Fact Check: Prayer Request For 229 Christian Missionaries Is NOT Based On A Verified Current Event

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: Prayer Request For 229 Christian Missionaries Is NOT Based On A Verified Current Event Recycled Hoax

Have 229 Christian missionaries been sentenced to death "tomorrow afternoon" by "Afghan Islamists"? No, that's not true: Variations of this specific prayer request have been circulating since at least 2009 with some changes and various details added. The Taliban rapidly took over Afghanistan in the summer of 2021 and many people in that country faced dangerous situations, but there is no publicly available evidence of the specific threat against 22 or 229 (the number has varied) Christian Missionaries that is used in these recycled prayer requests.

A "prayer request" for 22 Christian missionaries started as an email chain letter and over the years small details have been changed. A 2021 example is this post published on Facebook on August 17, 2021 which reads:

Just received this prayer request from a friend through church.
Today sadly they just confirmed this terrible news at this time. They can corraborate it in the news. Please pray for the 229 Christian missionaries, who have been sentenced to death tomorrow afternoon by the Afghan Islamists. Please can pass this message on as soon as possible so that many people will be able to pray. This message was sent by a missionary from Chihuahua who is in Africa. The whole planet united in prayer. If you can forward it please join us in urgent prayer, also because the radical Islamic group has just taken Quaragosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq. Where there are hundreds Christian men, women and children who are being beheaded. Prayer cover is being requested. Please take a minute and pray for them. Pass the message to whoever you can. Quaragosh has already been taken several times. They have asked us for prayer, please pass it on to others🙏✝️

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Aug 18 14:40:13 2021 UTC)

The post begins with reference to the situation in Afghanistan, then moves to a completely different situation and country, in Iraq.

Before this changeable hoax prayer request circulated on social media, it was a chain letter email. This was reported by Snopes on November 17, 2009 in an article titled, "22 Christian Missionaries Sentenced to Death' Prayer Request".

The original request purportedly involved 22 Christian missionaries. Below is an example of the wording of the prayer request as it appeared in a 2010 Facebook post.

22missionaries2010.jpg

(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Aug 18 14:58:59 2021 UTC

The prayer request resurfaced over many years. On August 30, 2019, africheck.org published an article titled, "Viral photo asking for prayers against execution of 22 missionaries in Afghanistan used in false context." This was also debunked by factcheck.afp.com on August 22, 2019.The prayer request was being circulated with a graphic photo of a person who was about to be beheaded. The photo was from Iraq, not Afghanistan and the person was not a Christian missionary. Although the post must have been going viral in 2019, Lead Stories found a copy of a post with that photo from July 3, 2017. The wording of the post contains the detail that the executions are to be "tomorrow afternoon" and also has the strangely worded phrase, "islamist in Afghans." This 2017 post has the identical wording as featured in the 2019 fact checks.

BREAKING NEWS
Please pray for the 22 christian missionaries who have been sentenced to death tomorrow afternoon by the islamist in Afghans. Can you please pass on this news as fast as possible so that a lot of people can pray for them.
Let us pray..Father deliver all from these murders..Have mercy on them all..Lead all victims to repent to you..Let none feel any pain miraculously..Strengthen there families supernaturally and let them know you are there ..In Jesus name we pray to you...Amen and Amen
Lead Stories published a fact check on September 18, 2020 -- this time the viral prayer request featured a different terrorist propaganda photo showing a 2013 massacre of Syrian soldiers by rebel forces in Syria. The caption read:

Dear brothers and sisters! an urgent prayer needs ! In Afghanistan, the Islamists are going to do to death 22 Christian missionary family. Please spread this message as quickly as possible, so that more Christians have uplifted their prayers to God .....

Another version of the post spreading in 2017 is purportedly from Pope Francis, it includes details about "JUDITH CARMONA The missionary of Chihuahua who is in Africa" as well as concerns for Iraqi Christians in "Quaragosh" and admonishments to not "cut the chain":
From Pope Francis,
Today I sadly just confirmed this terrible news at this time. They can corraborarla in the news. What sadness Please pray for the 22 Christian missionaries who have been sentenced to death for tomorrow afternoon by the Afghans. Please you can pass this message as soon as possible so many people can pray This message was sent by JUDITH CARMONA The missionary of Chihuahua who is in Africa.
Today at 9 pm, Pope Francis calls everyone around the world no matter where you are, nor the creed or religion to a moment of meditation or prayer for peace in Syria and the rest of the world. The whole planet united in prayer For peace.
If you can forward it, please join us in urgent prayer, because the radical Islamist group has just taken Quaragosh, Iraq's largest Christian city. Where there are hundreds of Christian men, women and children who are being beheaded. It is asking for prayer cover. Please take a minute and pray for them. Pass the message to all your contacts, do not cut the chain.
We have been asked to pray, please pass it on to others. (I.e.

In the summer of 2014 the Iraqi city of Qaraqosh was under attack as the Islamic State took power. On August 7, 2014, bbc.com reported, "Iraq Christians flee as Islamic State takes Qaraqosh". Pope Francis requested prayers for Iraqi Christians in early August 2014.

Seven years after Iraqi Christians fled that city, they were rebuilding. On March 7, 2021, Pope Francis visited Qaraqosh, and an August 2, 2021, tweet from "Fraternité en Irak" featured a video with the tolling bells of a new church. While elements of the urgent message about the Islamic State taking Qaraqosh were true in 2014 when they were added in with the old viral chainmail post, this does not reflect the situation in Qaraqosh -- which is in Iraq, not Afghanistan -- in 2021.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Southeastern Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


 

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