The persecution of Christians around the world is horrific and one of the obstacles we have in knowing and understanding what's going on is lack of communication or misinformation.
In May this year, more than two years after the Covid-19 pandemic began, North Korean officials confirmed that more than 1.7 million people had suffered 'fever symptoms'. Covid-19 is known there as the 'ghost disease', particularly killing people who are already malnourished.
North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un is imposing strict lockdowns across the country. This situation will severely impact the work of supporting Christians with deliveries of food, other basic needs, and safe houses.
The lockdowns have crushed the economy of the country, raising the prices of everyday products and food exponentially. The government tracks all suspicious activities – travel, meetings, possession of 'suspect' items.
Part of the mindset of North Korea is that they do not want to be dependent on outside aid and they may not accept the offer of vaccines. It has been suggested that acknowledgement of the outbreak in North Korea is a political move, paving the way for re-establishing communication with South Korea and the United States.
Prayers are needed for the underground Christians of North Korea. Pray that the Lord will keep them safe throughout the increased scrutiny by the government. Pray for the economic situation. Pray for God to change the hearts of North Korea's leaders – nothing is impossible for the Lord of Hosts!
Bride trafficking in Pakistan
A new policy brief from the Brookings Institution describes the situation: "The practice involved cases of fraudulent marriage between Pakistani women and girls—many of them from marginalized backgrounds and Christian families—and Chinese men who had travelled to Pakistan.
"The victims were lured with payments to the family and promises of a good life in China, but reported abuse, difficult living conditions, forced pregnancy, or forced prostitution once they reached China."
According to the report, marriage brokers troll poor areas, especially Christian neighbourhoods and churches, and try to work with trusted clergy as well. Underaged girls are the main target and money is promised to the families in return for marriage – typically between about $3,500 and $5,000.
The paying for brides not only alleviates the great burden of a typical dowry for poor Pakistani families, but also amounts to a very generous "bride price", which is not illegal in Pakistan.
Associated Press reports the story of Simbal Akmal, 18, whose parents took her to a boarding house where other Christian girls were already waiting. Three Chinese men were presented to her and her father demanded that she choose one. He had already promised she would marry one, a matter of family honour.
She married but immediately fled, with her sister. They were able to escape, but thousands can't.
Open Doors estimates there are a little more than 4 million Christians in Pakistan, this nation of 212 million, which is No. 8 on the 2022 World Watch List.
Christians are among Pakistan's most deeply impoverished people and have little political or social support. Plus, non-Muslim men are not allowed to marry Muslim women in Pakistan without converting to Islam.
By targeting Christian girls and women, marriage brokers guarantee an easy union for the Chinese men desperate to marry. Pakistan's small Christian community, centred in the Punjab province, is a vulnerable target.
Some of the grooms are from among the tens of thousands of Chinese in Pakistan working on infrastructure projects under Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, a project that has further boosted ties between the two countries in recent years. Other grooms search directly from China through media networks.
Kidnapping Christian girls is rampant even within the country. Hana, one of Open Doors' ministry partners in the Gulf region, revealed the real issue facing believers in Pakistan.
"Nowadays, there are at least two cases of disappearing Christian women and girls each day," she says.
And that's just in her region.
Please pray for the Christian families affected by this – that they may put their trust in God, not the money that trafficking brings, and that God would be real and present in their troubled situations, able to deliver and protect.
India's unconstitutional anti-conversion laws fuel anti-Christian hatred, discrimination and persecution. In recent weeks, pastors in Uttar Pradesh's Basti District were warned to cease all religious activities or face jail under the state's anti-conversion law.
In Karnataka, the same day anti-conversion legislation was enacted, Hindu nationalist activists pounced on Pastor Kuriyachan and his wife, Selenamma, who minister to poor tribal labourers in the coffee estates of Kodagu district. The couple have been arrested and if found guilty, face three to ten years in prison.
In Goa, which does not yet have an anti-conversion law, Pastor Domnic and his wife, Joan, who lead a growing independent Protestant church in the north of the region, were arrested after two complaints were made against them. Now Goa's Chief Minister wants anti-conversion legislation introduced in Goa.
Yet there is hope! Please give thanks for the suspension of the 158-year-old law prohibiting 'sedition against the state' - routinely used to prosecute human rights defenders who face possible life imprisonment.
Pray that God would transform the hearts and minds of Indian authorities so that this law will be repealed.
May the courage of Father Swamy, who died in police custody, inspire others to challenge injustice and to express their Christian faith with Jesus' compassion for all people.