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Myanmar (Burma) Coup Updates

In the early hours of Monday, February 1st, the Myanmar (Burma) military staged a coup and seized power after detaining Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders. Both of our country directors – Pastors Pan* and Thang* – and other pastors were concerned that this would happen, as the military-backed party had been claiming the election would be fraudulent even before it was held on November 8th, 2020. After the election, they continued making these allegations without evidence of widespread fraud. Now the military has arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and has declared a state of emergency for a year, seizing control of the country.

Pastor Pan and many other pastors have begun holding small prayer fellowships three days a week, where they pray together and share information which is then spread to their wider communities. Many pastors and Christians are becoming leaders in the peaceful resistance to this brutal military dictatorship. As Pastor Pan has said, this is not about fighting for one leader – Aung San Suu Kyi – it is for the sake of saving the lives of Muslims, Christians, and many ethnic minorities who are at great risk, and also for the sake of their children’s future. 

Below, you will find updated messages from our two directors in the country, Pastors Pan and Thang, about the ongoing coup. 

Several notes – 

1. Some messages have been shortened or people and place names redacted, so as not to share identifying details.

2. Messages begin with the most recent date and move backwards. 

3. Messages from Pan are marked with a “P” and messages from Thang with a “T”. Pan lives in a more rural part of the country, and therefore has slightly more open communication, as major cities will bear the early brunt of military crackdowns. Pastor Thang, on the other hand, lives in a major city. So, we have received many more messages from Pan within the first two weeks of the coup.  

4. We are sharing the messages we are receiving from our leaders as we receive them. In such a time of uncertainty, not all of the information they are gathering will turn out to be accurate. However, so far most of what they have found out from local sources have been confirmed by international news organizations within days. They also share their opinions on how the world should respond, and they may change those opinions based on how the coup continues to unfold. We feel it is important to share as much as we can directly from the citizens of Myanmar in this moment, with no filter on their words (as long as it is safe to do so). Not all of their messages will include explanations of what they are referring to. To follow the whole situation more closely in the news, we recommend Frontier Myanmar as well as NPR and BBC Asia. 

5. As this continues, our commitment to coming alongside the men and women we support in Myanmar will continue. It will certainly look different, but as always, our focus is to come alongside believers reaching their own people for Christ in the most effective ways possible. 

*Names changed for safety


Wednesday night (Myanmar time), February 24th: 

T – “I do hear from our partners; they are all having the same problems even among their church members because no work due to the protest. We need your prayers for all our partners in different parts of Myanmar.

There is nothing we can do just cry to God to save our people from the difficulty that we all face and will face in the coming days. Please keep remembering us in your prayer for our freedom.”

P – “Lydia* has come back and they are ok right now.”

Monday night (Myanmar time), February 22nd: 

P – “More and more people are coming out for demonstration in my town. No one is harmed here and it is peaceful here today. But banks are still closed and only a few ATM machines are functioning.

Sunday morning (Myanmar time), February 21st: 

T – “Thank you for all the prayer, till today many people are arrested and injured. We are still alarmed and fearful. Please keep on remembering us in your prayer. Within a few more days I think many people will suffer – due to the protest all offices and banks are closed with no service and no work. We have no idea how long will it be. Till today we are taking care of our quarter/ward under the leadership of the people who live here and we take responsibility. Please keep on remembering us in your prayers with many thanks.”

Saturday night (Myanmar time), February 20th: 

P – “Today, the military shot dead 2 people and 21 people were seriously injured.

It happened near to Lydia’s* place [in Mandalay] and she and her family fled to another village for safety. She said that most of the community left to the other side of the river.

Just now the RFA news confirmed that 35 people injured and 7 people died.”

Wednesday night (Myanmar time), February 17th

P – “More and more government workers are participating in the CDM including the International and Domestic airline aviation. Attentions are higher and higher and more and more people have come out to the street though the police and army were so stuck to their duties. Aung San Suu Kyi was accused with three cases which all the World leaders have strongly condemned. Banks are still closed except the Junta owned bank. The Junta owned bank called Myawady Bank was open today and all customers who came to the bank went just to withdraw their money from the bank. They closed the bank at 12:00 noon because they are afraid that they will lose all their customers.

The Chinese troops are mixing with the Myanmar Military. The Junta leaders said that the Chinese troops came to help our cyber system. It shows that there are Chinese troops on the ground already.

The Junta leaders said that they will take one year and conduct a new election. No one believes that and that’s why people are strongly standing against them because we have experienced their acts in the past 30+ years. What the people of Myanmar are saying is if we lose this time, we will never get back a civilian government or democracy. Definitely, the Military will continue on their path to win and rule over us. If they lose their power they will immediately have to face the ICC which they already have a case against them. They are very much afraid of that. On the other hand, they don’t care for international condemnations on their activities unless the the UN troops or the US Army take action on them. I want to call upon the UN troops or the US Army to come and save the people of Myanmar before many lives are lost.

Very disturbing news: ‘Counterfeit banknotes from Chinese bank have arrived in Myanmar. According to a report from the Central Bank of China, 5,000/10,000 tonnes of counterfeit goods were produced in China because the military council did not have the money to pay the salaries of its employees.’

The Myanmar Military announced that China is not helping them. But just before 3 hours, there was a great problem between the Military and the protesters at the main train station in Mandalay. There were more than 60 gun shots happening, confirmed by the RFA. No detailed news has come out yet but the situation seems so worse. The people there confirmed that there were many Chinese speaking gunmen among them.

Five popular artists who participated in the CDM have been arrested by the Military just before 1 hour which was confirmed by the MRTV news. Now 427 people were arrested according to the news. They released their names as well.

You may not hear me again until 9:00 am tomorrow. I still have another 10 minute before they block the internet.”

Tuesday morning (Myanmar time), February 16th

P – “The internet was blocked 12 am to 9 am this morning again. Internet will be cut out from 1AM to 9AM everyday.

Cyber security law has been enforced (Announced on MRTV 8PM News). It’ll be stated in the newspaper tomorrow. Note: They’re amending the existing E Transaction Law to look like their Proposed Cyber Law Draft since amendment does not need public reviews.

It is said that there are more than 50,000 Chinese troops and there are another hundred thousands Chinese troops on the border line to guard the Junta leaders. Many people believed this would happen soon. We couldn’t sleep in the night and we are full of fear.”

T – “We believe Chinese troops are here in my city. We are in great danger. If something went wrong, they will not have compassion and concern upon the people since they are not from here. So, we the people are encouraging one another to be careful and sensitive as well as wise. Please keep on remembering us in your prayer. With many thanks.”

Monday evening (Myanmar time), February 15th

P – “Many Chinese troops have come to Myanmar last night by planes to help the Junta leaders. Very sad. Today, we have seen many Chinese army on duty in Yangon and Naypyidaw.”

Monday morning (Myanmar time), February 15th:

T – “The most important need is prayers and safety because all government, university students, teachers, nurses and doctors, engineers, and company workers are involved in CDM [Civil Disobedience Movement] and protest. These people’s lives are uncertain and they are also urged to move from where they live. Please pray for all these people and their safety. Thank you for your great concerns and prayers because the prayers of the righteous are fervent and powerful. It has been always a blessing and encouragement for us that we know that HB, as well as the church, are with us spiritually and mentally.”

P – “We have been back online after 8 hours ban. 

