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ALGERIA: Church Issued with Closure Order

ALGERIA: Church Issued with Closure Order

A church affiliated with the Protestant Church of Algeria received a letter from the district authorities last week, requiring the church to cease all religious activities on the grounds that they are in breach of a 2006 decree which regulates non-Muslim worship. The authorities have threatened to commence legal proceedings against the pastor if Christian worship continues in the building currently being used by the church.

The 2006 decree stipulates that permission must be obtained before using a building for non-Muslim worship, and that such worship can only be conducted in buildings which have been specifically designated for that purpose. In practice, the authorities have failed to respond to almost all applications by churches for places of worship.

In view of the authorities’ failure to respond to applications, it has become standard practice for churches to rent premises and inform the local authorities that they have done so. The church currently facing legal proceedings inaugurated newly rented premises on 25 December 2015. The church leaders advised the regional authorities about their activities and provided all relevant documentation.

Source: Middle East Concern

Prayer Points

• Pray the church pastor and leaders will know the peace of Jesus, the wisdom of the Father and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in dealing with this situation.
• Pray that the regulations governing non-Muslim worship will be amended, so that Christians will be able to worship freely.
• Ask the Lord to strengthen the congregation so they will be ever more determined to meet together for worship. May the Lord use the witness of these Christians for His glory.

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Muslims are Coming to Christ

Muslims are Coming to Christ

With the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in 2014, and many terrorist killings each year, it can be easy to focus on the negative. Instead, several Iranian Christian leaders worked together to share eight reasons why Muslims, particularly in Iran, are being drawn to Christianity more than ever before.

1) Wherever political Islam enters the stage, Muslims are drawn to Christ.

The healthiest governments are often those where religion and politics are kept separate, and the most corrupt governments are usually those where religion and politics are mixed together. Wherever religion takes on a political dimension, it results in a religious dictatorship and people are deprived of democracy, permissible freedoms and choice. The rulers end up making all the decisions. We see it today in countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia as well as others where religion and politics are intertwined. This has laid the groundwork for people to take refuge in Christ.

2) Disasters and tragedies can help lead Muslims to Christ.

History has shown that disasters, wars, fleeing refugees, earthquakes, famines, illness, terror and persecution prepares people to be ready to hear the Gospel of Christ. The Bible says, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71). Usually in the face of disaster and national calamities, it is Christian charities who offer assistance to those facing such disasters. Many refugees who have lived for years in some of the most difficult circumstances with no help from the government or United Nations have responded positively to the Gospel, especially in places like Iran and Afghanistan.

3) Refugees are meeting believers and hearing the Gospel.

Many who have left their home country as emigrants or refugees, especially from Iran, have come in contact with Christians and been drawn to Christ. Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran, approximately six million Iranians have moved to other countries as either immigrants or refugees over the past 36 years. Many Iranians also travel as visitors to other countries before returning home. Wherever they go, be it Europe, the United States, or neighbouring countries, they usually meet up with Iranian believers and become acquainted with the message of the Gospel. This has resulted in a tremendous growth of Iranian believers, and this has impacted their friends and families in Iran. This can be said of other groups as well, and the number of Afghan believers is increasing rapidly as well.

4) Miracles, healings and answers to prayer are drawing many to Christ.

Miracles, healings and answers to prayer though Christ is another way of drawing Muslims to Christ. Muslims, who have some knowledge of the Koran, believe that no prophet did as many miracles as Jesus did. There are many stories and testimonies, especially among Iranians who have been drawn to Christ in this way. In fact the miraculous work of God in Iran is so great that there is no other country that is experiencing it on this scale. In the same way, through visions and dreams, God is revealing Himself and the truth of the Gospel. There are many Muslim converts in Iran who are not connected to any house church or Christian leader. It seems that the Lord does not give knowledge of all of these believers to us or other groups working among the house churches because we could not cope with the response. When we are ready, then God will gradually introduce them to us in his time.

5) Blossoming of cultural identity and knowledge spreads the Gospel.

This blossoming of cultural identity and the knowledge of other ethnic groups has also helped to draw Muslims to Christ. Our century is a technological one based around the internet. People from different cultures and countries are getting to know each other. We live in an age of communication where people are no longer restricted to one way of thinking or one particular ethnic group. One positive aspect of this is that many Muslims, despite the controls over the means of communication, find a way through various websites to become acquainted with the message, culture and ways of thinking of Christians and also with the personality of Christ. If someone wants to find Christ, that person will find a way.

Concerning Iranian people, the culture, customs and thinking of Iranians is vastly different from those of Islam and Arabic backgrounds. In the Iranian history of civilisation, there are poets and writers who express themes of love, freedom, forgiveness, truth, equality and justice throughout their literary works; truths that are found more in Christianity rather than Islam. People inside Iran today face pressure, lies, violence, discrimination and hate. Since the Islamic Revolution, 80% of the population are disillusioned and tired. They are searching for the God who is love and just and where there is salvation, equality, truth and freedom, and this God can only be found in Christ. It is for this reason that when Iranians hear the Gospel, they respond positively. And again it is for this reason that the Iranian government has forbidden the printing, distribution and sharing of the Gospel and even announced that it is dangerous. They spend all their efforts on closing down the evangelical churches and the production of Christian resources in the Persian language. However, Paul reminds us that no one can prevent the spread of the Gospel. Praise the Lord!

6) Radio and satellite television allow many to hear Christian broadcasts.

