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IRAQ: Families Again Forced to Flee Hometown

IRAQ: Families Again Forced to Flee Hometown

Hundreds of Iraqi Christian families had recently returned to their hometown of Teleskuf, after being displaced for years due to attacks perpetrated by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, only to be forced to flee their northern Iraq community all over again.

These families have since relocated to Alqosh and other Christian villages in the Nineveh Plains where they are now seeking refuge from the internal conflict that’s presently taking place ─ this time, between two of the country’s governmental factions.

The town of Teleskuf, which is located about 30km north of Mosul, initially fell into the hands of ISIS terrorists in 2014. Yet, since its liberation last year, the town was rebuilt with the help of the international community; in particular, the Hungarian government. The collaborative rebuilding efforts made it possible for many Christian families to return to their homes.

However, now that rising tensions are taking place between the Central Government in Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government, there is a deepened level of sectarian strife in the rest of Iraq. Many civilians have been wounded in the conflict, resulting in the mutually shared security concerns of leaders representing various religious, political and civil society groups ─ along with numerous internally displaced persons ─ over the country’s troubling situation.

Sources: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, The Christian Post

  • Please pray earnestly for the people caught up in new conflicts. Ask the Lord to bring rest from the violence.
  • May God help those from the town of Teleskuf overcome the severe trauma they have endured by strengthening their faith and ensuring their needs for safety and provision are amply met.
  • Pray for Iraq’s political leaders. Ask the Lord to grant them wisdom, diplomacy and direction as they seek to govern the country.

 

IRAQ: Christians Forced to Flee Teleskuf

IRAQ: Christians Forced to Flee Teleskuf

With the recent clashes between the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi Army in the Nineveh Plains of Northern Iraq, hundreds of Christians have been forced to flee the Christian town of Teleskuf, located about 24km north of Mosul.

Teleskuf fell into the hands of the Islamic State (IS, Daesh) in 2014 and was liberated in 2016. The town was rebuilt with the help of the international community enabling hundreds of Christian families to return to their homes.

“Christians and Yazidis have repeatedly asked the international community for support in creating their own nonpartisan security and local administration, but nothing has been done to facilitate this. Instead, Christians and Yazidis have now begun their fourth year living in camps while political parties with militias vie for control of the Nineveh Plains and Sinjar.” CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas.

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

  • Pray the Lord will answer the prayers of His people and bring peace to the region.
  • Pray the Lord will help them overcome the severe trauma they have endured and to strengthen their faith and trust in Him.
  • Pray the Lord will cause world leaders to ensure that principles of transparency, human rights and equal citizenship are upheld at all times and that religious minorities are treated fairly.
EGYPT: Orthodox Priest Murdered by Extremist

EGYPT: Orthodox Priest Murdered by Extremist

A 50-year-old Coptic Orthodox priest from Upper Egypt was stabbed to death, and another was wounded, by a suspected extremist on 12 October.

Father Samaan Shahata Rizkallah was chased and stabbed repeatedly in the head, neck and abdomen by a man wielding a meat cleaver, who also imprinted a cross on his forehead. An ambulance arrived at the scene an hour later, and transported him to a hospital, where he died. Father Beymen Moftah of El-Malak Church in Matay, who was with Father Samaan, was also attacked but is reported to have survived his injuries.

A suspect is reported to be in custody. In a statement, Bishop Astafanous of Fashn, Biba and Samasta described the alleged killer as an “extremist” with a criminal record, naming him as Ahmed-El Sonbaty.

Father Samaan served at St Julius’ Church in Ezbet Girgis, al-Fashn, Beni Suef governorate, a village which is home for approximately 3000 inhabitants, 2000 of whom are Christians.

In 2009, Father Samaan applied for a permit to construct a new church on land owned by Christians who had offered to demolish their old homes, prompting protests from the Muslim community. The church was eventually built and in September 2015, Father Samaan was arrested briefly and interrogated by the police after performing much-needed renovations on the church.

Attacks on Egypt’s Christian community have surged in recent months, with over 100 deaths since December 2016 in a series of attacks that have been claimed by ISIS. Most recently, on 5 October, police were reported to have defused an IED found in a car close to Al-Masara Church in Rod El-Farag, Cairo.

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

  • Pray to the Lord to bring comfort to those mourning the loss of Father Samaan. Pray too for a full recovery for Father Beymen.
  • Ask the Lord to not allow the death of Father Samaan to be in vain, may his testimony be used as a witness for the Gospel.
  • Pray to the Lord for the protection of the Coptic community. May the church in Egypt remain strong, and faithful to Him always.
ISIS – Pushing Muslims Toward Christ

ISIS – Pushing Muslims Toward Christ

Islamic State (ISIS) is now believed to have fully operational branches in 18 countries across the world, not only persecuting Christians, but also pushing Muslims toward Christ.