Two MAI (Myanmar Airways International) flights made six round trips from Yangon to Kunming last night…There is no flight list for these planes at Mingaladon Airport or Kunming Airport. What makes it even more suspicious is that when these planes take off and land, the radar is turned off and the airport is connected to an air traffic control tower. Radar disappears near Yangon Airport and near Kunming Airport. However, the radar path can sometimes be seen as evidence. This is what happens during the time when the internet is blocked. Many people believe that the Junta leaders’ families have fled to China. Min Aung Hlaing’s family had fled already to Russia and Thailand on Feb. 2. 

The Chinese Xinhua confirmed that the US drone entered into the Myanmar air space [still a rumour]. That gives a great warning to the Junta Leaders. These Junta leaders are not afraid of the UN council since China and Russia are on their side with veto power. But they are always afraid of US. Whenever the US decides to do things, the US really does. Also, as we know the US is always concerned for human rights for the whole world and freedom of the people. It will be a great help.”

Sunday night (Myanmar time), February 14th:

T – “We are in a great need of your prayer. As I have said, we are always alarmed, especially in night time. Please kindly remember us in your prayer for our lives and our people.

My family and I just went one day to the protests. According to the news, our internet will be cut off at 1:00 am very soon. We are urged to be awake the whole night because army released thousands of criminal prisoners to cause problems in every township. We have seen an increase in danger because they arrest people at night. Thank you for everything and your prayer with the great concern.”

P – “Update Feb. 14: Internet will be shut down from 1 am to 9 am (electricity also) tomorrow at the same time. 

There are lots of light tanks, many police cars and water cannon trucks on Yangon’s main roads this evening, and over 20,000 prisoners were released during these days and they had been threatening for two straight nights in Yangon and Mandalay. We are feeling upset and unsafe.

I believe the military can shut down internet still, but because of the international pressure they still allow access.”

Sunday morning (Myanmar time), February 14th:

P – “It’s Feb. 14, 00:12 already and we are still able to access our internet.

Thank God our internet connection doesn’t fail till now [5 am].”

Saturday night (Myanmar time), February 13th:

T – “Thank you very much for your prayers and concern. We really need your prayer for safety. At present, everybody is afraid of people who have been released from prison causing problems everywhere. Even in our street we all are taking security turns for the whole night. Please pray for our people.”

P – “The protesters are continuing and the situation is worsened. The Military used their arms and shot the peaceful protesters and more and more democratic elected leaders are arrested day by day.

It is worse in my town now also since the military couldn’t stop the peaceful demonstrators and they are using what they have. There was a man who was hired to fire on the [redacted for safety] town. He said that he was given Ks. 500,000 [$350]. He also admitted that he was given two injections at his neck and after the injections he could only think how to destroy the [redacted] town. He was found and arrested by the peaceful demonstrators and he is under the control of our people. Our people don’t want to submit him to the hands of the police because they know that he will be released if he was submitted to hands of the police. He was one of the men who was released on Feb 12 from the jail and he also said that there are many people like him throughout Myanmar. This is a very dangerous situation.

This has been shared from a fellow civilian and has been circulated on Feb 13 at 2:30 am:

‘There have been threats to our lives in our neighborhood in the past three hours. As announced on the military government TV channels, more than 20,000 prisoners have been released early morning on February 12. Those prisoners were intentionally sent into the different parts of the cities and towns all over the country almost at the same time with the only intention being to threaten the peoples’ lives in different neighborhoods late the same night. They were dropped off in small vehicles and they also brought some tools to set fires. Some of them used motorbikes and rode on different roads to cause trouble to people. Therefore, people in the same neighborhood have been gathering in small groups in their quarters to guard all our houses, our families and our lives. There have been a lot of live updates on Facebook telling each other that this is happening in most parts of the country. There have been some footages of the drones in some locations where they started those threats. Their plan is definitely to create big lies to the world that people are gathering late at night to violate. Actually they are setting them up so as for them to have a stupid excuse for their coup. This is what is happening in Myanmar and our lives are now at risk. We need immediate and serious actions to be taken on this situation.’

This is from a circulation from protestors:

‘The moves the military successfully used against the protesters in 1988 are coming back.

They release prisoners with criminal cases. After intoxicating them, they make them mix in with the crowd and cause violence. At night, the intoxicated thugs will move freely, without restrictions from the 144 law (The curfew). They’ll make false alarms and bang ironware. They’ll all give different answers during interrogations by the locals. They’ll attack random people among the crowds. The cops will come only when people are dead, or severely injured. They’ll destroy houses and shops. They’ll break into warehouses. They’ll rob rice shops and stores. They’ll poison water supplies. They’ll sacrifice about 5 cops and blame it on the citizens. They’ll spread rumours that lawlessness is spreading. Then, soldiers will take over in all cities, and they’ll patrol the streets and kidnap people.

The military will kidnap some leaders of the protest. They’ll break the spirits of teachers and other bureaucratic staff. They’ll make them choose between giving up their jobs and licenses, and promotion. They’ll kidnap members of parliament. They’ll kidnap and torture members of the opposition parties. They’ll make them choose between denouncing their party and quitting it, and long prison sentences and oppressions on their family members. They’ll make announcements and press conferences saying that party has connections with armed insurgent organizations, and made deals with foreign powers. They’ll sue the party for state treason. Then, they’ll announce that the party has been abolished. They’ll arrest anyone who possesses that party’s symbols. They’ll write a new constitution, this time with the PR system. They’ll hold a new election without NLD participation.’

Myanmar, my country, right now is like zombie movies. We have to stay in fear when the sun goes down and the dark comes. Police and soldiers are arresting people by force at night. The criminals – intentionally released from prison – are causing violence in the dark. Our only hope is serious action from UN Human Rights Council and international community.”

Friday night (Myanmar time), February 12th:

P – “Update for today: Myanmar Military & police have been conducting illegal arrest with armed forces without warrants every late night & now it has been over 220 political activists, elected government leaders, Union Election Committee members, and civil servants, such as teachers and doctors who are doing civil disobedience movements, etc.”

Friday morning (Myanmar time), February 12th: 

P – “According to news this morning, more and more people were arrested throughout the night by the Junta leaders.”

Thursday night (Myanmar time), February 11th:

P – “Breaking News: Internet line will be cut off for 14 days from Feb 14 to Feb 28 in Myanmar. Very sad. I call everyone to speak out on our behalf to international leaders. We are in a very dangerous situation. If it is shutdown, it will not be possible to communicate. There is no way to get other connectivity. We are not sure yet if the phone line will be shut down or not. Previously, only local calls are available, though the phone was opened. If the phone lines are working, I still don’t think we can communicate by phone. I am sure that international calls will be cut off. Many people believe that during this time the Military will hurt the people and will do whatever they want to the people since they can’t control the people right now. Till now, 174 political leaders have been arrested and some other protester leaders. They also began to arrest the government workers who participated in the demonstration.

More updates: Just now about 8:00 pm, the military is forcing a move of government workers such as health workers, school teachers, bankers, municipal workers, tax workers, etc., those who are involved in the Civil Disobedience Movement. Most of the head leaders are arrested and the rest of the people are forced to move by the Military from where they live since these workers are housed freely by the government. Some of the workers are housed by the government. Not all government workers, but those who are transferring from another place are given first priority. Now some of the charity organizations are taking care of them as they move out. These people are in a serious condition and need a great help for their housing and their daily food. They were not allowed to take any of their property also. This is a very serious situation.”

