How to spot fake news

Church in Chains supporters often get in touch about messages circulating on social media regarding imminent executions or other serious threats facing Christians – some of the most common are listed below.

Such messages typically do not have specific details such as a date but state that execution or attack is due within 24 hours and, like chain letters, they urge the reader to pass on the message immediately. Images accompanying these messages are often old photos of unrelated incidents in other countries.

If in doubt about any message you receive, please contact BEFORE circulating it to others.


A message asking for urgent prayer for Afghanistan has been circulating widely for over ten years, but there is no basis to the story. The message reads: “Please pray for the 22 Christian missionary families that will be executed today by Islamists in Afghanistan! Please forward this 2 others as fast as you can so that many will pray.” 

On 17 November 2009, the fact-checking website Snopes stated: “Appeals for prayers on behalf of 22 Christian missionary families about to be executed in Afghanistan have circulated periodically since early 2009, originally both as an email forward and as a text message sent to cell phones.

“These messages are apparently unfounded: The same message has been making the rounds since February 2009, yet we never turned up any information from news reports or human rights groups documenting that 22 missionaries and their families were being held captive, or were (about to be) executed, in Afghanistan.”

The messages may have their origins in a case from July 2007, when the Taliban kidnapped 23 South Korean Christians in Afghanistan. Two of the Christians were shot dead and the remaining 21 were eventually released.


A widely-circulated message about a threat to Christians in Iraq can be traced back to a legitimate source but the information is now outdated and the situation has changed since the message was first sent. It originated in a private urgent prayer request email sent by Crisis Relief International on 5 August 2014, which was leaked.

At the time, Islamic State terrorists were committing atrocities in the city of Qaraqosh and had pushed back the Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) and were within ten minutes of the location where the Crisis Relief International team was working. The immediate crisis was averted and the message is obsolete, but the lack of a date means that the crisis seems forever ten minutes away.


An urgent appeal about endangered Christian missionaries and churches in India has been circulating on the Internet since February 2010. It reads, “Brothers and sisters, urgent prayer request. Pray for the Church in India. Buddhist extremists in India burned down 20 churches last night. Tonight want to destroy more than 200 churches in Olisabang province. They want to kill 200 missionaries within the next 24 hours. All Christians are hiding in villages… Pray for them and send this message to all Christians you know. Ask God to have mercy on our brothers and sisters in India. When you receive this message, please urgently send it to other people. Pray for them to our Lord Almighty, victorious.”

This message is a hoax. There have been no reports from India about Buddhist extremists burning churches or planning to kill missionaries. Olisabang does not exist and India is comprised of states and union territories, not provinces. There is no evidence that Buddhists in India have ever attacked Christians and it has been suggested that this message originated as a deliberate attempt by Hindu extremists to damage the good relationship between Buddhists and Christians in India.

(InContext, Snopes)