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NIGERIA: Boko Haram Focuses on Christians

NIGERIA: Boko Haram Focuses on Christians

Boko Haram has gained new leadership in Abu Musab al-Barnawi as its new ‘governor’ for West Africa. This information was published in the Islamic State’s Al-Naba magazine, published on 2 August. Additionally, in the published article, Abu Musab al-Barnawi spoke of “booby-trapping and blowing up every church that we are able to reach, and killing all of those who we find from the citizens of the Cross.”

It has been over two years since Boko Haram entered the main stage of terror in Nigeria. In April 2014, the militant group kidnapped 276, mostly Christian, teenage girls from a boarding school in Chibok; 219 of these girls are still missing.

Boko Haram has continued to wage a war of terror against the people of Nigeria, specifically in the north-eastern region. The group has killed thousands of people, deployed children as suicide bombers, and destroyed the future for countless young women and girls. Last year, the militant group pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State, around the same time that the Nigerian military began its offensive against the group.

Now, they have threatened to specifically target Christians and churches in the African nation after feeling threatened by the “Christianising” of Nigerian society.

Source: International Christian Concern 

Prayer Points

  • Pray the Lord’s protection will be showered on His children in Nigeria who have already suffered so much at the hands of Boko Haram.
  • Pray the Lord will frustrate the evil intentions of Boko Haram and bring their plans to nothing. May He instead bring many to repentance.
  • Thank the Lord for His faithful church in Nigeria; may He continue to add to their number and grow in them a strong desire to follow Him, even during this time of great unrest.

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15 Years Since Burnham Kidnapping

15 Years Since Burnham Kidnapping

This May marked 15 years since Martin and Gracia Burnham were kidnapped in the Philippines. The missionary couple was on a getaway to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary when they were kidnapped by radical Muslim Abu Sayyaf fighters. For more than a year, and under the total control of their captors, they were constantly on the move, living in primitive conditions in the jungle, evading capture from the Philippine military, enduring gun battles and witnessing unspeakable atrocities committed by the men of Abu Sayyaf Group.

On the afternoon of 7 June 2002, over a year since their abduction, the Philippine military attempted a rescue. Tragically, Martin was killed during the gunfight. Wounded, but alive, Gracia was rescued and returned home under a national spotlight.

Last week the Burnham’s hometown paper, The Wichita Eagle, did an in-depth story about the family now, and especially how Martin and Gracia’s three children have been affected by their parents’ kidnapping and their dad’s death. Zach, who was 10 when his parents were kidnapped, described his response:

“I shut off,” he said. “I didn’t want to deal with the fact that I might not see them again.”

His grandparents had told him how important it was to talk to the media, so the world would want to save his parents. But it felt like a chore, and he responded listlessly, barely looking up from a rocket ship drawing in one interview.

Mindy knew talking to reporters was about the only thing she could do to help her parents, she said, and yet she remembers refusing to cry for a Christmas news special and rolling her eyes during a photo shoot on a Friday when she wanted to be at a school dance.

When the kids finally heard from their mother after more than a year apart, Jeff, the oldest, bragged to his mother that he had called the police on a TV crew that had set up on the lawn of their house.

Jeff said he hated how some reporters would try to manipulate their emotions, and to this day, his siblings say, Jeff will not talk to the media.

Television reporters wanted to film Zach’s 11th birthday party.

“It was my birthday. I didn’t want to think about my parents’ hostage situation,” he said.

“That one, that was the worst for me. I was just bitter the whole day.”

The story also included a video interview. Gracia also talked about God’s faithfulness to her children in an interview with The Voice of the Martyrs Radio.

We encourage you today to thank the Lord for the Godly legacy of Martin Burnham, and to pray for Gracia and her family as they continue to be a family that God can use.

EGYPT: Teen Released

EGYPT: Teen Released

On the morning of 5 April, a 13-year-old Christian boy was kidnapped in Upper Egypt.

Anthonius Farag was snatched outside his school early that morning in the village of Mansheyyit Manbal (near Matay, which is about 230 kilometres south of Cairo). On the same day of the kidnapping, the perpetrators released a Muslim child after identifying the student’s religion by his name, but sped away in a vehicle, forcefully retaining the Christian teen.

After a ransom had been paid in exchange for his freedom, the young teen was safely released 12 days later.

This latest case is not isolated. According to the Coalition of Coptic Egypt (CCE), a concerned advocacy group, the Upper Egyptian province of Qena alone saw no less than 72 cases of kidnapping, extortion and related violence against Copts during the period of 2011 to 2014. Victims targeted in the kidnappings ranged from children to the elderly.

Targeted violence against Copts has also occurred elsewhere in the country. During a two-year period leading up to July 2015, CCE representatives state that “127 Coptic families were forced to leave Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid and al-Arish after a rash of attacks.” This phenomenon is plaguing the Egyptian north-eastern Sinai Peninsula, where an apparent Islamist insurgency caused by militants has been taking place.

Source: World Watch Monitor

Prayer Points

  • Let us join with the family and their friends who are rejoicing over this boy’s safe release from captivity. Thank the Lord for protecting his life.
  • Pray for other Christians in Egypt who are experiencing tremendous challenges due to persecution.
  • May the transforming love of Jesus touch the hearts of Egyptians who are opposed to Christianity so that they, too, may know of His tender, loving mercy.

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NIGERIA: 500 Days since Chibok Abductions

NIGERIA: 500 Days since Chibok Abductions

The President of the Ekklisiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has revealed that over 176 of the girls kidnapped from a school in north east Nigeria by Boko Haram terrorists last year are from families belonging to his denomination.

Reverend Samuel Dali’s revelation coincides with a Global Week of Action launched by local activists to commemorate 500 days since the abductions.

Speaking to local media, Reverend Dali added that over 8,000 members of his church had lost their lives and 70% of church facilities in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno States had been destroyed during the Boko Haram crisis, including the church’s headquarters in Mubi, Adamawa State, which was seized in October 2014. In addition, an estimated 90,000 EYN church members are reported to have been displaced by terrorist violence.

During a two-day visit to Nigeria which began on 23 August, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon appealed “as UN Secretary General and personally as a father and grandfather” for the unconditional release of “the Chibok girls and the many children and adults kidnapped in the North East.”

Sources: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, International Christian Concern

Prayer Points

  • Pray that the persecution of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria would bring them together in unity and that they would encounter God in intimate ways through this trial.
  • Pray the world would continue to stand in prayer and contend for the release of those who remain in captivity and the large numbers of people who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods.
  • Pray that Nigeria’s military offensive will be successful in continuing to weaken Boko Haram, especially in regions such as Yobe and Borno state, as they are still extremely insecure.

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SYRIA: Islamic State Abducts Dozens of Christians

SYRIA: Islamic State Abducts Dozens of Christians

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

Prayer Points

  • 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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