Thursday morning (Myanmar time), February 11th: 

P – “According to the news, more than 10 state officers – NLD political leaders – have been arrested last night. Their families didn’t know where they are and they can’t contact them.

I have seen Biden announced sanctions. That was very encouraging news. The people of Myanmar are encouraged to know that the US stands with us. But this kind of sanctions will not hurt the military, as they aren’t afraid of it. Because China is always with the military.

Now the NLD, as well as the demonstrators are calling on UN for a concern. This Saturday the 47 countries of the UN Human Right’s Council will have a meeting on the military coup in Myanmar. Of course, now also India is watching the military activities very closely. This news came out after Biden had a talk with the Indian Prime minister.

[On preference of name of Burma vs. Myanmar] Actually, the US always used Burma. Here in Yangon, the US embassy still uses the word Burma not Myanmar. I think, we all prefer Myanmar. Why we called it Myanmar is because there are many tribes living together. That is why we call it Myanmar. The original name of the Burmese is Burma. If we use this word, it focuses only on one tribe, which is Burma. When we call it Myanmar, it focuses on the fact that many tribes who live in Myanmar belong to this country. This question is asked frequently even by the citizens of Myanmar.

The lawyer who defended the case of Aung San Suu Kyi and our president has been arrested just now.”

Wednesday night (Myanmar time), February 10th:

P – “Today more and more protesters marched peacefully in all cities. Thankfully, many police, lawyers, artists and charity organizations and all the departments of the government workers have been involved. We have also seen the military and armed forces with full weapons. We are also glad to learn that the US, UN and the other countries have been condemning very strongly the activities of the Military Coup. We pray that all these things will result in a good way. 

There is a need for help for the protesters. Since they have no time to go for jobs and they can’t make money for their family. Especially in Yangon, we have seen some people donating to some families, those who are fully involved in this activity. We believe that this will take time and there will be a great need for the people. 

According the FB news, many of the cyber experts have arrived last night from China and we are afraid that there will be internet limitations. We have heard today that Aung San Su Kyi and our President’s FB accounts were hacked and released fake news. Some of high ranking members of the NLD warned the people to not believe that fake news.

There are organizations that can give direct help to protesters in a secrete way but not publicly. We will not be able to help all, but there are leaders who work tirelessly. These are the people we want to focus on. Also there are some Christians who participated in this activity and these are also who we want to focus on helping.”

Wednesday morning (Myanmar time), February 10th:

P – “We believe the world could do something to the Junta leaders.

This morning, the Junta leaders are blocking all the main roads. We can’t go here and there freely. The food supplies are available right now with the same price as before. But we are in shortage of food at our home since we have taken many new children recently.”

Tuesday evening (Myanmar time), February 9th:

P – “Demonstrators have been continuing. One college student has been shot dead and another four were injured seriously in Naypidaw. In my town, many people come and there are lots of armed forces around the city. The situation has worsened. Please continue to pray for us.”

Monday evening (Myanmar time), February 8th:

P – “Many, many people came out on the street today in every city. It is estimated that nearly 1.5 million are marching. All government offices are closed including the banks because everyone participated in the Civil Disobedience Campaign. The Junta has announced curfew from 8:00 pm – 4:00 am and it effects from today onward. Though the demonstrators peacefully marched, the police and military are watching to fire. The tension of the people is higher, and on the other hand the Military is launching the fire cannon and many people were hurt very badly. There is not a single plan for the pandemic by these Junta leaders. Our mentality is badly hurt and we are in a danger situation. Now many army people are changing their uniforms and wearing the police uniforms so that the international community cannot blame the military being involved in this activity.”

Sunday evening (Myanmar time), February 7th:

P – “We have just re-accessed the internet after 39 hours banned. I don’t know how long they will open. Thank you for your prayers. All phone lines and internet will soon be closed again according to the news. I and my family as well as the orphan children are safe but our future is uncertain. On the other hand, the Covid 19 positive cases are rising up here in our town. Thank you for your continued prayers. Demonstrators have come out to the street in all cities to condemn the Military activities. Firing order has begun. It is worse.

The military will shoot the demonstrators. I hope that there will be some changes/ accomplishments because of all the people involved in these demonstrations. But I think this will take time.

I believe the junta re-opened the internet because there are many pressures from around the world. We cannot communicate with other parts of the world when internet is shut down. But we can communicate locally this time. On Feb. 1, phone lines were shut down and we could not communicate even locally. We are not able to get news when the internet is shut down. Thank you so much for their [churches] prayers for us.

I hope that there must be changes because the way the Junta acted was shameful before the world. Let the US stand with us this time to save Myanmar. I believe if the US troops are sent to Myanmar, they will immediately stop what they are doing. The Junta will not be able to go against the US troops. If these kind of actions will not be taken, the Junta will act as they are. I wish the US troops or the UN troops will be sent to Myanmar immediately before many people lose their lives here. Otherwise, they will shoot people and kill as they did in 1988 since they control all the weapons.

One good news is that there are some armed forces and police forces who do not agree with it. They are on the civilian’s side. This is according to the local news. We have learned through FB that some have been resigned from their military service. But they are in danger and they don’t want the news widely spread out. I talked with [the pastors who do some ministry with soldiers] and they can’t get into the army base. The military base is totally shutdown from all communications from outsiders. Some will side with the people. Especially the military Christians would be on our side.

The biggest hospital here in my town was closed because the health staff are involved in civil disobedience campaign. Many health workers have also resigned because they said that they don’t want to serve under the Junta. Some patients were sent back home and some were transferred to military hospital.”

Friday afternoon (Myanmar time), February 5th: 

P – “The members of the Government are being arrested one by one.”

Friday morning (Myanmar time), February 5th:

P – “I was 14 years old when the Junta took over control in 1988. I have been experiencing how painful it was to survive under the dictatorship rule. I do not feel safe and free even right now.

In my town, we don’t see much police and army around us but in Yangon, Naypidaw and Mandalay, there they are full of Army and Police with full weapons roaming here and there. They don’t care for a small city like my town; if they take over control of those main cities, they can easily control over the whole of Myanmar. At my town, things move as normal so far, but everyone is with fear and uncertainty.

Now we cannot talk openly about our government as some of the people who were involved in the civil disobedience campaign and young activists have been arrested. The Health Organization has started the Civil Disobedience Campaign, refusing to work under the new appointed leaders. The one worse thing is the Covid 19 vaccination has been blocked by the new leadership.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

I have talked with Pastor Thang and he is safe and he is still in his home town. He will be going down to Yangon on Monday.

We have not heard yet about the new plans for Covid 19 by the new leaders. Definitely, it will hurt more people and more people are in need of food since many businesses are not running right now or will close permanently. Please pray for us and if funds are available and if you can send us, this would be a great help for our people here who are poor and suffering because of Covid 19 and this new leaders’ pressure.”

Thursday morning (Myanmar time), February 4th:

P – “Morning news: The Junta leaders announced that Facebook will be blocked for three days in Myanmar and anyone who opposes the new administration will be arrested immediately.

I have not heard more arrests so far in my place. Things are worse in the bigger cities. Everyone is silent in my place and scared for the future. Our pastors have not been facing any problems so far and they are doing well.”

