“Convert, pay a tax, leave or die.”
The self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) became infamous when it invaded the city of Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014. Mosul, which is the ancient biblical city of Nineveh, has been home to Christians for almost 2,000 years.
Members of ISIS went door to door identifying homes of Christians and spray-painting a red Arabic “N” on their houses. The “N” stands for Nasara, a term used in the Koran to identify Christians – followers of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Christians in Mosul were given an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay an exorbitant tax called the jizya, flee Mosul, leaving their homes and property behind, or be killed. While nearly all Christians chose to leave, some, such as those unable to travel, were killed.
The Islamic State is proud of its exploits. Beatings, beheadings, crucifixions and other forms of merciless execution of Christians and others are all conducted with cameras rolling. Children are taught to hate all that is not Islam and even carry out executions themselves.
While it would be easy for Christians facing this kind of terror to become fearful or to despair, many of those who were driven from their homes say it has caused them to grow stronger in their faith. After losing all their worldly possessions, many have discovered Christ in new ways – ways that bring them great joy amid persecution.
While the eyes of the world watch and judge from a temporal perspective, our Christian brothers and sisters view ISIS from the perspective of faith and eternity.
Plague of Destruction
This video shows the destruction left when ISIS moves into a town. Everything is destroyed and nothing is left.
Pray that more ISIS fighters, and even ISIS leaders, will have a divine encounter with Christ or one of His followers and come to a saving faith.
Pray for the tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced from areas now controlled by ISIS. Pray that God will meet their physical needs, and pray that their relationship with Christ will grow through this trial.
Pray for VOM as we seek to meet both physical and spiritual needs in areas controlled or affected by ISIS. Pray for our wisdom and for God’s protection of our staff and co-workers in the region.
In the hours leading up to Jesus’ arrest, He went to Gethsemane with His disciples, feeling “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Jesus, knowing what was about to come upon him, turned to prayer. Prayer was his connection with the Father, and we too can share in this intimacy. The Apostle Paul encouraged the Philippians to bring all requests to God (Philippians 4:6). Corrie ten Boom, who was imprisoned for helping Jews escape the Nazi regime, said, “When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.” Prayer is a vital part of the Christian walk. Often, the persecuted Christians I meet and hear about have a deep and regular devotion to prayer that is an encouragement and inspiration to me.
The following powerful stories reflect the prayers of persecuted Christians. Let them be an encouragement to your commitment to God and deepen your own prayer life.
Early morning prayer
At 4:30am, Pastor David opens his church in the Philippines for their early morning prayer meeting. For six days a week, around 80 believers come to spend time on their knees in prayer. These prayer warriors are faithful to their commitment to God by interceding for their nation, their families, those who are sick, their evangelical campaigns and their special prayers for those who persecute them. Their church is growing by the grace of God as He hears their faithful petitions every day.
Prayer in the orphanage
The bell rings loudly at 5am at the children’s orphanage in Odisha, India and the young children eagerly go from their beds to join others in praise and worship to the Lord Jesus. Their songs of praise are sung with such conviction in their hearts and their prayers are deep and meaningful for their lives in the community affected by persecution. These young believers have no parents but have a loving Father in heaven that listens to the praise and their prayers every morning.
Jalena, a Filipino Christian in the restricted region of Mindanao, regularly enters a shop run by Muslim workers. This poses a great risk to her because Christians are often attacked by Muslim extremists. Jalena started to get to know Carmelita, one of the Muslim workers, and told her about Jesus, adding that she prayed for her every day. One day Carmelita asked, “Is it true that your God heals?” This led to Jalena praying for Carmelita’s mother, who was healed. Later Carmelita and her family turned to Jesus.
A prayer of forgiveness
Andre was only a child when his parents were brutally murdered by their Muslim neighbour for being Christians. In time, Andre was able to forgive his parents’ killer. He said, “I prayed to Lord for forgiveness and that he would heal my heart wounds. I wanted him to take my anger and revenge out from my heart. Our God has transformed my life.”
A father’s prayer
My dear son,
I love and miss you very much. How are you now? Do you miss me? I remember that when I was arrested and jailed in the re-education camp, you were only five years old. You went to visit me at the camp and after the visiting hours were over, I had to return to my detention room and you followed me. But when I went inside the gate, a gatekeeper didn’t allow you to follow me anymore and you stood there to watch me go to my room.
My dear son, since that time I cannot sleep well because I love and miss you very much, and now you and your sister are grown up. I believe the two of you have changed very much. How about your study? Is it good? I hope that you study hard. In the school, you have to obey your teacher, and at home you need to obey your mother, sister, grandfather, aunt and uncle. You must give a hand to help with housework and love your sister. You should study the Bible, go to the church, and also pray for me. God is always with us and listens to our prayers every day.
My dear son! Let’s trust God and study His Word as much as possible because His Word is the light for you and me forever.
Thirteen Three has decided to close the Release Video Competition.
