AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER

As our regular stories reveal, Christians in Iraq and Syria are coming under intense persecution from Islamic terrorists operating in those countries resulting in horrific death and unbelievable upheaval for families and whole communities. The International Christian Community has called for a day of prayer and fasting this Wednesday 13th August during which we ask our readers to pray as the Holy Spirit leads. Also Churches across the world are being asked to set aside time in their regular services on Sunday 17th August to pray for our brothers and sisters in those nations experiencing heart-wrenching and unimaginable trauma. Thank you for your stand in joining these times of worldwide prayer!

MESSAGE OF SOLIDARITY WITH SYRIAN AND IRAQI CHRISTIANS

On the afternoon of Saturday 2 August, several thousand Syrian and Iraqi Christians gathered in Melbourne’s Federation Square to stand in solidarity with Christians suffering severe persecution under ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — now known as IS). For many of those present at the rally, the victims are not merely their co-religionists, but their relatives: grandparents, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters. They were joined in Federation Square by a spattering of sympathetic fellow Christians, but not nearly enough. The rally included a series of short speeches given by guest representatives from various religious, ethnic, political and advocacy groups. 

One of the speakers at the rally was Elizabeth Kendal from Religious Liberty Monitoring. Following is an edited text of her speech. 

“Thank-you for giving me this opportunity to address this gathering.

I would like to make two appeals:

1) To the Australian Church

2) To my Christian brothers and sisters from Syria and Iraq 

To the Australian Church I would like to say:

For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now devoid of Christians. But the crisis stretches far beyond Mosul. This year, Christians have been driven out of towns as far west as the Armenian town of Kessab in Syria’s north-west corner. Remnant Christians are being driven out of towns right across Syria’s north and east from where photographic evidence of public executions and even crucifixions have emerged. In Iraq they are being driven out of Nineveh, while a decimated remnant survives in Baghdad. Across the entire Christian heartland of Upper Mesopotamia, those who choose to remain Christian have no choice but to flee. This is the land where the disciples of the Jesus Christ were first called Christians. 

This is the land from where mission was launched west in Europe and east in to Persia and China. Christianity has been decimated in its historic heartland, in our lifetime and before our eyes. What’s more, Christianity is in the process of being eradicated from its historic heartland. All we need to do for this to eventuate is nothing. It will happen – unless we step up and be the Church God demands we be and has gifted and empowered us to be. The day has arrived when Church passivity must end. We are exhorted in Galatians 6:2 – “bear one another’s burdens, for in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ” / the law of love. 

My message to my Christian brothers and sisters from Syria and Iraq is this: It is possible that those who have fled their homes and lands in recent years — in order to save their lives — may never see their homes again. Upper Mesopotamia is in the eye of a very big storm that will probably wreak havoc for a long time yet. But – God has promised that one day, a highway will stretch from Egypt through Israel to Assyria (Isaiah 19:23f) — and there will be peace. In that day the Lord will declare: “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” (v25)

As Christians, all of us are called not merely to live righteous and just lives – but to advance righteousness and justice in the world. 

And so, following the manner of the prophets and apostles, we lobby the king – we exhort our leaders to do what God expects them to do: “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” BUT – we do not put our faith in princes, or in humanity. NOR do we put our trust in horse and chariots (military hardware). RATHER – we put our trust in the Lord Almighty, for he who promised is faithful. After all – what will this Assyria of Isaiah 19 be – but the work of HIS hands. “But,” you might ask, “how do we keep faith alive through these dark days?” ANSWER: By remembering.

When the Israelites lamented over the fall of Jerusalem – crying “God does not see, God does not care” God exhorted them to remember. 

Why do you say God doesn’t see and God doesn’t care? Remember! “The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary;. “He sees! What’s more, he cares!  He lifts up, revives and empowers those who wait for and trust in HIM. “they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary;  they shall walk and not faint.” To the Australian Church I say – get to work! Don’t be passive observers of suffering! Don’t leave the sacrifice to others! Get down; get active! And to my Iraqi and Syrian brothers and sisters in Christ, I say, arise! Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus for he is your shield, your glory and the lifter of your head. May we stand together – One Lord – One Body. Amen

Source: Religious Liberty Monitoring

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KENYAN CHRISTIANS FEAR FOR LIVES AS SOME POLITICIANS APPEAR LINKED TO AL SHABAB

At least 65 people were killed in the predominantly Christian town of Mkepetoni. Now residents are sleeping in a nearby prison because they are scared to stay at home. Recently in a Hindi village Muslim attackers killed at least 13 people with guns and knives. One survivor said “The attackers talked in Somali and Swahili, saying non-Muslims should get out or convert to Islam.” Two nights after the Hindi attack, assailants attacked the Covenant church as a Bible study ended killing two men. A Catholic building in the neighbouring Tana River County, was also razed the same night. This on-going pattern of attacks is particularly terrifying because the Somali Islamist extremists Al Shabab appear to be claiming responsibility.