It is clear that radio and satellite television has a vital role in helping Muslims to get to know the Gospel. Fortunately, the number of Christian radio and TV channels in Arabic, Turkish, Urdu and Persian related languages are many and are on the increase. Some of these channels are 24/7 and in fact, as far as Persian is concerned, there are now four 24/7 channels. There are millions of viewers both inside and outside Iran. Iranian preachers and teachers are doing all they can to produce good quality programming. In addition to these channels, other preachers have Christian programs on some of the political channels as well. There has never been such an opportunity for Muslims to hear the Gospel, especially in view of all the restrictions that exist in Iran. The effectiveness of all these programs bringing the Gospel into people’s homes is seen through the many testimonies that exist.

7) Churches around the world sending workers into the Muslim World.

Churches throughout the world are involved in sending missionaries and workers into the Muslim World. In spite of the fact that many governments have restricted access to such workers by not granting residence or visas, we are aware of many tent workers, teachers and medical personnel who have entered the Muslim World. They have sacrificially learned the culture, customs and language in order to spread the Gospel. Workers are not exclusively from the West, and many entering the Muslim World are from countries in South America and even from countries in the Far East such as China, Japan and South Korea. There are many organisations that are supporting them to fulfil the commission to preach the Gospel. Furthermore, there are many workers who cannot travel to these countries, but operate behind the scenes to help those on the front lines. In this way, the work will not stop.

8) God is exposing the truth and reality of Islam.

As God has exposed the reality of Islam, this in turn has led to many Muslims becoming disillusioned with Islam and being drawn to Christ. In fact the best way of exposing Islam is when the extremists take over. Even while it is true that moderate Muslims say that what is happening is not connected with Islam, many Muslims are realising that Islam has its roots in terror. In any country where Islam develops, so also violence, terror, rape, compulsion, lies and dictatorship increases.

In the history of Iran there has never been an ‘evangelist’ such as Khomeini who has helped people to know what Islam is really all about and therefore has prepared the way for Christ in the same way as John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ. A new building cannot be built on an old foundation. The old has to be demolished so that a new foundation can be built. God is allowing Muslim leaders to destroy the old Islamic foundation so that a new Christian foundation can be built. The situation in Iran today is that Islam is weakening and therefore we must use every opportunity and every method to enable people to hear the Gospel.

Dory P is a writer for The Voice of the Martyrs USA

SUDAN: Three Church Leaders Arrested

SUDAN: Three Church Leaders Arrested

Last month security officials detained Telahoon Nogose Kassa, who is head of discipleship at Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church.

Telahoon belongs to the same church as Peter Yein Reith and Yat Michael, the two pastors cleared of capital crimes at a Khartoum court in August 2015. All three church leaders had opposed government attempts to sell off church property.

A fourth member of the church, Pastor Hafez Mengisto, was arrested after challenging workers as they demolished parts of the church last July, but was acquitted on 29 December. A similar charge against the church’s lawyer, Mohaned Mustafa, has been dismissed.

No reason has been given for Telahoon’s arrest but he was questioned for five days about his links with a foreign missionary. His parents have been allowed to visit him, just once.

Two other Sudanese pastors, Kowa Shamaal and Hassan Abdelrahim, were arrested at their homes in or near Khartoum on 18 December. They too have objected to the demolition of church buildings, this time of Sudan Church of Christ property.

Sources: Middle East Concern, Morning Star News, Release International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide

 Prayer Points

  • Thank the Lord for the favourable outcome for Pastor Mengisto and Mohaned Mustafa. Pray all charges against the three Sudanese pastors will be dropped.
  • Pray that members of Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church will continue to spread the Gospel, despite intense persecution.
  • Pray that the government of Sudan will end its crackdown on church leaders and that Sudanese officials will start to see Christians as valuable citizens, not trouble-makers.

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CUBA: Neighbourhood Churches Targeted for Demolition

CUBA: Neighbourhood Churches Targeted for Demolition

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in the city of Santiago de Cuba where government officials have reportedly issued demolition orders to all churches in one neighbourhood.

Pastors and families living in the church properties targeted in the Abel Santa María area of the city have been told they are to be evicted. At least three churches are known to be under threat in Santiago, plus two more in Las Tunas province.

Members of Emanuel Church in Santiago have been holding a ‘sleep-in’ at their building since early November, in an effort to prevent it from being destroyed. Its pastor, Alain Toledano, said he believed communist officials, angered by the re-establishment of relations with the US, were launching a crackdown on ‘apostolic and prophetic’ churches.

Scores of churches across Cuba have reportedly come under pressure since new legislation was introduced in January giving officials discretionary powers to confiscate property. In some cases, religious groups have been given the option to stay – but only in return for paying high rent to the government and submitting to Communist Party monitoring. Most have rejected this option.

Sources: Release International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Prayer Points

  • Please pray for our church family in Santiago de Cuba. Pray that the demolition orders will not be carried out and church families will not be evicted.
  • Pray that the church in Cuba as a whole will stand firm in the face of opposition from some elements of the Community Party.
  • Pray that the church in Cuba will experience unprecedented growth and liberty as the nation opens up to the international community in the longer term.

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BANGLADESH: Pastors Receiving Death Threats

BANGLADESH: Pastors Receiving Death Threats

Pastor Barnabas Hemrom recently received a letter containing death threats against him and nine other area pastors. The letter stated, “This time our plan is to kill one by one all those who are preaching Christianity in Bangladesh. Our country will be run only under Muslim laws.”

Authorities are investigating the threat.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

Prayer Points

  • Pray for the safety of Pastor Barnabas and the other pastors; pray God will continue using these faithful Christians for His purposes, removing any fear they may have about persecution.
  • Pray the authorities will be urged to take the threat seriously and will do their utmost to bring the perpetrators to justice.
  • Ask God to continue overseeing the growth of His church in this part of the world, calling even those who would try to hinder religious freedom.