A new effort connecting American church congregations with African believers in Christ and their churches is underway.
Prayer News Network was launched by Douglas Burton and Magna Faith Krimi, both advisory board members of Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC) and focuses on encouraging bringing hope and encouragement to Nigerian Christians who often feel alone and cut off from the rest of the world.
The intention is to connect followers of Christ living under persecution, with believers around the world who commit to pray for them – even connecting via Facetime or other video means during service times.
STPC, which advocates on behalf of hundreds of millions of persecuted Christians worldwide, has worked diligently to create awareness among Americans that their brothers and sisters in faith are being attacked, tortured or killed — simply for their beliefs.
The two advisory board members within the coalition ARE working to make that awareness personal — especially for Christians in war-torn Nigeria, where persecution is not only commonplace but also intense.
The effort is changing hearts, both in Nigeria, with encouragement, and the United States, by instilling a sense of urgency to connect with and pray for others facing persecution.
Lisa Ritchie, a STPC advisory member, was among the first to connect with a Nigerian believer through the Prayer News Network. After a recent Nigerian delegation’s visit to the U.S., Ritchie spoke with Alheri Bawa Magaji several times and prayed with her.
“It was surreal actually speaking to someone whose father was kidnapped and held in prison for many, many days for just being a Christian,” Ritchie stated. “We don’t have a clue here in America what real persecution is — when your life is in danger for standing firm for Jesus. I will continue prayers for Alheri and her family and her country.”
That connection is exactly what the leader of the prayer effort hopes for.
“We wanted to help (Nigerians) get sustenance and support outside the government for their long-term survival,” said Douglas Burton who, with co-founder Krimi, leads the Prayer News Network, a non-profit effort, along with War Desk News, a citizen journalism project that seeks to uncover and share stories of persecution. Burton also writes for, and consults with the Metro Voice on issues of persecution.
As a state department official for two years in Iraq from 2005 to 2007, Burton helped connect civil society organizations in the U.S. with those in Iraq that wanted to start fresh. Fast-forward to 2019, when Burton, also a freelance journalist, applied a similar idea as he was covering Boko Haram violence against Christians in Nigeria. To obtain firsthand accounts for his stories, Burton connected with Christians on the ground who were experiencing persecution and seeing the devastation for themselves.
“We were calling people to get information for stories in Nigeria,” he said. “Why not pray with them directly too?”
The impetus for the Prayer News Network began this past April when Burton interviewed a Roman Catholic priest in Nigeria who was ministering on the edge of a Boko Haram stronghold. His story ran in the Metro Voice.
“His community had been attacked several times,” Burton said, “and his cemetery was full of victims. We prayed together and cried together for resolution and aid.”
After that call, Burton began to think of a way where private individuals could “adopt” one person who was living in a warzone and thereby engage in private citizenship diplomacy. Not only could they pray together, Burton said, but those living in the warzone could also report on the violence they were experiencing so Americans could be better informed. The prayer partners don’t even need to be of the same denomination or religion, he added.
Although the Prayer News Network can work anywhere in the world, Nigeria is an apt place to begin for several reasons: 1) most residents of Nigeria speak English; 2) a large Christian population exists in Nigeria; and 3) many people on the ground in Nigeria are in harm’s way. Likewise, calls between Americans and Nigerians, or residents of other countries for that matter, are very inexpensive if not free through WhatsApp, the platform the Prayer News Network encourages.
Burton’s goal for the Prayer News Network is that more Americans will be connected with those who are experiencing persecution for their faith, pray with them and spread the word that persecution is real — all the while circumventing conventional means.
“Go around government and go around mainstream media,” Burton said. “Go directly to citizen journalists who at least will post a story on their Facebook page or will get it to a responsible journalist. The government will take action if the media gets the story straight.”
“I believe prayer with a stranger is a revolutionary act,” Burton said. “It’s a way of encountering ‘the Other.’ There’s something special about praying with a total stranger.”