Despite being called a predominantly Christian country, the Central African Republic (CAR) is a difficult place for biblical disciples to live. Since 2012, Islamic rebel groups, called Seleka, have caused civil unrest. Fighters opposing the Seleka, the anti-Balaka, considered to be mostly ‘Christians’, have carried out brutal revenge killings. As with the Seleka, some anti-Balaka have targeted biblical followers of Christ. In truth, the anti-Balaka are simply non-Muslims. While 85% of CAR’s 5 million people identify as Christians, only 30% are thought to be committed followers of Christ. These believers are increasingly attacked, driven from their homes, and killed. Since the fighting began, over 1.2 million people have been relocated across CAR because of violence. Another 600,000 refugees live outside CAR, and 600,000 live in camps for internally displaced people. Pray for adequate donations to be given to aid agencies providing thousands with food, shelter, and medicine.

Kazakhstan’s ongoing civil unrest shows the need for meaningful progress against corruption. Last week there were countrywide protests over inequality, poverty and corruption, also calling for meaningful reforms. The wealth the country’s political elite have amassed through corruption has been a particular concern throughout the protests. Kazakhstan has made some progress in fighting corruption in recent years - in a 2019 study people and small businesses saw things improving on the ground - but serious concerns remain, such as the flawed anti-corruption framework, lack of responsiveness in policy-making, and state control of the media. Pray for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other independent voices who are urging the government to resolve the ongoing unrest peacefully. Unless the violence stops immediately, the way out of the crisis is uncertain for the already struggling Kazakh society.

Throughout 2021 the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) has continued tirelessly seeking justice for Christians whose ministries have wrongly been impeded by lockdown restrictions. In July, it supported Joshua as he contested the fine given to him for evangelising in the streets of Camden on Good Friday. As he was sharing the good news of Jesus with the homeless, he was surrounded and intimidated by four police officers, who ignored his explanation before fining and prosecuting him. By God's grace, justice was rightly served, and Joshua continues to preach Christ to those in his local community. Also, new Christian schools are being set up all across the UK, bringing hope for generations to come. CLC is currently supporting 19 groups which are seeking to start new Christ-centred schools in the UK.

Tobias Weller, 11, from Sheffield, who has cerebral palsy and autism, is to receive the British Empire Medal (BEM). He began raising money for charity when he was 9, inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore’s example. He used his walker to complete a 70-day marathon challenge, raising £100,000 for charity. He completed his latest challenge - an Ironman - in September and has raised over £157,000 for Paces School, where he is a student, and the Children's Hospital Charity. Tobias is the youngest-ever recipient of the BEM, and indeed on the honours list. He said, ‘I'm chuffed to bits to be the youngest recipient of such an incredible honour’.

Lewis Keogh’s suicide note revealed a secret gambling addiction that he could no longer cope with. After his death his parents wanted to do something to prevent other such tragedies. They and other bereaved families designed a ‘Gambling With Lives’ teaching programme, telling 15- and 16-year-olds the risks of compulsive gambling. The programme pilots in 15 Northern Ireland schools and then across the UK. Its hard-hitting film tells the story of a teenager who starts gambling on arcade machines - as Lewis did. The film shows him becoming addicted and trying to cover up what is happening to him as his mental health worsens. Gambling With Lives is campaigning for tighter laws on gambling advertising, particularly in relation to televised sports events. An estimated 340,000 adults are ‘problem gamblers’, and 55,000 people aged 11-16 have a harmful gambling habit. Gambling compromises, disrupts, and damages family, personal and recreational pursuits.

On the last day of 2021 two teenagers were murdered in London in the space of an hour, bringing the number of teenage homicides in the capital to 30 - the highest ever recorded. Less than an hour after a teenager was murdered in Croydon, a 16-year-old in Hillingdon died from a puncture wound. Pray for the victims’ next of kin as they begin 2022 without their sons, brothers, nephews. Knife crime offences are rising across the UK, but data shows that London consistently suffers the highest number of knife crime offences per capita of any region. Pray for youth teams, teachers, social workers, churches, charities, police and parents to work together and develop solutions that reduce knife crime. May young people feel secure and protected without the need to carry a knife. See also

The forecast for northern England and Scotland on 7 and 8 January is for thundersnow with freezing rain, followed by snow and lightning, disrupting travel and causing power cuts. On 9 or 10 January, wintry showers will likely be just over the higher tops and fells. Forecasters said thundersnow is driven by the same conditions which cause thunder in the summer - the difference in temperature between the ground and the air surrounding it. Pray for those whose balance could be impaired when walking on icy ground. Pray for drivers to be careful when rain is followed by frost and black ice appears. Pray for any power cuts to be shortlived, and for the vulnerable to keep warm in unnaturally freezing conditions. Also, strong winds will bring the risk of drifting and blizzards. Pray especially for the farmers with livestock out on the hills.

Hundreds of care homes are refusing new admissions for 14 to 28 days because of Omicron, increasing pressure on hospitals unable to discharge patients into the community, and adding another pressure to an already challenging situation. 70% of MHA homes, a not-for-profit care provider, are refusing new residents because of Covid outbreaks and staff shortages. Four Seasons Healthcare has two or more cases in 40% of its homes: government guidance is not to accept new arrivals. The chief executive of NHS Providers said, ‘Patients deteriorate if they are fit to discharge but can’t leave their hospital beds’. He said it was also difficult to find room for serious cases coming via accident and emergency departments. Temporary settings may be installed to allow hospital patients to be released, and some health trusts have set up temporary care facilities in hotels with live-in staff from abroad.

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