Protests in Kazakhstan began on 2 January when the government removed a fuel price cap. The speed with which protests turned violent surprised everyone, hinting that they are not only about fuel. This is a traditionally stable Central Asian state, often described as authoritarian, with no electoral democracy - so people needed to take to the streets to be heard. Accusing foreign-trained ‘terrorist gangs’ of being behind the trouble, President Tokayev imposed a state of emergency that includes a curfew, a ban on mass gatherings, and Russian assistance to help ‘stabilise’ the country. Dozens of protesters were ‘eliminated’ after they stormed police buildings to steal weapons. By 6 January about 1,000 people had been injured; 400 are being treated in hospital and 62 are in intensive care. Twelve members of the security forces have been killed, and 353 injured.

Prime minister Abdalla Hamdok resigned after pro-democracy protests by thousands against his power-sharing deal with the army. Chanting ‘power to the people’, they called for a return to full civilian rule. The military responded with force, and Hamdok's resignation left them in full control, damaging Sudan's attempt for democratic rule. Mr Hamdok said that Sudan was at a ‘dangerous turning point threatening its survival’, and he had tried his best to stop the country from ‘sliding towards disaster’. He added, ‘Mediation attempts with civilian and military officials to achieve the necessary consensus to deliver to our people the promise of peace, justice and no bloodshed have failed.’ An economist by training, he is widely respected in the international community, having previously worked as an official with the UN. He helped negotiate removal of some of Sudan's debts, but this involved removing fuel subsidies, leading to higher prices of goods and then anti-government protests.

20+ countries have elections in 2022. From Colombia to Bosnia to South Korea, these elections could reshape their political systems - and destinies. 200 million will decide whether the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party continues for another five years in the enormous legislative elections in India’s Uttar Pradesh province. In Brazil, Hungary, and the Philippines, voters will decide whether to grant autocrats another term in office; France narrowly avoided electing such a leader in 2017, but 2022 may see a right-wing resurgence. In Costa Rica, South Korea, Colombia, and Kenya, the presidents are ineligible for reelection, giving way to potential candidates with extreme views. In Portugal, Australia, and Sweden, minority governments want elections to strengthen their coalitions. Mali, Bosnia, and Tunisia have seen significant challenges: elections will determine whether democratic institutions can continue. Also this year, leaders from the left and the centre-left are expected to be in power in the six largest economies in Latin America. See

In the wake of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country’s highly secretive Christian community began to experience a rapid increase in threats. Charities began moving the most vulnerable Christians and pastors out of the country, but for those left behind it is a long and uncertain road ahead. International Christian Concern (ICC) continues to rescue Afghan Christians and secure shelter for them beyond Afghanistan’s borders. There are currently about 200 families under ICC’s care - in hiding and protected. In addition, ICC’s advocacy team is giving updates from the ground and telling US and world leaders what is needed to save the Christians left behind. In the early months of 2022, ICC will launch a strategic initiative for a long-term solution for Christians stuck in transit countries without a final destination, while also serving those still in hiding in Afghanistan.

In October we asked you to pray for the release and safe return of missionaries held hostage in Haiti. On 16 December the twelve Canadian and American missionaries made a daring night-time escape walking on rough moonlit terrain following the sheer guidance of the stars. After a number of hours of walking, day began to dawn, and they eventually found someone who helped them make a phone call for help. They were finally free. They had faced difficult and intense circumstances in captivity, including sweltering heat, mosquito bites and limited access to food.

Everyone in Pastor Martin’s community on the coast of Bangladesh is painfully aware of climate change as they suffer an increasing number of extreme storms, losing possessions and evacuating to temporary shelters. The vulnerable, the elderly and children suffer the most. People also lose their crops so they no longer have food to put on the table, but Pastor Martin is helping them take steps towards a better future. World Concern Bangladesh showed him how to prepare for disasters and lead disaster response efforts. He set up a community group to prepare for and respond to disasters. During recent floods, Pastor Martin’s community group pooled resources to deliver food and essential supplies locally and far beyond to eight local villages and 10,000 people. His church has now been renovated to be used as a shelter during cyclones and a relief hub.

A BBC investigation found that 100 people with learning disabilities have been held in specialist hospitals for twenty years or more, including Tony Hickmott whose parents are fighting to get him rehoused in the community. A support worker at the hospital said he was the loneliest man there. He was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in 2001 and expected to be treated for nine months and then return home. He was declared fit for discharge by psychiatrists in 2013 but at the age of 44 Tony is still waiting for a home to be found with the level of care for his special needs. In 2015, the Government promised ‘homes not hospitals’ in its Transforming Care programme but repeatedly misses targets to close hospitals with excessive restraint, overuse of medication, lack of qualified, competent staff and violence on many wards. Pray for people to be moved close to home, back in their community with the right care and independence.

Covid jab appointments at mass vaccination centres are being block-booked by people who have no intention of getting inoculated. Wembley Stadium, which is being used to roll out thousands of shots before Christmas, is one of the sites where they have been employing this tactic. On 19 December staff said that patients had not arrived for their bookings and the centre was ‘really quiet’. The site had hoped to inoculate 10,000 people, but only 2,500 had been administered by mid-afternoon. Anti-vaxxers have employed similar tactics at other sites around the country. However, a spokesman said, ‘Any suspected disruption has been offset by the number of walk-ins, including thousands of local residents, many of whom have made a big step in coming forwards to start their vaccination journey, as well as very high numbers of boosters.’

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