Wednesday evening (Myanmar time), February 3rd:

P – “As of today, we are sad to hear that the president and our state counselor have been charged to be in prison. Some of the senators have been released and asked to leave and to go back to their homes by the new government. The banks are operating as before. But nobody can predict whether it will continue or not. It seems the international pressure will not work because China is on the military’s side. China it seems used their veto in the UN council. We also read that the military started beating some of the government workers in Yangon division. Also the internet was blocked for six hours in Yangon, but it’s good in my place.

We are discouraged mentally, and our hope to have a civil government is still far away here. But we put our trust in God, that He will do the best for us. Thank you all for your prayers.”

Tuesday evening (Myanmar time), February 2nd, a day and a half after the coup:

P – “The worst news [about the coup] is that the Buddhist organizations agreed with the military, because what they have always been trying for is to make Myanmar a Buddhist country. Christians will suffer more and more.

Today onward, the Myanmar health organizations have started a civil disobedience campaign, as they don’t want to serve under these new appointed leaders. We are in a very hopeless situation. We need your prayers. The Covid-19 vaccination is also terminated by the new leader. Also, the vaccine carrier plane was sent back by the new leader.

I heard that the Military Junta leader visited some churches in Yangon, but nobody knows what they are doing. There is not any news released by them. Everyone is effected very badly. We are in fear about our future. The banks are open today – Let’s see how they will operate. We believe there will be great problems. Those struggling for food will of course be affected. We believe that there will be a shortage of food because the new leaders shut down companies. My children feel very bad, and they fear because the military is roaming here and there.

I was told that at midnight the internet and phone lines will be blocked again. But let’s see… Thank you for the prayers. We don’t see anyone taking immediate action internationally for this to be reversed. Unless international action is taken, there is no way for us, the people of Myanmar, to reverse this. I will share updates whenever I can.”

Monday evening (Myanmar time), February 1st, half a day after the coup: 

P – “Since midnight, we cannot access any phone or internet. All are shut down. We do not know any news yet. Thanks for your prayers. The arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi is very sad. I do not know if the internet will continue to be blocked, as it has opened just now. Even right now, our internet connections are very slow.”

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Pray for the Persecuted 2020: Kashmir

Thank you for joining us in prayer for the persecuted church in South Asia each weekend of November, in a continuation of International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (November 1st)! We pray the stories and wisdom shared by our country leaders have been an encouragement and challenge in your own walk with God. 

This final weekend of November, we share from leaders Sarah* and Pastor Peter* in Kashmir.

Kashmir has a long and complicated history, and we encourage you to learn more about this region! 

Since 1947-48, when the newly-independent nations of India and Pakistan fought their first war over which country the Muslim-majority princely state of Kashmir would accede to, the portion of Kashmir controlled by India has been governed according to Article 370 of India’s constitution. Article 370 granted Kashmir substantial political and economic autonomy. However, in August 2019 India unexpectedly revoked Article 370 and placed Kashmir on strict lockdown to quell protests against the unpopular move. Due to years of militant insurgency and protest against Indian occupation, Kashmir is no stranger to curfews, internet blackouts and economic shutdown – but the lockdown starting in August 2019 became the longest on record, and just as it was beginning to be eased the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Kashmir is divided into three regions. Jammu is majority Hindu, Ladakh is majority Buddhist, and the Kashmir valley is majority Muslim. Sarah, Pastor Peter, and the other pastors and missionaries we support are working in the Kashmir valley. All but Sarah come from Muslim backgrounds, and so are well equipped to reach their staunchly religious community with the love of Jesus. They also know the dangers they face in following Jesus. 

Sarah was a nominal Christian until her second daughter was miraculously born healthy after she and her husband were told their baby would die. It was then that she and her husband rededicated their lives to Christ. In the last two years, Sarah’s husband Mohan* has been forcibly taken back to his Muslim family, leaving Sarah do ministry and raise their daughters alone for now.

Pastor Peter*, whose birth name is Mohammad, describes his family’s reaction to him following Jesus, 

“When my other family members, friends and relatives came to know about my faith in Christ, they became furious and started treating me like a dog. They often provoked me, stating that I had adopted the ‘English religion’. Though I was treated harshly, I did not give up the faith, but wished to win my people for Christ.”

Both Sarah and Pastor Peter have wisdom born of experience and intimacy with the Lord. 

Sarah begins,

“‘That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ (2 Corinthians 12:10)

As you may know, it is 99% Muslim orthodox in our Kashmir. In Islamic jurisprudence no other religion is allowed to preach, and if any Muslim wants to change his religion they kill that person, as the punishment of apostasy in Islam is death. Lots of people want to accept Christ, but due to persecution they remain silent. 

But many people throughout the Kashmir valley accept Jesus as their personal saviour without fear of persecution that they will face. They always get ready to accept the persecution for the cause of Jesus Christ. Many of our brothers in Christ were beaten publicly, many were thrown out of their villages, many were imprisoned for months, many were dragged into courts and some were killed by militants. But by the grace of God no one lost their faith in Christ due to this persecution. In spite of all this, we all are becoming more firm in faith. We need to use wisdom to share the Gospel by the help of Lord Jesus Christ.

I request to you all to please pray for all of us who are sharing the Gospel message in this challenging state, that God gives us more strength and courage to face these challenges and help us in our difficulties.

Kashmir is a Muslim region, and Muslims believe that Jesus is just a human being and not divine. The belief that Jesus is the son of God and is God himself is considered the greatest sin according to the Quran. Also, Muslims believe that the present Bible is corrupted and distorted. This is the reason Muslims hate Christianity and don’t want the spread of the Gospel in Kashmir. 

According to the Bible, it is our pleasure to face persecution so that we will be like our Lord Jesus Christ and become citizens of the Kingdom of God.

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.’ (Mathew 5:10)

‘In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.’ (2 Timothy 3:12)

Being persecuted for faith is totally different than facing opposition for other reasons, because persecution for faith brings God’s grace and blessings in our spiritual life – we will become more strong in faith and we experience our Lord Jesus Christ’s love more. We might lose our material things, but we become more close to the Kingdom of God… We are not people of this world but the people of the Kingdom of God. As our Lord Jesus Christ faced persecution, we also need to face persecution.”

Building on what Sarah shared, Pastor Peter adds,

“‘Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.’ (Romans 12:14)

Thank you my brothers and sisters who are praying for our fellowship – that God may keep us safe in the midst of Muslims while preaching the Gospel to them, so that we can stand firm in our faith on Jesus Christ. Pray that God may grant us grace and anointing to preach and teach about the victorious Christian life in the midst of persecution.

The motivation during persecution comes from when we go through the Bible and see examples like Stephen’s speech in Acts 6 & 7. Stephen spoke with wisdom and spirit – they put him to death on a charge of blasphemy.

In 2015 was the third time that I was persecuted and put in jail. It was a case of blasphemy, and the Mullahs put three false accusations on me. One, that when I converted a Muslim I put a seal of the cross on their back. Two, that I feed pig’s blood in church services (during the Lord’s Supper). Three, that I give or provide jobs to young Muslim men and women to make them Christians.

When a Muslim accepts Christ, it causes people to think and then they start to persecute the new believer. They cut off all the shares of the new believers’ property. They tell new believers to leave the community. They create problems and persecute us. We have so many lived stories of how they persecute our believers in Christ. 

