In a manner that seemed so predictable to many except those in political leadership, The Allied withdrawal from Afghanistan left a vacuum immediately filled by the Taliban with the Afghan government and Army unable to resist and prevent their advances. More than ever, this is a country that needs our prayers.

President Biden said "I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision and the best decision for America".  

Over 120,000 people were evacuated, including around 6,000 Americans over the last several weeks. More than 100 Americans were left behind as well as tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans, such as interpreters who worked with the U.S. military, journalists and women's rights advocates, who fear for their lives.  It is unclear what their fate will be but officials are concerned that the Taliban may retaliate against them.

The UN Secretary General released this statement expressing concerns of “basic services collapsing completely” in Afghanistan with the risk of total economic collapse and the hardship that will accompany this. 

The Taliban leadership has sought to portray itself as more moderate than 20 years ago, when it imposed a brutal rule, stopping women from studying and working. The have insisted women will have the right to both. But reports of women being sent home from their jobs and from universities are exacerbating fears the reality will be very different.

Afghanistan’s only boarding school for girls has temporarily relocated to Rwanda, its co-founder has said, just days after a video of her burning class records to avoid Taliban recriminations was widely shared on social media.

Shabana Basij-Rasikh, who escaped Kabul with 250 students and staff, urged the world to “not avert your eyes” from the millions of girls left behind.

“See those girls, and in doing so you will hold those holding power over them to account,” said Basij-Rasikh in a tweet, as she vowed to return to Afghanistan.

Another teacher, Pashtana Durrani, executive director of Learn Afghanistan, who is now in hiding, vowed she would “raise an army, just like the Taliban did – only mine will be of educated determined Afghan women”.

There are also those truly voiceless and vulnerable to Taliban violence who are now living in terror in remote rural areas as well as in the cities. These are the widows of all ages, but especially at risk are the women and girls from the Hazara community and other minority groups. The 20-year conflict created millions of widows, but now Covid-19, in a country where only 2% of the population is vaccinated, has become a gigantic widow-maker.

Many of these widows are the poorest of the poor, illiterate, reduced to begging in order to survive, but even that is precarious since the Taliban forbids women from leaving their homes without a male guardian. They have no resources, documentation or transport even to get them to refuge in neighbouring countries. They are weeping as they hide, terrified their young girls will be taken as brides for the Taliban.

This is also a difficult time for the families of those who lost loved ones in Afghanistan, both in recent attacks and throughout the course of the 20 years’ war, as they struggle to understand the legacy of human sacrifice.

It is worth remembering the human cost of the conflict:

American service members killed in Afghanistan through April: 2,448.
U.S. contractors: 3,846.
Afghan national military and police: 66,000.
Other allied service members, including from other NATO member states: 1,144.
Afghan civilians: 47,245.
Taliban and other opposition fighters: 51,191.
Aid workers: 444.
Journalists: 72.

More /Sources: AP news, The Guardian

Pray:  

O God of mercy and of peace,
We hold before you the peoples of Afghanistan.
Be living bread to those who are hungry each day
Be healing and wholeness to those who have no access to health care amidst the ravages of pandemic
Be their true home to all who have been displaced
Be open arms of loving acceptance to those who fear because of their gender, ethnicity, religious or political views
Be peace to those engaged in armed conflict and those who live within its shadow.
Turn our hearts and minds to your ways of just and gentle peace,
Open our eyes to see you in all acts of compassionate care
Strengthen our hearts to step out in solidarity with your suffering people and
Hold us all in your unfailing love.
We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who emptied himself of all but love in order to bring life in all its fullness.
Amen

Source: Christian Aid

Join with the IPC’s 30 Days of Prayer for Afghanistan at www.ipcprayer.org/pray4afghanistan

Christians in Afghanistan have been paralyzed with fear at the news that the Taliban has taken control of the country. Nadine Maenza, chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom said the Taliban takeover ‘is the worst possible development for religious minorities. While most from these communities left Afghanistan in recent years, those that remain, and women in particular, are now in imminent danger.’

News received by Aid to the Church in Need echoed reports that leaders of underground house churches in Afghanistan had received letters from the Taliban warning them that they 'know where they are and what they are doing'.

According to Pew, around 90 per cent of the 37 million population is Sunni and 9.7 per cent Shia, with the remaining 0.3 per cent belonging to other religions.  

