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Somalia: Pray for the President

“One of every six African Christians is persecuted,” a recent visitor from Africa told VOM workers. Many people believe that the most serious persecution in Africa happens in Somalia.

Facts About Somalia
*Most Somalis are Muslim.
*Bibles are illegal.
*There are no church buildings.
*After years of drought and war, more Somalis live outside Somalia than in it.

(Source: VOM’s 2019 Global Prayer Guide)

Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is the current president of Somalia. He was born on March 11, 1962. He went to college in the United States.

On his birthday, will you pray for the president?
*Pray that he will rule wisely.
*Pray that he will use his power to see that Christians are treated fairly.
*Pray that he and his family will know the truth about Jesus.

(Photo: Somali Christian secretly reads a Bible. Source: VOM Canada and CBN.)


Perpetua: What Do You Think?

(The story below and and the image of Perpetua and her friends are from The Torchlighters Ultimate Activity Book)

Like Cyprian (see the previous post), Perpetua lived during a time when Roman emperors persecuted Christians.

Perpetua and fellow believers bravely refused to participate in rituals that honored the emperor as if he were a god. A few decades after their death, a stricter emperor passed even harsher laws against Christians who refused to sacrifice to false gods.

Sometimes Christians who did not have the courage to oppose the emperor found ways to keep themselves out of trouble with Roman authorities. Anyone who sacrificed received a certificate stating that they had obeyed the law, so some paid their servants to go in their place and bring them back a certificate. Others bribed an official to get the certificate.

What do you think? Was it OK for some Christians to pretend to sacrifice to false gods in order to stay out of prison and continue taking care of their families? Why or why not?

Read Matthew 10:32. Could Perpetua and her friends have offered a small sacrifice to get out of prison and still believe in Jesus in their hearts?

Perpetua’s witness and courage brought many to Christ. Her story continues to challenge believers today to give themselves more fully to Him. If they had sacrificed, do you think others might have said, “Perpetua sacrificed to false gods and she’s still a Christian, so maybe I can do the same?” The Apostle Paul said, “Give no offense [or cause to stumble] to Jews or to Greeks, or to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32).

What do you think that verse means? How might it apply to the early Christians and sacrificing to false gods? Are there ways that Christians today can cause others to “stumble” by their actions (for example, doing careless work, repeating rude jokes, watching certain movies, or playing certain games)?

(Enter “Perpetua” in the Search box to read more stories about Perpetua.)


Cyprian: An Early Voice of the Martyrs

(Source: The March 2019 The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter. Photo: The Roman Empire’s Colosseum.)

Cyprian, a church leader in Carthage, had a decision to make. Should he stay in the city and face persecution, or flee to a safer place? He decided to flee.

Carthage was part of the Roman Empire in Cyprian’s time. The emperor, Decius, blamed Christians for wars, plagues, and a bad economy. To please the false Roman gods, he ordered all citizens to offer a sacrifice to the gods. He believed his empire would be better off if the gods were happy.

Everyone who made the sacrifice received a certificate to prove their loyalty to the gods. Some Christians paid others to make the sacrifice and to get a certificate for them. Others sacrificed, saying it was meaningless because the gods didn’t really exist anyway. But many Christians went to prison because they refused to sacrifice to idols.

From his safe place far away, Cyprian sent money, aid, encouragement, and other assistance to Christians living in places where they risked persecution. After a while, the persecution began to die down, and Cyprian returned to Carthage. He and other church leaders allowed Christians who had bought certificates, but not sacrificed, to return to the church. Those who sacrificed could return only if they proved their faith during future persecutions. Cyprian continued his work of sending aid to needy, sick, and persecuted Christians.

Several years later, a new emperor started another wave of persecution. This time, Cyprian did not flee. He was sentenced to death as an enemy of Roman gods and laws. When he heard the sentence, he responded, “Deo gratias!” (Latin for “Thanks be to God!”)

Cyprian died in the year 258.


Algeria: Chaima and Ali

Chaima and Ali now serve the Lord together.

Chaima had never met a Christian. Most of the people where she lived in Algeria followed Islam, the religion of Muslims. So how did Chaima decide to follow Jesus if she didn’t know any Christians and had never been to church? She listened to Christian radio stations and wrote down the Bible verses she heard on the program.

Ali
One day, Chaima met a young man at a bus stop. The young man, Ali, was attracted to her. “May I talk to you?” Ali asked her. Chaima knew it could be dangerous to be a Christian in her country. But she answered Ali, “No. Don’t talk to me. I am a Christian.”

Still hoping to find favor with her, Ali said to Chaima, “My brother is a Christian.”

“Really?” Chaima asked.

But there were many things he DIDN’T tell Chaima. For one thing, Ali was a strict Muslim and he had been trained to fight alongside radical Islamists. He had forbidden his own mother and sisters to watch TV because he wanted them to be stricter Muslims. As for his Christian brother, Ali thought he deserved to be dead because he had left Islam to follow Christ.

The Bible and a Dream
But Chaima didn’t know any of that. She asked Ali if he could please get a Bible from his brother for her. Ali was eager to please Chaima, so he did get a Bible for her. But before he gave it to her, he read it to see what it said. He began to compare its teachings with the words of the Quran, the Muslim holy book. (Read about the differences between the Bible and the Quran here, here, and here.

Then one night he had a dream that Jesus spoke to him and said, “Come to me all who are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” (See Matthew 11:28.) Ali woke up. He felt as if a load had been lifted from his shoulders. “Lord, forgive me,” he prayed. “You are Christ, You are God, and I believe.”

Chaima and Ali Today
Chaima and Ali are now married. They work as a team among Muslims, and they have led many people to Christ. They meet with other Christians secretly in homes, cafes, and parks, because police officers are watching them.

Ali is not worried. “When I die, I know where I am going,” he told a worker from The Voice of the Martyrs. Ali and Chaima teach new believers to expect persecution. But they encourage them to trust that Jesus will always be with them.

(Source: The March 2019 The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter)


This Month

Parents and Teachers
The March 2019 issue of The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter features stories about Christians from the North African countries of Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco. The issue includes an article about Cyprian, a North African Christian who was martyred by the Romans in the year 258. Today, both radical Muslim groups and government authorities across North Africa still persecute Christians. You can share the stories of North African Christians on this site with your children, then pray together for the people in the stories.

Note: To subscribe to the free monthly The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter, visit the subscription signup page.

Additional Related Resources
*Restricted Nations: Egypt, available at vombooks.com.
*Bold Believers books about Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria/Tunisia are available in the free Downloads section.
*Egypt lesson plan.
*Torchlighters DVDs about North Africans Perpetua and Augustine
*The Kids of Courage VBS curriculum.
*Enter a country name in the Search box on this site to find additional stories and information.