Its efforts to create a ‘pure’ Islamic nation are causing a growing number of Muslims to examine their faith more closely and more critically. “There are a lot of people turning from Islam”, said Ibrahim Al-Jamil, a pastor in northern Iraq. “Jesus has a big net and ISIS is pushing people toward this net. What we are seeing now is like the tip of the iceberg”.

Removing the veil
Ibrahim said he also sees evidence on social media and elsewhere on the Internet that Muslims are leaving Islam. He said they are repulsed by what ISIS is doing and increasingly disagree with Islam’s teachings.

“ISIS is making people, especially Muslims, think about their faith and question the faith they were born in and don’t understand”, he said. “They were reading the Koran, but there is a veil. So now when they are reading the Koran they have better understanding and they are questioning if this is the true faith and if Allah is ordering people to kill each other”.

When they first leave Islam, Ibrahim said, many people initially claim no religion. They have been taught that Christianity is a false religion, and Judaism isn’t an option because Jews have long been viewed as the enemy.

“That is why if they didn’t see a dream or vision, they don’t come to Christianity”, Ibrahim added. “When they see a dream or vision, the first thing after Islam is Christianity because the vision and dream is about Jesus saving them or telling them something”.

He took me out from the river
Ibrahim estimates that about 80% of the Christian converts he has met came to Christ after having a dream
about Jesus.

“Muslims strongly believe in dreams and visions”, he said. “And when we pray for the Muslims, the Lord is going to use the way that they are believing strongly, which is dreams and visions. Because a lot of people and a lot of churches are praying for Muslims specifically, that is why they see dreams and visions.

Ibrahim regularly hears former Muslims share their conversion story when they first visit his church.

“One guy came to me and said, ‘I want to become a Christian.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Because I was in the river and no one could help me, but I saw a face full of light come to me and I was reaching my hand to Him and He took me out from the river.’ I asked him, ‘Who was this man?’ He said, ‘Jesus.’ I said, ‘How did you know Him?’ He said, ‘I just know Him.’

Another man who responded to a dream is now leading Muslims to Christ and helping believers grow in their faith.

“This guy saw all the prophets coming in his dream”, Ibrahim said. “All the prophets, one after one, starting from Moses. At the end he saw Jesus coming, the last one, and he said, ‘I waited for Muhammad to come,’ because for them he is the last one, ‘and nobody showed up.’ When I asked, ‘Where is the last one?’ they said, ‘Jesus is the last one.’ He became a Christian and now he is a pastor”.

Forever committed to Christ
During a recent four-month period, Ibrahim’s church baptised 15 new believers, eight of whom were former Muslims.

When former Muslims are baptised, he said, they are forever committed to Christ — even in the face of intense persecution.

Ibrahim said that being baptised means “they became a Christian, and they left their life, and now they are ready to die for Jesus”.

While ISIS continues to push Muslims toward Christ, it also continues to drive them out of their homes. ISIS has displaced over 3.3 million people in Iraq alone, with millions more fleeing Syria in search of safety. Though Christians are part of this exodus, Ibrahim’s church is continually replenished with new believers.

The churches are full
“It is constantly difficult [to keep people]”, he said, “but new people are coming, so the church is full every Sunday because a lot of people are coming to know Jesus”.

Many Christians in Iraq still fear ISIS attacks. While Ibrahim does not advise people whether to stay or leave, he does share his thoughts on what could happen if Christianity ceased to exist in Iraq.

“I usually say if you take the salt and the light out of Iraq, we are going to be more dark and without any taste”, he said. “So, the most challenging thing is to encourage people to stay in this area and minister”.

VOM Australia has been working with ministry partners in the Middle East to provide support for persecuted Christians. In the past few years, we have provided life packs for many displaced and persecuted Christians fleeing ISIS. Today, we are funding projects which provide support for Christians affected by targeted terrorist bombings.

EGYPT: Christians on High Alert Amid Bomb Threats

EGYPT: Christians on High Alert Amid Bomb Threats

Our Christian family in Egypt has been warned to expect further attacks by Islamist extremists. They’re in urgent need of our prayers.

Intelligence reports have raised fears of a fresh wave of violence specifically targeting believers travelling to summer camps by bus. Officials have asked church leaders to cancel camps and conferences outside church buildings until at least the end of the month.

Egyptian intelligence wrote to church leaders last week warning that Islamic State suicide bombers were planning to attack buses taking Christians to conferences. Hundreds of thousands of Christians of all ages attend such conferences at this time of year.

As one Release International partner says, the move to cancel conferences “just adds to the oppression Christians experience in Egypt”.

The threat remains real, however. In Alexandria, a church guard was attacked with a knife earlier this month.

Sources: Middle East Concern, Release International

  • Pray that God will teach our Egyptian family how to trust Him completely and remain steadfast in their faith, so He will keep them in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
  • Ask God to heal Mina, the church guard injured in Alexandria.
  • Ask God to grant wisdom to those in authority in Egypt, as they try to tackle extremism. Pray the Government will do more to protect and reassure Christians.