Kenyan President Kenyatta has blamed leading politicians, including the opposition Governor of the local county, whose arrest on charges of murder, terrorism and eviction of residents, was ordered by the President after the recent attacks. The Kenyan President appears to have accused the Governor Issa Timamy not only because he is an opposition politician, but also partly because Timamy is from the local Muslim community.  The attacks appeared to be directed at Kenyans from other ethnic groups including Kikuyus, Kenyatta’s ethnic background. Deputy Inspector General of Police, Grace Kaindi, said that preliminary investigations of the latest attacks point to a separatist group, the Mombasa Republican Council. 

One of the key reasons behind the insecurity in the region are claims that Al Shabab is behind the killings and that the Kenyan forces deployed in Somalia as part of the peacekeeping troops (with an aim of stamping out the militant group) are the group’s main target. Al Shabab view the Kenyan forces as invading their country. But there are those in Kenya who question this view. “Why is it only Kenya that is being attacked for taking troops to Somalia? Ethiopia and other African countries have their troops in Somalia, but they have not been attacked. When the Mpeketoni attacks took place for the first time there were claims that Al Shabab had stated that they were behind the killings. 

Ethnic violence has erupted in the past in Kenya, notably after a contested 2007 election when about 1,200 people were killed in tribal clashes. An intricate web of overlapping political and religious agendas is thickening in the region, with interlocking and clashing interests over land, religion, ethnicity and politics becoming ever more closely bound up, and harder to disentangle. “Terrorists are present among us. They are threatening the people in the region no matter which faith you hold” said Rev. Julius R.K.Kalu, the Anglican Bishop of Mombasa.  Radicalism in the region is also an area of concern for the Muslim community according to Sheikh Juma Ngao, the National Chairman of Kenya Muslims’ National Advisory Council. 

He said “I do not support extremism and no one should be forced to join a religion they do not want to ascribe to.” The political temperature in the country has raised concern among various religious groups in the country. A statement released by the Catholic Bishops of Kenya says “Compelled by our desire for peace, we fervently ask the political leaders of both the government and the opposition, to put aside their personal and party interests, in order to address critical issues which are affecting our country.”  One of the key issues they have raised is insecurity. “Terrorism advisories by countries such as the UK and US are curtailing markets,” said Sam Ikwaye of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers. 

There are about 4500 people now unemployed. If this trend continues there is a possibility that business may not pick up,” Ikwaye reiterated. Ikwaye however, noted that the various stakeholders in the coastal region are working together towards setting up standard security systems that take into consideration new technological advances. The coastal region has seen many religious leaders killed; there are now concerted efforts by the clerics in the area to dialogue together and speak out on insecurity as a common voice. The clerics are also working towards dealing with issues that affect communities together such as attending burials together when alleged terrorist attacks occur.

Source: World Watch Monitor

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U.S. MILITARY DIRECTIVE ELEVATES RIGHTS OF MUSLIMS OVER CHRISTIANS

Do not eat or drink in front of Muslims, and learn more about their religion was the directive that went out to military personnel at a Department of Defence medical and graduate school in Maryland. The commander sent an email to military personnel at the facility prior to the start of Ramadan advising them to show respect to Muslim colleagues. “This is a period of great personal restraint in addition to renewed focus on worship,” Brigade  Col. Kevin Glasz wrote. “I’d like to encourage you to learn a little more about this religion, but more importantly, to consider not consuming food or drink in front of our Muslim colleagues; it is a simple, yet respectful action.” 

Now that raised the ire of some of the officers and doctors training at the School, and several of them reached out to their Chaplain with their concerns. “I respect the intention behind this email, but note that there is no similar call honouring other faiths,” one Marine told me. “There is no similar invitation for non-Jewish colleagues to refrain from eating leavened products during Passover, or non-Christian colleagues to refrain from eating meat during Lent.” The entire incident smells of political correctness, the Marine said. “Our veterans have sacrificed too much blood, sweat and tears to have their own rights and freedoms sacrificed on the altar of progressive political correctness,” the Marine said. 

The Chaplain sought an explanation from the School but no one returned his calls or emails. Meanwhile, Navy officials ordered personnel serving in Bahrain to dress more conservatively off base. Men were ordered to wear long-sleeved shirts and women were told to wear blouses that cover their elbows and skirts or pants that cover the knees. Cultural advisers spent several weeks conducting Ramadan briefings to “educate Americans about the holy month.” Personnel were also told “It’s customary to say ‘Ramadan Kareem’ during Ramadan.” The military’s quest to be culturally sensitive to those of the Islamic faith stands in stark contrast to its recent crackdown on public expressions of the Christian faith. 