Most Christians in Afghanistan are underground, so getting a precise estimate of their number is nigh-on impossible.

One Christian reportedly received a letter saying his house now belongs to the Taliban.

Open Doors, a charity that challenges Christian persecution, ranks Afghanistan as the second-worst country for believers. It says that under former president Ashraf Ghani, Christians faced ‘clan pressure’: in other words, persecution was most likely to come from friends and family. Converts to Christianity risked being killed, or at least disowned, by their family, clan or tribe. In some cases, conversion was treated as a psychiatric condition. There are cases of former Muslims being sectioned.

The constitution of Afghanistan establishes Islam as the state religion and, according to a US Department of State report, religious minorities have to exercise their faith ‘within the limits of the law’. Conversion from Islam is apostasy and can be punished by death, imprisonment or confiscation of property. Proselytizing is also punishable by death.

In Taliban-controlled parts of the country, the treatment of Christians has been harsher. In 2010, the extremist group murdered ten humanitarian aid workers during a medical mission to Badakhshan in the north. They accused them of being foreign spies and of spreading Christianity.

A man named Brother Firas — not his real name — a convert from Islam to Christianity, told International Christian Concern how the takeover move has been received by believers and how the Taliban will operate. According to the charity, he said:

They will kill the known Christians and want to spread fear. There are already posters appearing that if you have single girls, 15 years old, you have to marry them to Taliban soldiers. Christians fear their daughters will be taken away from them and forced to marry Taliban. They will be sent to madrasas to brainwash them. The parents may or may not be killed... One man received a letter that his house now belongs to the Taliban. He is a simple man who makes crafts and his entire savings are in his house. The Taliban will take the property and assets of the Christians and all their women will be taken.

Release International, which supports persecuted Christians, warned that anyone identified as Christian was facing death. As for living conditions under the Taliban, one Christian Afghan told the charity: “Our brothers and sisters in Christ are telling us how afraid they are. In the areas that the Taliban now control, girls are not allowed to go to school, and women are not allowed to leave their homes without a male companion.”

Sources/More: The Spectator, The Church Times

Pray for wisdom and super-natural strength in times of adversity for all Christians in Afghanistan. Ask the Lord to guide the citizens in the country – especially our brothers and sisters in Christ – in how to deal with interrogations and brutalities in the days to come. (2 Samuel 22:3-4)

Pray for comfort for those who mourn.  Pray for God’s presence, grace and love to shine through even the most challenging of situations.

Pray for the underground church in Afghanistan that it will thrive despite these unprecedented challenges. Pray for those that are supporting and resourcing the believers. 

Join with the IPC’s 30 Days of Prayer for Afghanistan at www.ipcprayer.org/pray4afghanistan

After armed men snatched seven of Abubakar Adam's 11 children in northwestern Nigeria, he sold his car and a parcel of land and cleaned out his savings to raise a ransom to free them. He sent his 3 million naira ($7,300) into the bush, together with payments from other families in his town of Tegina.

The kidnappers took the money, seized one of the men delivering it and sent back a new demand for more cash and six motorbikes.

"We are in agony," the 40-year-old tyre repairman told Reuters, still waiting for any sign of what happened to his children three months after the mass abduction. "Honestly I don't have anything left."

Kidnappers have taken more than 1,000 students since December amid a rash of abductions across the impoverished northwest. Around 300 of the children have still not been returned, according to a Reuters tally of reports. President Muhammadu Buhari has told states not to pay anything to kidnappers, saying it will only encourage more abductions. Security agencies say they are targeting the bandits with military action and other methods.  Meanwhile, hundreds of parents are facing the same quandary: do everything they can to raise the ransoms themselves, or risk never seeing their children again.

"We are begging the government to help," said Aminu Salisu, whose eight-year-old son was taken in the same daylight raid on Tegina's Salihu Tanko Islamic school in May, alongside more than 130 students.   Kidnappers collected more than $18 million in ransom from June 2011 to March 2020 in Nigeria, according to an estimate by Lagos-based analysts SBM Intelligence.

That flood of cash brought a flood of new kidnappers, said Bulama Bukarti, an analyst in the Extremism Policy Unit of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. He estimated there were currently around 30,000 bandits operating in the northwest.  "It's the most thriving, the most lucrative industry in Nigeria," he told Reuters. Kidnapping has become a tempting career choice for young men at a time of economic slump, double-digit inflation and 33% unemployment.