Being persecuted for faith is the test of God from which we experience the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, but facing opposition for other reasons doesn’t give us any benefit.

Our master Jesus Christ says, ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.’ (Matthew 10:28). I have a message to all my brothers and sisters who are facing persecution: 

‘Do not be afraid, as in the book of Acts early Christians were persecuted through isolation, attack, betrayals, imprisonment, and even death all around the world. My prayer is for suffering Christians; my brothers and sisters in Christ, you are not alone. The worldwide church is standing with you and praying for you.'”

Sarah & Pastor Peter

*Names changed for safety

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Pray for the Persecuted 2020: Bangladesh & Bhutan

This fourth weekend of November, we once again share the wisdom of some of our country leaders on persecution, building on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 1st. This week, Pastor Darpan* who leads our Bangladesh ministry and Pastor Jagan* who leads the ministry in Bhutan give their insight.

Open Doors ranks Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country, as 31st on the World Watch List, which lists the top 50 countries with the greatest persecution of Christians. Read more here

In our pastors’ and missionaries’ experience, persecution primarily comes on a local level and not from the government. Physical and emotional attacks most often come from family and community members when a Muslim, Hindu, or Animist begins following Jesus. For the men and women we support, persecution is more common for them than other Christians in the country because they are openly sharing the Gospel as pastors and missionaries.

Pastor Darpan*, a humble and kind servant of God, oversees a Bangladeshi network of over fifty pastors and dozens more missionaries. He says,

“In general, persecution is happening or has come here mostly from the Muslim extremists, a very few times from Hindus, and also in very rare cases by others. According to their religious thoughts and thinking, they are prideful and arrogant, not honoring others who they cannot tolerate. The extremist Muslim believers are trying to stop others, dominating their religious power everywhere. The pride and jealousy of the extremists makes them do bad works and persecute. They hate Jesus/Christians and do not want Christianity to rise here because of their arrogance. They are afraid of Christians, that if the Christian religion exists beside them, then their believers’ numbers will be reduced. They believe Muslim faith is the best out of all religions. This motivates them.

According to our mission to implement the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, we prioritize verse 20, to teach, make disciples and baptize. But because of our country and communities, I always encourage them to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves according to Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” So, maintaining our own safety first is most essential, and then approach with kindness and love…

Pastor Akash*, who I work with, shares what he and another missionary, Sukesh*, experienced last month, which shows this:

“In this pandemic situation, Mr. Sukesh and I went out three or four times a week. In this area, extremists (Muslim) people were watching us and our activities. One day, suddenly, when we were returning to our home, some of the old Muslim people questioned us about where we are returning from. We told them that we were returning from a nearby remote town. When they checked our bags, they found some Bible tracts, small Gospel flipcharts, and a small Bible. They said we had not told the truth to them. They asked us if these were our evangelical tools or materials we have taken to preach. Then, we told them “Yes, but we preached amongst our believers. So, what is it to you?” Very suddenly, one of the aged men slapped us and chased us from there.

After a month, when we were going out in the morning to another village by bicycle, one of the old extremists found and called us with a loving voice. Just as before, we went to him. That man begged pardon because of their act a month ago, saying it was totally inhuman and unreasonable, and illogical. Because of this, his heart was burning to beg pardon from us.

We became shocked to hear about this. As an aged man, we told him that the Christian religion is to forgive like our Lord Jesus who forgave all our sins, and to bow our hearts in surrender, and then Jesus is almighty to forgive. And we are here to teach all the people about my Jesus. Now that man has become our good guardian and friend. Thanks to the Lord, and we are thankful for His love.”

We are thankful to the Lord, and also for our prayer fighters who have been praying continuously for safety for our brothers and sisters who are facing persecution. Endure to see His face. We would like to say to continue your powerful prayers, which are our only strength.”

Open Doors puts Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist Kingdom in the Himalayas, at 45th on its list. You can read their summary here

Although persecution is not often physical, pressure from the government and police leads to believers often being refused land rights, being taken to prison overnight, and having their children’s names taken off the census, rendering them unabl to access basic services. Pastor Jagan* leads a group of nearly 30 Bhutanese pastors and missionaries partially supported by Harvest Bridge. He reflects,

“The reason for persecution here is not hate of Jesus. No. To the core they don’t want to lose their identity of their culture, which is interconnected with their religion. In terms of Bhutanese culture, it is notable that their culture is their religion and their religion is their culture.

As a leader to persecuted believers, I pray to God who is the only person who can bring solutions for all the problems, I teach them to depend more and more on God than people. To keep moving forward with God. 

‘Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ ~ Philippians 3:13-14

Recently, one of my pastors, Pastor Phurba*, shared how God changed a strong Buddhist’s heart.

“One of the villagers in the southwest, Biren*, age 45 and from a staunch Buddhist background, was harassing us all the time whenever we go for ministry. He was bullying us as ‘foreign agents coming with a bag full of money’. We started praying for this gentleman, for God to touch him and bring him into His saving knowledge. On August 23, 2020 as we went for visiting, he invited us to his home. We were filled with much fear and went to his home to find out what kind of issue he had with us. Interestingly, without saying much he requested us to pray for his family, and we prayed for the blessings of the family. He described his encounter with Jesus through his dreams, and that he confessed Jesus is the only living God. Praise God for the way God moved into this gentleman’s heart.”

Pastor Kibu* experienced this too:

“We always used to fear our neighbors, as they always have complained about our singing and many people coming to the house. We went through much harassment. But in the month of April when the lockdown was intensive, we prayed and got strengthened to sing and share the Gospel to the neighbors. Many of our neighbors were regretting complaining about us to the authorities, as they realized that we are praying for our neighbors regularly. A bond of love among the neighbors got developed in this period.”

Being persecuted for faith will be rewarded with church growth, as well as motivation to become much stronger in the Lord. But Christians who are facing opposition for other reasons [other than for faith] are motivated by their self interest, and they need to seek the guidance of God for all that they do.

Please pray for favorable conditions for having at least a house fellowship [which is illegal]. Pray for doors to be open for confessing the faith. Pray for religious freedom to practice and propagate.”

Thank you for reading, for supporting financially, and for praying!

Next week, on the last weekend of November, we will share from two leaders in Kashmir. 

*Names changed for safety

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Pray for the Persecuted 2020: Myanmar (Burma)

On this third weekend of November, following the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, we continue to share the wisdom of our country leaders on persecution. This week, Pastor Pan* and Pastor Thang* in Myanmar (Burma) give their reflections.

Myanmar is 18th on Open Doors’ World Watch List, which lists the top 50 countries with the greatest persecution of Christians. Persecution has increased as Buddhist extremism and Burmese nationalism grows. For context, read Open Doors’ country profile here

Pastor Pan* has seen and experienced physical and psychological persecution in his two decades of full-time ministry. He is an encourager and connector of a network of dozens of pastors and missionaries throughout his country. A few years ago one of the women he mentored in ministry, Tabitha*, died of a premature “heart attack” the day after a mob of radical Buddhists and monks surrounded her home screaming threats. As she was 32 and healthy, it is unlikely her death was natural. Her crime was leading 12 men and women to faith in a village where she had been doing ministry for seven years.

Pastor Pan shares,

“Firstly, pray for all our partners for their safety during this pandemic. Secondly, pray for the persecuted Christians to be more strengthened in their faith. Thirdly, pray for the non-persecuted Christians not facing persecution in their lives. Finally, pray for the Gospel to be more fruitful through our efforts in Myanmar.

