Islamic State (IS) has released another 37 Assyrian Christians kidnapped nine months ago.
The group, including men and women in their sixties and seventies, were among the 253 Christians snatched in IS attacks on Assyrian villages in north-eastern Syria’s Hassaka province.
The newly released hostages arrived safely on 9 November at the local town of Tel Tamar.
Negotiations to release the captives were reported between the Assyrian Church of the East and IS. IS had previously demanded $100,000 for each hostage. Further negotiations are understood to be “underway” sources said.
On 7 October, IS had released a video of its militants killing three Assyrian hostages, while threatening to kill more if demands were not met.
IS still holds captive an estimated 168 other Hassaka Christians, as well as 185 Assyrians abducted from the town of Qaryatain in western Syria’s Homs province in the first week of August.
Islamic State’s countless acts of violence have particularly targeted religious minorities. Reported abuses include murders and sexual enslavement.
Source: World Watch Monitor, Assyrian International News Agency
- Thank the Lord for delivering these believers from their captives. Pray the Lord will make a way for many more to escape or be released.
- Ask God to bring complete physical, emotional and spiritual healing to these Christians. Pray He will enable them to forgive and intercede for the militants who held them.
- Pray the Lord will pour out His Spirit on the nations of Syria and Iraq; may there be unprecedented church growth.
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Fifteen Turkish Protestant congregations and their leaders have been targeted since 27 August by a strident campaign of death threats sent to their Facebook, email, websites and mobile phones.
The threats followed the style and jargon typically used by Islamic State (IS), vowing to kill, massacre and behead apostates whom the messages accused of having “chosen the path that denies Allah” and “dragged others into believing as you do … As heretics you have increased your numbers with ignorant followers”.
“Threats are not anything new for the Protestant community who live in this country and want to raise their children here,” the Association of Protestant Christians in Turkey said in a press release on 1 September. “But with the recent increase in systematic threats, from this country’s west to east and north to south, in different cities, we think that these messages, coming close together and resembling each other, are coming from the same source.”
Most of the messages included a direct quote from the Al-Ahzab chapter of the Koran, which threatens “those who spread false news … Accursed, they shall be seized wherever found and killed with a horrible slaughter.”
A link was also posted for an Arabic video subtitled in Turkish on YouTube entitled, “The religious proofs why apostates should be killed”.
The majority of Turkish Protestant congregations are former Muslims who have converted to Christianity. In contrast to most Muslim-majority nations, Turkish citizens have the legal right to change their religious identity or leave the religion column on their identification card blank.
Source: World Watch Monitor
- Pray for those who have been threatened; may they be granted the Lord’s protection and be given a real sense of His presence.
- Ask God to continue overseeing the growth of His church in Turkey, calling even those who would try to bring harm to His people.
- Pray the Lord would direct and grant favour to authorities who are attempting to thwart those who threaten and perpetrate violent acts throughout the Middle East.
Islamic State (IS) militants have captured dozens of Christian families after seizing a strategically located town in the central Syrian province of Homs on Friday 7 August. At least 230 people were kidnapped or detained, including dozens of Christians, some of whom were taken from the Dar Alyan monastery in Qaryatain, the town captured overnight after intense fighting with the Syrian army.
Among those seized were 45 women and 19 children, including 11 families, some of whom were on a list of persons suspected by the militant group of “collaborating with the regime.” The families of hundreds of Christian and Muslim residents of Qaryatain have lost contact with them since the militants captured the area. He fears that IS may also target other Christian population centres in Hawwarin and Sadad.
Towns like Qaryatain are key to IS because they are along the Damascus-Homs Highway, a route used to ferry supplies and fighters. The Syrian army has launched a large-scale counter offensive to recapture the city, which lies in a region where some of Syria’s largest gas fields are located, but so far has made no significance advances.
Last February, the hard-line jihadists abducted at least 250 Assyrian Christians, many of whom were women and children, during raids on villages in north-eastern Syria. The fate of many of these civilians is unclear, as is that of a number of other priests who have gone missing and are believed to be held by the militants, according to Christian groups.
Sources: International Christian Concern, BBC, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
- Pray to the Lord for the many who are being forcefully held by IS militants; ask the Lord to strengthen, protect and uphold them. Pray they will not despair but trust in Him.
- Pray He will deliver them from their captors and reunite them with their loved ones.
- Pray the suffering felt by so many may somehow be used by the Lord for good. Pray for members of Islamic State.
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