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), an NGO, tracked a 28% increase in violence nationwide in Nigeria in the first six months of 2021, compared with the previous six months.  Reported fatalities from violence nationwide rose 61% to 5,197, it said.

It all explains, Bukarti of the Extremism Policy Unit said, why Adam and other parents are willing to sell everything they have to pay ransoms themselves.  "They cannot afford (it) by any means. But it's a life-and-death matter. And they know security agencies cannot free their loved ones."

Sources/More: Reuters

Pray: for protection and resilience for the young people taken away from their families.  Pray for their physical and mental wellbeing (Matthew 18:10)

Pray: for wisdom for families seeking to free their children from captivity.

Pray: for the Nigerian government and the military to succeed in bringing these extremists to justice.

Hurricane Ida has unleashed flash flooding and tornadoes across the north-east of the US, killing dozens and causing devastation in a number of states.  Hurricane Ida, the fifth strongest storm in the history of the US, caused large scale destruction across the country’s northeast and Gulf coast, bringing life in the storm-battered areas to a grinding halt.  At least 64 people have died in the US after the country's northeastern states were battered by record-breaking rainfall brought by Storm Ida.

The deaths include at least four people who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in Louisiana, two dead in Mississippi after torrential rain caused a highway to collapse, and a number of people killed after their cars were swept away by floods - one of them a Connecticut state trooper.

At least 11 of the deaths in New York were in flooded basement apartments, such as a family of three, including a toddler, who were not able to get out before the water rushed into their home. Most of those who died in New Jersey drowned after their vehicles became caught in floodwaters, with some getting swept away when they got out of their cars into fast-moving water.

Satellite images taken by Maxar on Thursday showed large areas of New Jersey submerged – with business and homes devastated by floodwater.

Ida, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, knocked out power to over 1 million homes in Louisiana on Monday and prompted rescue operations in flooded communities around New Orleans as the weakening storm churned northward.

Ida made landfall on Sunday 29th August as a Category 4 hurricane, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina, evoking memories of a disaster that killed more than 1,800 people in 2005 and devastated New Orleans.

"We didn't have another Katrina and that is something that we should be grateful for. However, the impact is absolutely significant," New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell told a news conference.

President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in the state, and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) sent 3,600 of its personnel and 3.4 million meals to the storm-devastated area.

Some areas in Louisiana that were impacted the most due to Hurricane Ida may have to wait until the end of September to have their power connections restored, said the chief executive of Entergy’s Louisiana division on Saturday.

More than 22,000 power poles have been damaged or destroyed, which was more than the destruction caused by hurricanes Katrina, Zeta and Delta combined, something termed by Entergy Corporation president and chief executive Philip May as “staggering.”

More than 1.2 million have been left without power and food as Ida ripped through Louisiana, Cuba, the east coast of the US, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut last week.

The hurricane has knocked out several power lines, rendering more than 5,200 transformers and nearly 26,000 spans of wires dysfunctional. Nearly 600,000 in Louisiana are still waiting for their power connections to be restored.

While Entergy – which manages the production and distribution of electricity in the US’s south – said full power restoration will be achieved by 29 September, with no “later than” date, some Louisiana customers may have to wait longer, Mr May told the Associated Press (AP).

Sources: Reuters

Pray: Father God, all the elements of nature know Your voice and obey Your command. You are the God who parted the Red Sea with Your hands. You are the God who calmed the storms - even the wind and waves obey You. We pray for You to calm the storm, make the winds die down, and we pray You will provide comfort and safety for those in the path of the storm because You are the God who reigns. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Pray: For those whose homes, businesses and livelihoods have been affected by hurricane Ida in Louisiana and the other states that have been affected.  May they find a God-given inner strength as they seek to rebuild both their dwellings and their lives. 

Pray: for safety and protection for all of the agencies who are working to restore power and to repair services. 

Pray: for resources to be released to help those with little or no home or medical insurances.

