Persecution of the Saints: Focus on the Middle East and Africa

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The persecution of Christians is growing at an alarming rate in some parts of the world. The following are just a few current examples of what our brothers and sisters are facing in the Mideast and Africa. Please pray for these persecuted saints – for strength, endurance, and perseverance of faith, and that the Lord would comfort them and bring relief. (A special thanks to our colleague Barry Segal with JNN News in Jerusalem for staying on top of these dire situations and bringing them to our attention.)

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” ― 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

BETHLEHEM: Christians in Bethlehem constitute less than 15% of the population. Five decades ago, the Christians living in the birthplace of Jesus made up more than 70% of the population. The majority have fled due to Islamist pressures, which have included bullying, terrorist attacks and forced closures of Christian shops and places of business. They have been rendered a small persecuted community often forced to live in poverty. (BTB)

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NEW US SECURITY MEASURES LEAVE IRAQI CHRISTIAN REFUGEES IN LIMBO: The immigration status of thousands of Christians fleeing from persecution in Iraq remains in limbo following new US security measures. After two Iraqis were arrested earlier this year and charged with aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq, hundreds of their fellow Iraqis have been denied entry into America as authorities seek to uncover any potential terrorists from among them. Enhanced background checks have plugged the refugee pipeline, preventing Iraqi Christians from obtaining clearance to come to the US. Nearly half of all Iraqi refugees were denied entry to the US because of missing documentation as they fled their homes without official paperwork. This is especially true for Iraqi Chaldean Christians, according to Rafat Ita, a social worker in the Detroit area where 160,000 Chaldeans reside in the largest settlement outside of Iraq. Many of them are desperate to be reunited with family members now stranded overseas. “These Christian refugees cannot go back to Iraq because they could be killed,” said Ita. “Now they are stuck in neighboring countries where they cannot work, cannot go to school and cannot worship freely. The only hope they have is to come to America and now that hope is in ruins.” (WCN)

ISLAMIC RIOTERS ATTACK CHRISTIAN SHOPS IN NORTHERN IRAQ: Attacks against Christian Assyrian businesses in northern Iraq took place last weekend. Local sources said they were organized by a pro-Islamic political party and marked the first such destruction of Christian establishments in the Kurdish region. The frail security of Iraq’s dwindling Christian population has now been further threatened. On Friday, December 2, a group of young men attacked and burned shops in the northern town of Zakho. Most of them were Christian-owned. Some of the assailants waved banners stating, “There Is No God but Allah.”  Sources said local authorities were slow in responding, resulting in heavy financial losses. An estimated 25 people, most of them Christians were wounded. Thousands of Christians had fled to the Kurdish region since the US-led military intervention in Iraq in 2003. (Christian Post)

EGYPT’S CHRISTIANS TRY TO CURB ISLAMIST VICTORY: The prospect of an ultimate Islamist victory in the election has Egypt’s Christians, who make up about 10% of the country’s 85 million people terrified that soon strict Islamic law will be imposed, raising fears over the fate of a community that predates the coming of Islam to the country. Mubarak did little to advance Christian civil rights, but his police state ensured certain lines were not crossed. Now with Mubarak gone, the election turnout marks a dangerous shift for Christians. Many, reportedly, are preparing to leave.  (AP)  Islamists claimed a decisive victory in the first round of elections in November, which put them on track to win a dominant majority in Egypt’s parliament. The party formed by the Muslim Brotherhood took 40% of the vote. The ultraconservative Islamist Salafis obtained 20% of the vote, giving the two groups combined control of nearly 60% of the parliamentary seats. The initial voting took place in only a third of Egypt’s provinces, including some of the nation’s most liberal precincts, suggesting that the Islamist wave is likely to grow stronger as the voting moves into more conservative rural areas in the coming months.

