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Middle East: We have to be His Witnesses

Middle East: We have to be His Witnesses

Sam’ reaches out to refugees displaced by ISIS from Iraq and Syria. By helping with practical needs – shelter, education, medical aid – Sam and other Christians have the opportunity to share the Gospel and introduce Muslim refugees to Jesus Christ. Such work comes with risk and threats, but Sam tells us that persecution creates “a healthy environment for the Lord to work.” And God is working! Listen as he describes how persecution makes him stronger and where he finds courage to be bold.

Listen to the full interview on VOM Radio here

IRAQ: The Cross Returns to The Nineveh Plain

IRAQ: The Cross Returns to The Nineveh Plain

There were tears, praying and singing as the cross ─ deemed illegal by ISIS – returned to the Christian villages in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain.

News continues to emerge of villages being reclaimed from ISIS, and signs of destruction become apparent.

As soon as it was remotely safe, priests were escorted back to their villages by car. In Christian villages like Karamles and Qaraqosh – half an hour’s drive east of Mosul – they were among the first non-combatants to return now the villages have been liberated from ISIS occupation.

Father Thabet, who lives with his congregation in a complex for internally displaced people in Erbil, brought a cross, the size of a man, covered with flowers, with him when he returned to his home village of Karamles.

“I am so happy I can do this. I’m smiling from cheek to cheek and I weep tears of joy at the same time. This is the trip I have been praying for, for two years now,” he said.

He climbed Barbara Hill, next to his village, and planted the cross firmly in the ground overlooking Karamles.

When he arrived in Karamles, Fr Thabet found his church had been heavily damaged by ISIS but was still standing. The church’s cross had been taken off and thrown to the ground. The inside of the church was a mess, but it’s not beyond repair. Fears that the Christian village would be completely uninhabitable have proven to be unfounded.

ISIS conquered the Nineveh Plain – including Iraq’s second city of Mosul and many Christian villages surrounding it – in 2014. Tens of thousands of Christian families had to run for their lives. The battle for Mosul is still being fought, but large Christian settlements surrounding Mosul, like Karamles and Qaraqosh, are already liberated. At night, however, ISIS fighters are still attempting to reclaim territories.

It is expected it will take some time before families can start returning to their villages close to Mosul. Most of them will wait for Mosul itself to be liberated and for ISIS to be driven out completely.

Source: World Watch Monitor

 Prayer Points

  • Praise God for the opportunity for Christians to return home. Join with them in thanking God for this blessing. Pray for the protection of civilians as ISIS becomes more desperate.
  • Pray the city of Mosul and all surrounding villages will soon be liberated and made safe so that many will have an opportunity to return home and rebuild their communities.
  • Pray the name of Jesus will be proclaimed all over Iraq; pray His church will grow.
Christians Facing Islamic Extremists: ISIS

Christians Facing Islamic Extremists: ISIS

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Region: Iraq, Syria

“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.

Please Pray

  • 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.
NORTH AFRICA: Captain on Trial for Murder

NORTH AFRICA: Captain on Trial for Murder

A boat captain faces a prison sentence of up to 90 years after being charged in Spain with the murder of six Christian migrants by allegedly throwing them overboard. According to the indictment against him, the captain and a colleague attacked the six Nigerian Christians because they believed the passengers’ prayers had provoked a storm during the voyage from North Africa.

The inflatable boat had about 50 migrants aboard when it left Morocco in December of 2014 to make the 14-kilometre voyage to Spain. Police state in the indictment that the attackers pulled up slats and beat the Christians, then threw them into the “raging sea” where they were lost. One body was found a few days later off the coast of Granada.

The captain, named as Alain N.B. from Cameroon, has denied all charges. He was one of two men arrested in connection with the incident; the second man died before the start of the trial. Prosecutors in the Spanish city of Almería have requested 15 years for each of the six offences. If convicted of all charges, Alain will be serving 45 of the total 90 years behind bars.

So far this year, more than 300,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea in order to reach Europe, after fleeing countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Nigeria. Another 3,000 died while attempting to make the crossing.

Source: Christian Today

Prayer Points

  • Pray for the grieving families and friends of the six Nigerian Christians whose lives tragically ended while at sea. May they continue to sense God’s comforting presence and strength.
  • Intercede on behalf of the accused captain, pray he may come to the Lord in repentance and receive the Lord’s mercy and salvation.
  • Pray for the protection of all those fleeing strife and unrest. Pray for the nations in the Middle East and Africa ─ for peace, stability, good governance and a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
NIGERIA: Boys Forced to Become Child Soldiers

NIGERIA: Boys Forced to Become Child Soldiers

The world was horrified when the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014. But less coverage has been given to the kidnapping of more than 10,000 boys over the last three years by the terror group and their brutal coercion tactics, forcing children to wage jihad.

The allegations are contained in a stunning investigative report by Drew Hinshaw and Joe Parkinson in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Shortly after the Chibok schoolgirls were seized, Boko Haram attacked six villages in the nearby mountains and rounded up children there, with little media coverage beyond the Nigerian press.

A few months later, the group captured the town of Damasak and took 300 students, mostly boys, aged 7 to 17. The militants imprisoned them in a school. Their parents were held in separate rooms. For months, the children were forced to learn the Koran. Eventually, Boko Haram ditched the parents and fled with the children.

In the forest outside Maiduguri, Boko Haram ran one of their boot camps for boys. Children as young as five years old learned to handle assault rifles and practise marching. Their weapon instructor was only 15 himself.

“I was terrified if I didn’t do it, they would kill me,” the teen instructor told the WSJ. He was kidnapped by the radical group in 2014 but later escaped.

The WSJ interviewed 16 young Nigerians who escaped the snare of Boko Haram, along with other witnesses, soldiers, researchers, officials and diplomats in Nigeria and Cameroon. The boys were sent into battle, often unarmed, frequently numbed by drugs. Many of the boys were beaten and some died of starvation or thirst.

Source: Assist News Service, International Christian Concern

 Prayer Points

  • Pray the Lord will rescue these abducted and abused boys. May they find Jesus to be their healer and deliverer.
  • Pray that parents would be given extra wisdom and love to care for boys who escape and return home.
  • Pray the Lord will intervene to bring an end to the unrest; pray He will grant wisdom and direction to the government, military and police as they try to rescue captives and stop the violence of Boko Haram.