This decision is based upon the lack of interest and entries in the competition. The $500 prize pool will be put to good use to sponsor Bible college students in restricted countries.
We are pleased to note that there has, however, been an increased interest this year in youth wanting to support and encourage persecuted Christians around the world, which we thank God for.
In 2016, Thirteen Three has spoken to over 3,000 young people and partnered with over 20 youth groups, churches and schools across New South Wales. In addition, Thirteen Three has raised $28,700, which will be used to sponsor Bible college students in restricted countries and send Bibles and radio broadcasts into North Korea.
Jono Fox, Youth Coordinator said, “We have much to praise God for and we continue to thank our faithful supporters for their partnership in being ‘Bound With Them’.”
To continue partnering with us in this vital ministry, please contact us with any enquiries or to request resources for your youth group.
On 17 June, homes and property belonging to the Coptic community of Qarayat al Bayda, near Alexandria, Egypt was attacked by angry crowds.
Naeem Aziz, whose house was destroyed, was building the house for his son. However, it was believed that it was going to be used for a church. A large crowd came on Friday 17 June and destroyed the new building and the materials being used for construction. Mr Aziz and his brother Moussa were assaulted and the crowd also attacked a community centre belonging to a local church; a car belonging to the priest was damaged and a motorbike was set on fire.
A video filmed the incident and shows the large crowd chanting slogans including, “there shall never be a Church here!”
Security services arrived at the scene but did not stop the Muslim protesters from beating Mr Aziz and Moussa and destroying the buildings. The police arrested six Copts, including Mr Aziz and his brother, along with six Muslims. The Muslims were set free shortly afterwards, while the Copts were not released until the next day and charged with holding prayers without permission and building without permit.
Mervyn Thomas, CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said, “We are disturbed to learn of the sectarian violence in Qarayat al Bayda. Our prayers are with those who have been injured and whose homes and property have been damaged and looted.” To read the full article, visit CSW.
It was autumn 1931 in the dangerous northern districts of North Jiangsu, China. American missionary Reverend John W Vinson, known as Uncle Jack, had just undergone an operation. His desire was to go back and continue witnessing to the Chinese. Despite his friends insisting that he rest, Uncle Jack said, “I must witness for the Lord while I can.”
Uncle Jack made it to a little town called Yan-Chia-Chi. He was warmly greeted by a group of Chinese Christians, many of whom he had previously baptised.
That night, over 600 bandits swooped down on the small town, looting, burning, killing and wounding the people all that night and the next day.
They finally left the village, taking with them 150 Chinese men, women and children to hold for ransom, including what they considered their prize captive, Uncle Jack.
Not long afterwards, an army of government soldiers pursued the bandits and surrounded them.
The bandits asked Uncle Jack, “Do you want to go free?”
“Certainly”, he replied.
“All right, you write a letter to the commanding officer of these soldiers to withdraw his troops and we will let you go.”
“Will you also free all these Chinese prisoners?” he asked.
“Certainly not,” said the bandit chief.
“Then I, too, refuse to go free,” replied Uncle Jack.
That night the bandits tried to escape. Many were killed, but some were able to run free, taking Uncle Jack with them. Because of Uncle Jack’s recent operation, he was unable to run fast. One of the captives who escaped, a daughter of a Chinese pastor, recounts what happened next.
“The bandit was threatening Uncle Jack with a pistol and trying to frighten him.
“‘I’m going to kill you’, he said as he pointed the gun at the missionary’s head, ‘Aren’t you afraid?’
“’No, I am not afraid,’ came the calm reply, ‘if you kill me I will go right to God.’
“Uncle Jack was killed, shot and beheaded.”
The news of Uncle Jack’s martyrdom spread and reached the writer E H Hamilton. It is believed that once Hamilton heard the tragic story, he went to his study and in 15 minutes had written this poem.
Afraid? Of What?
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid – of that?
Afraid? Of What?
Afraid to see the Saviour’s face
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid – of that?
Afraid of What?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;
Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid – of that?
Afraid? Of What?
To do by death what life could not –
Baptise with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid – of that?
Hamilton recognised something in Uncle Jack that I suspect was the reason he was inspired to write this remarkable poem. Uncle Jack showed determination to be a missionary despite his health condition. He also showed that freedom on earth was not worth sacrificing his faith for. He was fearless because he understood that he was saved by Jesus. The saving grace he had experienced was the reason he was a missionary and the reason why he didn’t sign a letter for his own gain.
Uncle Jack had experienced a freedom that was not limited to this world. Uncle Jack’s response shows that he had lived a life focused on the saving grace of Jesus. This was his motivation and his desire was to live for eternity with his Saviour. A pistol could not take that desire away.
Be inspired to live more like Uncle Jack, who understood the Gospel. He was determined to live out his faith and to be fearless of the difficulties that arose around him, even to death.
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” Romans 1:16.
Hamilton’s poem is found in Jesus Freaks, a book about martyred Christians specifically for young people.