CHRISTIANS SIDE WITH ASSAD OUT OF FEAR: Many of Syria’s 2.5 million Christians are supporting President Bashar Assad, preferring a brutal dictator who guarantees the rights of religious minorities to the uncertain future that Assad’s departure would bring. Assad is exploiting their fears of Islamists for his own ends. The rebellion against him was just a few days old when he summoned his country’s Christian leaders to the presidential palace in Damascus. Bishops and archbishops representing Catholics, Armenians, and Assyrians were present. In total, there were a dozen religious leaders, representing around 2.5 million Syrian Christians. The message they received from their head of state was short and simple: Either support me, or your churches will burn. It seemed Assad didn’t want to assume that Syria’s Christians would continue to remain aloof from politics. Sensing that not only his authority but perhaps his very survival was at stake, he resorted to the same means his father, Hafez Assad, once used to maintain power: pressure and violence. (Der Spiegal)

IRAN ORDERS PASTORS TO SERVE PRISON TERMS: Iran has ordered three evangelical house church pastors to report to prison within a month and serve lengthy jail terms on charges linked to their Christian activities. The mandate was issued on November 29.  Pastors Parviz Khalaj, Mohammed Belyad and Behrouz Khandjani, of the Church of Iran movement, are due to start serving their sentences in the city of Shiraz in late December said Jason DeMars, director of Present Truth Ministries, which has close contacts with Iranian Christians. Parviz is to serve two years. Belyad was sentenced to six years in prison. Behrouz is expected to serve one year in prison. DeMars said his group had urged its supporters to intercede as “each of these brothers has a family who will need our prayers.” He added that he wasn’t surprised the order came as Christians prepare for Christmas. “Based upon past experience, Christmas is a time of increased persecution in Iran.” The reported order came shortly after the EU urged Iran to release Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who is facing the death penalty for refusing to recant his faith in Christ and return to Islam… Nadarkhani, one of hundreds of believers detained in Iran, already spent two years behind bars and was sentenced to death because he became a Christian and tried to register his house church… In June [of] this year Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence saying he grew up in a Muslim family and did not “repent” for his Christian conversion. (Bos News)  Pray that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been much in the news – more importantly deeply in the hearts of many praying Christians, will go free. Also pray for other Christians in the Islamic Republic who are facing prison and possible death sentences for their faith in Yeshua – also for their families who will be left behind to face survival without husbands and fathers.

SOMALI CHRISTIANS FIND THAT DANGER FOLLOWS THEM WHEREVER THEY GO: Islamists from al-Shabaab’s terrorist force fighting for control of Somalia razed Mohammed Abdi Mose’s house in Mogadishu to ashes after he evacuated his family. About 150 people died that night, but Mose said it was no coincidence his house was targeted. Earlier that month, Muslim extremists confirmed he was a Christian and therefore worthy of death, so they tied his hands and began hitting him with sticks and metal objects. After spending a month recovering from his injuries, the family fled to Lower Juba, then to Kismayo where they were closely monitored by al-Shabaab. Fearing for their lives, they left for Kenya, renting a donkey to carry their luggage and youngest child.  It took them 18 days to travel the 230 miles to a town on the Kenyan side of the border where their donkey died from exhaustion. For the next six months, the family lived in Dadaab where some al-Shabaab members threatened to kill him, so Somali Christian contacts in Kenya helped Mose move his family once again. Today that threat continues in an undisclosed location where Mose’s wife sells bread to feed their growing family. She is due to give birth to twins and the family fears she may be unable to continue her business while Mose continues to recover from his beatings. (WCN)

SLAUGHTER OF CHRISTIANS IN NIGERIA: Fulani Muslim herdsmen and soldiers killed at least 45 ethnic Berom Christians in Plateau state last week. Many churches have cancelled worship services as almost all area Christians have fled Plateau, which has long been hit by ethnic property conflicts fueled by anti-Christian sentiments. (WCN) [Note from Gary: We have close friends who report to us regularly from Nigeria. They have to constantly keep their guard up as Islamists are gaining influence and have a virtual lock on the northern region of the country. Corruption and anti-Christian violence abounds.]

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Yeshua our Lord.”

― Roman 8:38-39

gary-kah-dirBy Gary Kah

(Source: JNN NEWS, Jerusalem-on-the-Line, December 11, 2011, http://www.jnnnews.com/jol_dec_11_11_sp.htm.)

 

 

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