IPC will be circulating resources shortly, along with further details of a joint prayer initiative to cover the forthcoming Cop26 conference in prayer.  We are sharing some information and links ahead of that, which we trust you will find useful:

Formal briefing on the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference (31 Oct-12 Nov 2021

Glasgow)  https://ukcop26.org/

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is the science assessment body known as the IPCC, released its Sixth Summary Report about climate change causes and impacts this past month, and it sets the tone for the forthcoming COP26 Un Climate Conference to be held in Scotland. It is worth reading the short summary report here, with 15 statements outlining the current position, challenges and futures ahead of us. 

It states unequivocally ‘that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.’

There will be opportunities over the coming weeks to come together with other Christians to pray for the planet and the leaders who will do so much to decide its future.  For example, you can pledge your prayers in support of the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) in a pilgrimage for climate justice. 

If you wish to read theological reflections on COP26 from ‘Green Christian’, then you can do so here.

If you wish for inspiration in prayer, then consider this resource containing 26 Prayers for the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

You can also join a movement of Christians praying and fasting on the 1st of each month for climate justice.

Please contact us if you would like to be kept informed about Cop26 Prayer initiatives.

We acknowledge that there are diverse opinions across the Church on the topic of climate change.  IPC aims to respect the diversity within the prayer movement and yet embrace our unified calling to mobilise prayer for the nations. (2 Chron 7:14)   If you wish to discuss the appropriateness of any articles, please contact us.

A six-year-old shot in the stomach as she ran to her father’s arms. A woman in her seventies killed while saying her prayers in her home.

Young men and women gunned down as they protested in the street, demanding democracy.

The casualties of Myanmar’s post-coup crackdown span all ages, social classes, and ethnic and religious backgrounds. They include students and poets, nurses and bank staff, politicians and construction workers.

Nearly seven months after the army seized power on Feb. 1, Myanmar’s security forces have killed more than 1,000 people in a bid to crush resistance, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an activist group that has tracked arrests and deaths. Almost daily, the association’s death tally rises.

The tragedy of what appears could be a long-running civil war remains a distinct possibility in Myanmar today. Nevertheless, the term “civil war” itself is inappropriate. Rather Myanmar today resembles Europe during the Nazi occupation. While the sense of occupation by a foreign force had always existed in the ethnic minority areas with their insurgent organizations, there is a sense today that this is also the case in the Bamar heartland. The occupying army is Myanmar’s own national army (the Tatmadaw) which, from its foundation, has largely functioned as an autonomous state within a state. Those civilians who support the military, such as the members of the largely proxy party of the military, the Union Solidary and

Development Party (USDP), are treated as collaborators.

Seen even from the conventional paradigm of a military coup, replacing a democratically elected government, the reaction of the world, and above all the West, is disappointing. Yet, once we change perspective to conceive of Myanmar as an occupied country then the reaction of the world is simply irresponsible. To use a metaphor, Myanmar today is an international orphan.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), about 3 million Myanmar people need humanitarian assistance and protection services across various parts of the country. Apart from the chaos and violence resulting from the February coup, the pandemic is ravaging the country – the total number of people infected with COVID-19 is over 376,000 and Myanmar is notching over 2,000 cases per day. That is believed to be a massive undercount, however.

Myanmar’s military has centralized all resources for providing medical aid, from vaccines to oxygen and medications. At the same time, medical workers have refused to work for the junta, forming the backbone of the Civil Disobedience Movement.  By blocking aid to the neediest people, Myanmar’s generals have transformed humanitarian aid into a device for the continuation of war against its own citizens.

Sources/More: The Diplomat, Reuters

Pray: Dear God, please protect the people of Myanmar. Conceal them from the eyes of those who would harm them - and keep them safe.

Pray: for a de-escalation of violence and conflict in Myanmar. Lord, would You prevent civil war in this nation?  (1 Peter 3:9)

Pray: as the people of Myanmar recover from COVID, may they have all the medical and treatment resources they need, and I pray for the virus to be stopped in its tracks, so that the number of cases would go down dramatically.

Pray: Comfort those who have already lost loved ones.

More than 12 million people in Syria and Iraq are losing access to water, food and electricity and urgent action is needed to combat a severe water crisis, 13 aid groups working in the region warn today.

Across the region, rising temperatures, record low levels of rainfall, and drought are depriving people of drinking and agricultural water. It is also disrupting electricity as dams run out of water, which in turn impacts the operations of essential infrastructure including health facilities. Higher temperatures caused by climate change increase the risks and severity of droughts.