I personally learned and believe that persecution comes to us because of having faith in Jesus Christ and sharing His good news. Because most of our missionaries who have been facing persecution did nothing wrong with their community, but still they were opposed and persecuted. That means persecution took place because of the hatred of Jesus Christ and not because of the hatred of the man or the woman. I didn’t find any other reasons for facing opposition and persecution except having preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

During the past quarter, I haven’t experienced any persecution directly. But we must be wise when evangelizing in the villages. Even though we did not face persecution directly, the new believers’ faith is persecuted by their relatives and their communities to not follow Christian faith. But by the grace of God, though they faced persecution because of their faith, they don’t care about that. Instead, they grow in their faith.

Pastor Na*, who I serve with, recently wrote, 

‘I have regular contact with the new believers in the place where we started a new fellowship in early March. I send a message from the Bible so that they can read by themselves and learn more from the Lord. But it is very sad that some of the people in their village said to them that they hate Christians because they destroyed their beliefs. They do not want Christians in their village. When they heard all these words from their village people, they were so scared for their future. But they still have faith in Jesus Christ more than before. Please, for their safety and their future lives, pray that this kind of persecution may not destroy their faith in Jesus Christ.’

Another Pastor I serve with, Maung*, shared this recently, 

‘Most of the time, we are working among the Palong people. They mix their beliefs between Animist and Buddhist. I usually call it Animist-Buddhism. These Palong people were very conservative in their beliefs of their forefathers. Many of the Palong villages are controlled by the Palong rebels and have no chance to believe in Jesus Christ. If someone under their control becomes a believer, that man will be dismissed immediately. In the Palong villages, there are people who are always disturbing our preaching. At the beginning of March, as we planned to visit one of the villages, we were stopped from entering and pushed back to not enter their village. There were about 20 people in a group who opposed us and warned us not to preach the Gospel in their village, even in the future. But the Lord still opened another village and we have seen two people come to the knowledge of salvation.

One was a man and his name is Niang*. I visited his village and shared the love of God with him personally. His past religion was Buddhism; I shared the love of God with him for more than two hours and he came to know Jesus Christ. He confessed his sins and accepted Christ as his Saviour and Lord. He is so active in his faith, and he is now the main person to get me access to the refugee camp in his area. I hope and believe that someday he will be one of the soul winners among the people there in the refugee camp. It is also my prayer that the Lord will speak to those who are willing to learn more about the living God and will change their lives with the love of God in the next outreaches.’

According to Luke 10, when Jesus sent the 72, He said, in verse 3, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” From that point I usually encourage the persecuted believers/missionaries, that ‘you are sent among the wolves’. You might face persecution, but that persecution will not be the end, but will bear fruits for the Kingdom of God.”

Pastor Thang* is also a connector of a network of pastors and missionaries. Although he has faced opposition for his faith in small ways, like the police giving him a citation for noise in his church, he would say he has not faced persecution himself. He brings perspective to praying for and learning from the persecuted church that believers in non-persecuted countries, like the US, may relate to.

He shares,

“To be honest, I find it very hard and difficult to say a word to those people who suffer and are persecuted as well as put into prison. Because if I am in that position, how hard will it be? But I want to share what I have been praying for them, as follows: 

When I was converted in 1990, I started to pray for the people who have been persecuted because of their faith till today. Also, I am praying for the persecutors and the authorities who mistakenly and wrongly persecute Christians, that they will turn their life into believing God and trusting, like Paul the apostle.

My prayer and encouragement and message to persecuted Christians is this: 

You brothers and sisters in Christ who are in prison and being persecuted, I give you the highest honor and respect for your faith and willingness to stand for God for any cause, even to death. Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” This verse is what you stand for. I personally just read it, but you are the one who is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. So, I am always reminded that I am a very poor person in spirit and the Christian life. It has always been a challenge and encouragement for me whenever I pray for you.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, you are the transformers of the world through your faith in Christ, and stand without wavering in your faith even into the prison. Whereas many people are just speaking and confessing their faith in a normal life, you are strongly committed to the Lord. I always remember the life of Job’s suffering. God is so proud of him being faithful and trustworthy. God also knew that even though he would suffer and lose everything he has, he would never abandon God. That is why God allowed Satan to tempt and destroy his physical life, but saved his soul and life. So, you are God’s trusted men and women for the sake of other Christians, to be great examples and transform the life of the persecutor and non-Christian. So that through all your life our God will be glorified and manifested. I also pray for you and will pray for you at all times, as this is one of the greatest things that I can be part of in your suffering.”

Thank you for reading and praying! To support the work of Pan, Thang, and all the men and women we come alongside, you can give below. Next week, we will be sharing messages from leaders in Bangladesh, India, and Bhutan. 

*Names changed for safety

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Pray for the Persecuted 2020: Nepal

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church took place on November 1st. Throughout this month, we will focus on prayer for our brothers and sisters in South Asia who face opposition for their faith. Each Sunday we are sharing thoughts on persecution from our country leaders. This week, we share the wisdom of our Nepal country leader, Pastor Shalva*. 

As the Christian church grows rapidly in Nepal, persecution increases. For context on the persecution believers face in Nepal, we encourage you to read Open Doors’ country analysis here. 

Pastor Shalva has been arrested several times, and was himself disowned by his high caste Hindu family for decades, until his father at last accepted Christ a year before his death. He has trained and discipled thousands of believers and pastors throughout the country in church planting, and oversees nearly 50 Nepali pastors and missionaries whom you support. Pastor Shalva shares,

“These are my personal opinions based on my experience and practice as I do ministry and help ministers of our Lord Jesus Christ. Most of the persecution is a kind of hatred to Jesus. Nowadays Christianity is growing, so Hindu people are against the Christians because their own population and power is decreasing. 

Persecution for faith includes being excommunicated from family and society, deprived from having a share in parental property, no access to government facilities, etc. Facing opposition is that you are not allowed to preach, you are not allowed to gather in the Church. You are not invited to family or social functions, people throwing stones in your house or Church, you are not getting police support even if you very seriously need them. While you can send your children to school, because they are Christian they are treated differently, and many more examples.

Pray. There is nothing more than always praying for the safety and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in our lives. As missionaries are always doing ministry, traveling, helping others to understand and know the saving power of Lord Jesus Christ, they are always risking themselves for Christ’s sake so they also need a kind of comfort and support and encouragement from us. Through prayers we can provide them divine intervention and support and encouragement. Providing for some of their needs is also a kind of guarantee that someone is behind them and praying for them.

As a leader, mostly I visit believers facing persecution immediately after I hear the news. I try to know the situation and find out the solution to solve the problem. I will speak to those in power on behalf of the believers, and do the needed work. Moreover, I visit their family and have fellowship with them and encourage them from the Bible. I will call fasting-prayer meetings and pray for them. If they are in need of anything I will buy those things. I make myself available for them as long as they need me.

The motivation of the missionaries to face persecution is their love for Jesus and the power they have experienced as they believed in Jesus. Even in the very life threatening situation they are always ready to face persecution. They can leave everything but they can’t leave Jesus – I have seen this in the lives of persecuted Christians. They are well taught from the Bible what it is to believe in Jesus. So they are always ready to face persecution.”