Last year, soldiers in Mississippi were told that they could not use the word “Christmas.” A Veterans hospital in Texas refused to accept holiday cards because the cards mentioned “Christmas” or “God bless you.” And a Nativity scene near the Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina was removed after someone complained.  Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty said “There is a good Biblical word for this: hypocrisy. Our troops are being told to respect Ramadan and encouraged to say ‘Ramadan Kareem,’ while at the same time they cannot have a cross on chapels, display a manger scene or say ‘Merry Christmas’ for fear of offending,” Crews said. “There is something wrong with this picture.”

Source: Charisma News

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SAMARITAN’S PURSE ORDERS EVACUATION NON-ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL FROM LIBERIA – EBOLA DISASTER

Two Americans, including a female missionary from Charlotte-based Society for International Missions (SIM) continue their battle to fight off the deadly Ebola virus. Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were part of a joint team of people with Samaritan’s Purse and SIM. They have been repatriated back to America to receive treatment for the deadly disease. Both faith-based organizations are calling for an international response to the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia and neighbouring countries. The situation in Liberia is critical, as the spread of the Ebola virus continues. At present both Brantly and Writebol are stable, yet suffering from some of the symptoms of the virus. Each is receiving around-the-clock medical care. 

“The next few days are critical in assessing the recovery of these Ebola crisis responders,” said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA. “SIM and Samaritan’s Purse invite people to pray for the full restoration of our two workers and for the stemming of the spread of this virus across Liberia and other nations of West Africa.” Due to the upsurge in cases of Ebola in the region, SIM and Samaritan’s Purse have taken the precautionary step of mandating the evacuation of all nonessential personnel from Liberia. Timing, means, and place of evacuation are being decided now. No symptoms of Ebola are present in any of the intended evacuees, who are being monitored continually.

SIM and Samaritan’s Purse work under the strictest of safety protocols as established by the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and other world health organizations. SIM has served in West Africa for more than 120 years. Two of its three founders died of malaria within the first year. Yet SIM continued on to become one of the largest Christian medical mission organizations in the world. It’s staff of nearly 3,000 serves in more than 65 countries in additional areas of education, community development and Christian witness. While SIM stood for Sudan Interior Mission when it was founded, now as a global work it is known as the Society for International Missions. 

Source: Breaking Christian News

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CHURCH LEADERS IN EASTERN UKRAINE SEND PRAYER S.O.S.

Evangelical church leaders in eastern Ukraine are calling for help. They recently released a statement detailing the ongoing persecution of believers and asked the world community to take action. “Targeted attacks have been carried out by armed militants against evangelicals,” reads part of the official statement, “accompanied by abductions, beatings, torture, threats of execution, seizures of houses of worship, rehabilitation centres, and other places of worship.”  Ukraine’s current President, Petro Poroshenko, is an evangelical Baptist who took the helm following months of violent protests. Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine view any and all evangelicals as supporters of Ukraine’s government, and therefore a threat. 

“Separatists believe that evangelical churches are their enemies. In one of the towns, they even raised the Orthodox flag and said they would fight any heretic, any Protestant, anyone who represents any Western immoral values,” said Russian Ministries President Sergey Rakhuba in a July 23 statement. Evangelical church leaders are calling on groups like the United Nations and European Union to take action against the separatists on their behalf. They’re also calling on believers worldwide to join them in prayer.

Source: Mission Network News

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EVEN MORE ARAB STATES TURNING AGAINST HAMAS AND SUPPORTING ISRAEL

Israel has the unspoken support of Arab states led by Egypt in its war against Hamas, indicating Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have joined Cairo in backing Israel’s anti-terrorist campaign. The Times pointed to Egypt’s “Arab Spring” as the impetus that began threatening conservative Arab leaders in the Mideast. Martin Kramer, president of Shalem College in Jerusalem and an expert on the subject, was quoted by the Times as saying the Cairo-led Arab coalition doesn’t want to see Hamas emerge from the conflict as “the most powerful Palestinian player.” “There is clearly a convergence of interests of these various regimes with Israel,” noted Kramer. 

Another Mideast expert, David Miller, agrees. “The Arab states’ loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu,” he said. According to a Newsmax report, it is one of the reasons Secretary of State John Kerry has been forced to turn to Qatar and Turkey to seek intermediaries with Hamas, rather than Egypt.

Source: New York Times

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