More than five million people in Syria directly depend on the river. In Iraq, the loss of access to water from the river, and drought, threaten at least seven million people. Some 400 square kilometres of agricultural land risk total drought. Two dams in northern Syria, serving three million people with electricity, face imminent closure. Communities in Hasakah, Aleppo, Raqqa and Deir ez Zour, including displaced people in camps, have witnessed a rise in outbreaks of water borne-diseases such as diarrhoea, since the reduction in water.

In Iraq, large swathes of farmland, fisheries, power production and drinking water sources have been depleted of water. In the Ninewa governorate, wheat production is expected to go down by 70 per cent because of the drought, while in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq production is expected to decrease by half. Some families in Anbar who have no access to river water are spending up to USD80 a month on water.

“The total collapse of water and food production for millions of Syrians and Iraqis is imminent,” said Carsten Hansen, Regional Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council. “With hundreds of thousands of Iraqis still displaced and many more still fleeing for their lives in Syria, the unfolding water crisis will soon become an unprecedented catastrophe pushing more into displacement.”

CARE’s Regional Director in the Middle East and North Africa, Nirvana Shawky, said: “The situation demands that authorities in the region and donor governments act swiftly to save lives in this latest crisis, that comes on top of conflict, COVID-19 and severe economic decline. In the longer term, beyond emergency food and water, they need to invest in sustainable solutions to the water crisis.”

The Danish Refugee Council’s Middle East Regional Director Gerry Garvey said: “This water crisis is bound to get worse. It is likely to increase conflict in an already destabilized region. There is no time to waste. We must find sustainable solutions that would guarantee water and food today and for future generations.”

In Al Sebat, 30 km away from Hasakah, residents have seen scores of villagers leaving to other areas, forced out by the drought.

“This year we have witnessed a wave of intense drought and as a result our lands did not produce any crops and we don’t have any sources of drinkable water either for us or for our animals,” said Abdallah, a tribal leader from Al Sebat. “It is infuriating to think that the current conditions will force us to leave the rural areas and that our lands will be left as ruins.”

Many farmers have spent their savings and gone into debt to keep their animals alive.

“Because of the drought I was unable to harvest any wheat,” said Hamid Ali from Baaj, one of the worst affected districts in Ninewa, Iraq. “Now I am overwhelmed with debt.”

Other aid groups joining today’s warning and call for emergency and flexible funding are: ACTED, Action Against Hunger, Mercy Corps, People in Need, Première Urgence Internationale, War Child, Help, Women Rehabilitation Organisation, VIYAN Organization, Al Rakeezeh Foundation for Relief and Development.

Sources/More: Reliefweb

Pray: for those suffering desperate hardship Syria and Iraq (Jeremiah 17:8-9)

Pray: for the world to recognise the deepening impact of climate change, particularly on the most vulnerable in society.

Pray: ‘Send the rain Lord’.  Open up rivers across the dry and arid land. 

Pray: for a swift and proportionate international humanitarian response that will not be mis-directed.

30 Days of Prayer for Afghanistan – Mon 23rd August to Tue 21st September 2021

We are so grateful for your prayers for Afghanistan during this critical season. We are sensing an important window this next month for God’s saints around the world to cry out with fervent, desperate prayer for the truth of the Gospel to go forth in power and love in the land of Afghanistan.

IPC would like to call for a 30-day season of daily prayer starting today Monday August 23rd through to Tuesday September 21st around these 5 prayer points below.

Please join us as the Lord leads you.

Prayer Points:

  1. Pray for the power of the Gospel to reach the lost and broken! Focus on the gospel as the answer not the government. Rom. 1:16 
  2. Pray for Laborers to be thrust forth in the harvest fields of Afghanistan. Matthew 9:37-38
  3. Pray for the hurting brothers and sisters enduring severe persecution and suffering during this season. Let’s stand together with them in prayer! Heb. 13:3
  4. Pray for finances for the Harvest. Get behind RUN (runministries.org) and/or numerous other ministry initiatives that understand how to multiply in spiritually dark times. Phil 4:19
  5. Pray for an increase in spiritual discernment and wisdom for our government leaders around the world. 1 Timothy 2:1-5

Let’s cry out with Courageous and Bold Faith according to Ephesians 3:20-21,

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen”

We will be publishing further updates during these 30 Days at www.ipcprayer.org/pray4afghanistan

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