Join us in praying for the persecuted church in Nepal. Next week, hear from our country leaders in Myanmar (Burma). Myanmar has an election today, November 8th – so please be in prayer for believers and the entire country this week. 

*Names changed for safety

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Citizens of Heaven

Throughout the last four months of the COVID-19 crisis, I have been newly struck by how powerful the church is when we take seriously God’s call to be citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). 

We work in a world where true persecution is a reality. 

This past month one of our pastors brought help and comfort to the family of a teenage boy who was martyred by Hindu radicals in northern India because of his family’s Christian faith. One of our missionaries in Myanmar took in three children whose Buddhist father beat and then abandoned their mother because she began following Christ. A pastor in Nepal was arrested for recording and sharing a video sermon, while his Hindu counterparts were free to do the same. Yet the main prayer request, apart from comfort and safety for these believers’ families, is always the same: 

“Pray for our persecutors to follow Jesus.” 

Our partners’ prayers for their persecutors display a kingdom mindset focused on seeking God’s will – that enemies would be reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

Countless Christians were overlooked for help from government food distribution programs during recent lockdowns. But so were Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and others. 

In each of the countries where we work, minority religions are persecuted – whether Rohingya Muslims experiencing genocide in Myanmar, systemic injustice toward Muslims and Christians in India, or Hindus facing discrimination and violence in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Our pastors, missionaries, and believers responded in this time by feeding the marginalized: the poorest of the poor, those facing discrimination, and the outcasts of society, regardless of faith or status. 

These men and women have displayed Jesus’ heart of justice and mercy (Matthew 25:31-46), which has opened new doors for the Gospel.

Recently, while speaking about the hundreds of families his network of missionaries has helped so far during COVID-19, our Bangladesh director Darpan* said, 

“When COVID-19 began, many of our missionaries responded very well, seeing how they could help many people during this time feel the loving touch of Christ. They fed people with what they had. My wife and I requested help from you in this time and the Lord sent some blessings. Instead of working directly [i.e. obvious miracles], the Lord is using His people to meet these needs…The feedback in the communities has been very good. People are learning that Christians are so caring when even the government is not helping. Besides giving food we gave hand washing and hygiene lessons too, as this information had not reached many of them. We gave thanks to the Lord publicly, and the non-believers understood where these blessings came from. Already, many want to know more about Jesus…very soon there will be more preaching centers – there will be a baptism program when it is possible again….Our missionaries are enduring a very hard time – but everyone is ready to accomplish His commandments as He called us. So, pray for them and hope for this. We are busy with relief work, but very silently the Holy Spirit has been working among lots of hearts; so on His work we need to keep our attention and pray and commit.”

Responding from a position of putting God first and loving their neighbors as themselves (Mark 12:30-31), these brothers and sisters are seeing God change hearts and minds. 

An American missionary friend recently pointed out that when Paul says in his letter to the Philippians that we are citizens of heaven, he didn’t just mean looking forward to heaven as our true home. A first century reader would understand this; the city of Philippi in Greece was a Roman colony where many had the privilege of Roman citizenship. The citizens of a colony were not supposed to aspire to go back to Rome. Their job was to secure a conquered country by permeating the local culture with Roman culture. By telling Christians they were citizens of heaven, then, Paul was telling them to permeate the world with heavenly culture. 

The believers we come alongside are doing this.

In June, while discussing future goals and plans with our Nepal director, Shalva*, he said, 

“I believe without planting churches, we can’t bring changes in society. Churches are the nucleus to transform the society, as well as replace superstition with truth.”

In Shalva’s specific case, the church transforming society looks like the church being the safest place for a woman of any faith to seek safety from an abusive marriage. It looks like people learning that medicine, and not witchcraft, can heal them. The church is where people of all castes can worship together. 

This is all a natural outpouring of seeking God’s will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). I pray I follow our South Asian brothers’ and sisters’ example in living as a citizen of heaven here on earth.

In Christ,

Kate Therese, Executive Director

 *Names changed for safety

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Thoughts on Persecution: Moved and Convicted

Throughout the last five months of being on staff with Harvest Bridge, I have heard countless stories of pastors, families, and other Christians in South Asia enduring persecution for their faith. Before working for HB, stories such as these remained mainly in anecdotes from missiology books I’d read, or were tales I heard from a friend working in a “far-off” country. Now, they’re personal.

We live in a world where true persecution is a reality. I think I’ve always known this, but admittedly, living in the US has afforded me the all-too-expedient convenience to believe being persecuted for one’s faith doesn’t happen all that often. During these short five months, this preconceived notion has certainly been challenged, and for this I am grateful. 

The circumstances of persecution faced by Christians in South Asia have stark similarities to those posed in the novel Silence by Shūsaku Endō, in which persecution often occurs with seemingly no purpose, at least from man’s vantage point. This is a hard truth, but as I’ve come to realize, a reality of the Christian faith: there is purpose behind our suffering far greater than we can comprehend. 

Harvest Bridge’s partners, whom you support, understand this well.

Early on in Silence, the 17th-Century Jesuit priest Sebastien Rodrigues laments to God regarding the Japanese Christians’ suffering: 

“Lord, why are you silent? Why are you always silent…?” 

His doubt probably resonates with most of us at times during our lives. It causes us to ask questions such as, “Why does God “permit” suffering? Is our suffering accomplishing anything? How close is Jesus to us when we suffer?” 

The reality that I will probably never deal with persecution the way our South Asian partners do is sobering – and their faith-filled response to the seemingly unanswerable questions of suffering is humbling. Our pastors are facing real and, oftentimes, harrowing persecution – threats, discrimination, and violence are far too common. These circumstances remind us that following Jesus comes at an earthly cost, and that the reasons for this suffering sometimes seem agonizingly inane.

When our partners experience persecution, their response is often to praise God despite hardship. As we spoke this week, Pastor Bharat* in India explained that when his community experiences persecution – being denied clean water, disowned by family, or harassed by police – it strengthens their prayer life and enables relationship-building with other believers. Bharat went on to share with me that, 

“There is no time you feel closer to God than when you are persecuted.”

This is a belief that embodies Romans 8:18, “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Our missionaries’ response to persecution reveals a spirit-led life.

Towards the end of Silence, Rodrigues comes to realize that his education in Christian Portugal has blinded him to what Christ’s life message means when those comforts are stripped away, when he is tasked with comforting the poor, hurting, and vulnerable in Japan. The meaning of the suffering he’s encountered hits Rodrigues as he hears God say, 

“When you suffer, I suffer with you. To the end I am close to you.” 

He realizes Christ was always suffering with the Japanese Christians, close to them, beside them, and watching with as much anguish as the priests did as they watched their friends being crucified in the ocean. The believers we come alongside realize this – sometimes the answer to our suffering is that God is suffering as well, right beside us. That God was born into this world to share men’s pain. What a God we serve who identifies with us in this way. 

I’m moved and convicted by our partners’ response to the persecution they encounter. Let’s be moved and convicted together.

Thank you for standing with our suffering saints.

Humbled by the One who heals,

Daniel Scott, 

Director of International Partnerships

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Finding Truth in Crisis

Harvest Bridge’s ministry is to come alongside local South Asian believers who are reaching their own communities for Christ; we join with men and women who have done much with little, equipping them to do even more to share the Gospel in word and deed. This approach has been crucial in responding to COVID-19.

