Whole families get drawn in to help reach exploitative production targets. Children can begin and end their lives making bricks.
But there is hope. Masters have been allowing children to attend a school which gives the next generation a better future, aiming to one day end the cycle. Many of the children attending are from non–Christian families, giving the team the opportunities to share the gospel with their families in both word and deed.
Rodrigo Duterte is commonly referred to as Duterte Harry in reference to Clint Eastwood’s cop character. He is brutal with political opponents and religious leaders alike, following beatings by his Catholic parents and abuse by a priest. He stabbed somebody to death at 16 and shot a fellow student at law school. He has been described as having a narcissistic personality disorder, perhaps most evident in his brutal war or drugs, with up to 10,000 people being killed in extra–judicial murders in his first year as President.
Having been the first organisation to inspire missionary endeavour within the Sri Lankan church, our partners continue to raise awareness of the need and opportunities for cross–cultural work. They have sent workers out to a number of countries in the region and continue to work among diaspora groups on the island itself. Particular prayer is requested for work among people from a country which strictly prohibits the sharing of the gospel within its own borders.
In a shocking incident, two female Kurdish politicians were beheaded by jihadists in northern Syria. This act of violence, thought to have been carried out by ISIS, has been described as a warning to others in an area where women play a significant role in politics. The incident is part of a wider pattern, with ISIS, like the Taliban, Boko Haram and other religious extremist groups, viewing women as a threat and targeting teachers, administrators and women who are active in society.
Floods across four provinces have affected tens of thousands of households after heavy monsoon rains, with almost 1000 people being displaced so far. Two fatalities have been reported. Landslides were also reported in two of the four affected districts. AsiaLink partners are seeking to reach out to local people at this time, providing essentials for those worst affected.
The nation has notoriously maintained that it is virus–free, banning people from uttering the word ‘coronavirus’ and arresting those wearing masks whilst the hospitals fill up with ‘pneumonia’ patients. However, when the nation hosts the Track Cycling World Championships in October, competitors will be required to receive vaccinations against “unspecified infectious diseases”.
Sources: Cycling Tips
Cotton is one of Uzbekistan’s most important yet contentious exports. Generating over $1bn annually, it is nicknamed “white gold”. However, millions are forced by the state to pick huge quantities in unsafe conditions. In recent years, boycotts and international pressure have caused the president to begin dismantling the forced labour system. Last year, the government asked for the boycott by over 300 companies to end, considering the progress made. The companies refuse to do so until there are zero cases of forced labour in the country.
Meanwhile, COVID has dramatically reduced employment, income and the well–being of Uzbeks. Due to school closures, child labour has increase in order to support suffering families.
Sources: Uzbek Forum
The first Christian public library has opened in Vietnam, following a six–month approval process under the Communist government. The venture in Ho Chi Minh City’s central business district is a collaboration between Bible Society Vietnam and local Christian business people. The library is stocked with 5000 resources including Bible study aids in a number of languages. For many believers in the nation, this is the first time they will have access to resources of this nature.
Source: Eternity News
With the inauguration of Joe Biden as President of the USA, questions are being raised over Saudi Arabia’s battle with so–called ‘Houthi rebels’ in Yemen. The Trump administration had backed the Saudis as they extended their influence in the nation, but claims that the Saudis have failed to achieve any goal may cause Biden to withdraw American backing and leave Saudi Arabia facing difficult decisions. With an end to the conflict a long way off, it is clear that something needs to change.
Source: Tehran Times
How a scattered fellowship was used for God’s glory in Pakistan.Read more
Updates from partners in Myanmar four weeks on from the military coup.Read more