We support local believers who are experienced in disaster relief, who understand their local contexts, and who, characteristically, sprang into action to help their communities cope with COVID-19 even before any external funding came. With your support, thousands of families and individuals have received life-saving food and hygiene supplies since March.

As I wrote to those of you who generously gave to our successful Summer Giving Match, we are in a historic time of revival. Believers in South Asia have never seen such great physical need, nor a greater openness to the Gospel.

Many countries in South Asia greatly downplayed the virus, saying that their religion would protect them – Islam in Bangladesh, Buddhism in Myanmar, Hinduism in India, and so on. When lockdowns were enforced, those same governments often did very little to practically help their citizens. As people’s trust in their religion and government erodes in the midst of immense suffering, they are searching for truth – truth that can only be found in the real and practical love of Jesus Christ. 

As our Bangladesh country director, Pastor Darpan*, reflected recently, 

“We believe that within this high risk of Covid-19 which is a challenging period to human life, where everything is collapsing – Jesus, He has kept the door open where people are thirsty for His Salvation and peace.”

Bihar, the poorest state in India, has a population of 124 million – roughly equal to the combined populations of the UK and Italy. The state is experiencing devastating floods in the midst of COVID-19 and the economic fallout of lockdown. 

One of our lead pastors there, Suraj*, shares about two of the food distributions he and his team have carried out with your support over the past several months:

“First of all, I wholeheartedly thank you for opening doors for the flood survivors of North Bihar, to provide relief in the form of dry food ration packets and sanitizing items during this calamity. There has been a great spiritual impact of the program on the benefitting families and communities. From the beginning we were giving the importance on spiritual impact, and also on smooth distributions to the neediest people. We selected areas where we already had prayer cells and some Christian believers to help in the execution and follow-up. We prayed for the program and appointed Christian volunteers.

In July, with your support, 250 families (1,000 people) were helped. The distribution took place in different communities instead of in just one big community, which helped us to reach the selected neediest people specifically. The beneficiaries were migrant workers, the elderly, widows, farmers, and the unemployed. People from all faiths like Hindu, Muslim, and Christian were helped.

Then on September 10th, with given funds of $3,000, 100 large food packets were prepared and transported by a truck 155 miles away from Patna (Bihar’s capital) to flood survivors and the neediest people in a village. This has been a great relief to the benefitting families. There were about ten handicapped people among the beneficiaries, and most everyone had weak bodies and saddened faces. 

These rations in such a flood and pandemic situation were a great relief and brought smiles to the families.

At one colony, one family who received a food packet was overwhelmed by the gift and the love shared. They started watching our online services and calling me on video to get counselling. I shared the Gospel and prayed for them on the video calls. I have met the man, Prem*, only once on the day of distribution for five minutes, and the rest of the family only by phone. But this had a great impact, and the whole family of four people have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and have thrown the idols from their house. Praise God!

There is a married lady with four daughters and one son who is from a Hindu background. They were a happy family with her husband. But sometime back, unfortunately, her husband died and her cruel in-laws threw all of them out of the house. She was not educated enough to get a job. Meanwhile, this virus and lockdown came, mounting their problems. They were struggling in their life when they got a gift of food packets. It brought a great relief and some happiness among their sufferings.

An old man from a Hindu background was working as a gardener in another city, but because of the lockdown he lost his job and returned back here with his family to his hometown. This family and children were going hungry, as they had no work and no money. They were overwhelmed with thankfulness as our team showed them the love of God and a warm welcome.

In another community after the distributions, a few people stayed back because they heard that I am a pastor, and they asked me to pray for them. So I prayed for six people there and introduced our online services, the local prayer cell, and leaders for follow-up meetings.

Pray for water baptism taking place this month of September. Some of our online viewers are from a Hindu higher caste, have believed in the Lord, and are going to take baptism, leaving idolatry and witchcraft. I have not met them physically, but online only.

Pray for our church believers, that they may stand strong in their faith during this crisis of COVID-19, job loss, unemployment, etc. There is great need of more such relief projects in Bihar, as the population of flood survivors and needy people is huge. People are facing financial crises due to loss of work and income during this dual crisis of floods and COVID.

A bouquet of thanks and heartiest appreciation for this great support and prayers towards Bihar flood relief. This was indeed a great help and relief during this crisis time. Everybody, including local leaders of the villages, volunteers, and beneficiaries have expressed their immense gratitude.”

Pastor Suraj’s stories represent thousands of other families and individuals throughout our network in South Asia. With your support, we continue to join these local leaders sharing the Gospel in word and deed in this life-altering time.

Thank you for continuing to join in God’s work in South Asia. Your partnership is making an immediate and eternal impact.

In Christ,

Pastor Suraj, with Kate Therese, 

Executive Director 

*Names changed for safety

Categories
Ministries

Gypsy & Tribal Empowerment

One of the first ministries Harvest Bridge supported was Gypsy and Tribal Empowerment (GATE). Started in the South Indian city of Chennai by our partner Priya*, GATE reaches gypsy and tribal peoples with the Gospel and demonstrates Christ’s love through holistic community development initiatives. Gypsies and tribals, generally considered to be below the lowest castes in India’s social hierarchy, suffer from inadequate housing, low-paying jobs and poor nutrition. This is because they are not viewed as fully human nor as full citizens by the government. GATE’s work includes helping these communities gain civil rights – helping them access land, education, job training, and proper water and electricity. 

Twenty gypsy and tribal communities, consisting of about 2,000 households, are served through GATE’s 13 local missionaries and volunteers. 13 years ago, in those 20 communities, the number of children in school could have been counted on one hand. Today, 75% of the children were attending school prior to COVID-19. Since 2008, 70% of the people have accepted Christ in the three main villages where GATE works. 

Give directly to the Gypsy and Tribal Empowerment fund:

Categories
Ministries

Women’s Empowerment & Social Enterprise

We assist local ministries in establishing vocational programs, including job training and support for micro-enterprises. 

A women’s empowerment program provides one-time investments to equip extremely poor women and their families with the skills, productive assets, and social support necessary to increase their incomes and escape poverty. The responsibility is always in the hands of each woman. They know their needs and talents best. They know what is best for their families. Sometimes that knowledge comes after some trial and error, and they have the flexibility to change what vocation they choose.

The women who are chosen to receive support are all classified as ultra poor – living below $1.25 a day. In each country with these programs, a coordinator for the projects helps the women as issues arise, so they never have to walk alone. The total cost of any of our women’s empowerment projects are $600. Each woman receives $540 and the additional $60 is to cover local and international administration.  Regardless of what vocation a woman chooses – weaving, pig raising, cooking, etc. – we pair the business item and training with additional funds to help with whatever a woman’s most urgent needs are. For example, covering their children’s school fees for several months, or helping with medical bills, or house rent for part of the year, etc. It depends on a woman’s specific needs. 

One of the reasons we provide these additional funds, is that we, and other organizations and experts, have found that without the additional help these projects typically fall flat very quickly. As soon as a family emergency happens, or there are sudden school fees, or a woman is pregnant, etc. the loom, pig, cooking supplies, etc. will often be sold for desperately needed cash if they haven’t already begun to get a profit from their work. By providing for these additional needs, the women can use those funds instead of using the business item. It also means that the first profits from selling their products can more quickly go towards savings, instead of all going to basic necessities like food or medical treatment. 

Give directly to Women’s Empowerment & Social Enterprise: