EGYPT: MODERN DAY DANIEL SAVED FROM SAVAGE DOGS MEANT TO TEAR HIM APART
Like the lions in Daniel’s den, the ferocious attack dogs meant to torture Majed El Shafie in his Egyptian jail cell refused to do anything to him. They sat placidly, and one even licked his forehead – to the rage of the guards. “These dogs are trained to listen to their masters,” El Shafie told Sid Roth. “But there is no higher Master than the Lord Jesus Christ.” How did El Shafie, a remarkable law student, wind up on the wrong side of law? First, he converted to Christianity from Islam, a big no-no in Egypt, which defines itself as officially Muslim. Then he founded a pro-Christian legal aid organization with thousands of members. But the last straw was he wrote a book expounding his ideas.
In 1998 the government came after him. “At 1:30 in the morning, I heard a knock at my door.” El Shafie said. “Five officers came and broke the door. They took me to the police station behind the Parliament. They told me, ‘We know who you are. We know about your book. Now we want to know who is the rest of your group.” Since El Shafie refused to name his associates, the police resorted to torture. They escorted him to Abu Zaabel prison, known in the Middle East as “Hell on Earth,” where he endured 7 days before nearly dying. He recovered slowly in a hospital. El Shafie was born into an influential family of lawyers and Supreme Court justices. But he learned of the injustices of Egyptian law in his first year at law school, when there were up to 7,000 prisoners in Egyptians jails whose only crime was being a Christian.
“From my knowledge, if there is persecution, it means the enemy is trying to hide something.” His friend very discreetly dodged the question and instead offered him a different book, one “that answers every question he could have.” In the pages of the Bible he discovered a justice, love and forgiveness he had never known before. Providentially, he first opened the Scripture to John 8, the story of the woman caught in adultery. “Judge her according to the law of Moses!” the Pharisees cried out to Jesus. “Whoever of you is without sin, cast the first stone,” Jesus replied. “The only one who could cast the first stone was the Lord Jesus because He was the only one who had no sin,” he observed. “But He didn’t. He told the lady, ‘Go and sin no more. I forgive you.’ This was my first time to see true forgiveness.”
The Abu Zaabal prison was a focal point of the Arab Spring uprising that swept Egypt. This was years after El Shafie was tortured there. Shafie embarked on a year-long study comparing the Bible with the Koran. When he finished he approached his Christian friend and said: “Now I know what Christianity is about. It’s not a religion. It’s not about going to church on Sunday. Christianity is a relationship with God. I accept the Lord and I want to receive Jesus.” But converting to Christ is no small matter in Egypt. He would be excluded from professional positions, lose his standing in the community, endanger his life and face severe rejection from his family. “None of that equal anything if you know that your soul in the end will end up in Hell,” Shafie said.
Using his knowledge in law, Shafie launched a non-profit organization to advocate for religious freedom. It grew in two years to 24,000 members. He wrote a book expounding his beliefs and was arrested on August 15, 1998. By El Shafie’s account, the Egyptian torture machine works through various steps. First they change the prisoner’s name so family members can’t locate them and international human rights organizations can’t verify the family’s accusation. “The officers who are torturing you always wear masks. You cannot see their faces. They always call each other by numbers, not by names.” As they try to break a prisoner down, they increase the torture. From one day to the next, they inform the prisoner of the next day’s tortures, thus inflicting mental anxiety all night long before carrying it out, El Shafie said.
On Day #1, his hair was shaved and his head put alternately in freezing cold and boiling hot water for a minute each. “After that, they took me to my cell, and asked me for the names of my friends.’” He responded: “I haven’t taken a shower for a long time, so I enjoyed the cold and hot water. The more you smile and show no fear, the more you show that they have no control.” On Day #2, they hung El Shafie upside down, burned his body with cigarettes and slashed him with knives. “The only thing I can remember from Day #2 is the taste and the smell of my blood,” he said. “They took me back to my cell.” Day #3 was the three snarling dogs loosed into his dark cell. But “the three dogs just sat around me. None of them attacked.” Since the first set of dogs didn’t attack, the guards brought in another set of dogs, which also sat placidly. “The guards were talking about it as a miracle,” El Shafie said.
On Day #4, a guard offered him anything he wanted – a big house, money, women – if he would inform on his associates. El Shafie “agreed” but said he first needed food because he hadn’t eaten in 3 days. After eating, he told the hulking guard: “I can’t remember the names, but I’ll tell you the name of our leader, and if you can catch him, he can tell you exactly the names of all the members. “The name of our leader is Jesus Christ,” he said. The guard slapped him and led him to a dark room and tied his hands, arms, feet, legs and neck to a wooden cross. He hung there for 2-and-a-half days. Then they cut his left shoulder and poured lemon and salt on the wound. Nearly dead from extreme dehydration, El Shafie was taken to a hospital. Miraculously, Jesus gave him water, he said. After a week, he recovered.
Eventually he was tried and sentenced to death, but with the help of friends, he managed to escape. He stole a jet ski on the Sinai Peninsula and rode it to Israel. Through the help of international organizations, he was granted political asylum in Canada in 2002 where he became a citizen in 2006. Recently El Shafie’s has traveling to ISIS-held territory to buy Yazidi sex slaves their freedom. For his humanitarian work, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. “Persecuted Christians are dying every day, but they are still smiling. They are in a very deep dark night, but they still have the candles of the living God,” El Shafie said. “Our enemies have a very strong army, have very strong weapons, but we have the Lord Almighty. They can kill the dreamer, but no one can kill the dream.”
Earlier this year the U. S. Department of Education, under pressure from LGBT groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, agreed to create a public, searchable database of Christian colleges and universities that obtained waivers based on claims of religious freedom. It was called a “Christian college hit list” because it will allow LGBT activists to target Christian colleges for harassment and possible legal challenges. Sen. Ron Wyden and several other Democrats in the Senate say the waivers “allow for discrimination under the guise of religious liberty.” Christian colleges, for their part, say the exemptions are nothing new and allow religious schools, for example, to provide male-only or female-only dorms. They fear the database will make them easy targets for those who hate them.
You think those fears are overblown? Well, fast-forward to today. The California state Senate has passed a bill that would make it harder for Christian institutions to obtain religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT individuals, and make state grant money more difficult to obtain while making it easier for students and staff to sue them. California, by the way, is the nation’s largest state and home to more than 30 higher education institutions that possess religious exemptions to federal or state anti-discrimination laws—at least for now. The bill’s author, Sen. Ricardo Lara, claims LGBT students and staff have been expelled or fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Lara says, “These universities have a license to discriminate, and students have absolutely no recourse.”
The bill, S.B. 1146, requires schools receiving the exemptions to disclose them publicly. It would also allow religious exemptions only for seminaries or religious vocational training schools, not colleges and universities—so most Christian schools would be unable to enforce standards of conduct based on their faith. While this challenge to religious liberty only concerns California, what goes on in California, particularly when it comes to matters of culture and law, doesn’t stay in California. Shockingly, S.B. 1146 has received scant notice in the press. Julia C. Duin of the GetReligion blog, wonders why. “Where is the secular media?” Julia asks. “If the shoe were on the other foot and the state was pondering a bill perceived as anti-gay, don’t you think the newspapers, TV and radio, would be all over it?”
Apparently these defenders of free speech have forgotten the importance of freedom of religion—which is also part of the First Amendment! On his Facebook page, Robert George, the Princeton law professor and past chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, notes a worrisome trend in America right now. “Many among the liberal secularist faithful,” George writes, “assume that Christians, Jews and Muslims, who hold to traditional principles of sexual morality hate those who think and act contrary to those principles. That’s false and dangerous. What’s even worse, though, is that many appear to think that they are justified in hating, and seeking to impose civil disabilities upon, those who stubbornly refuse to accept liberal secularist ideology.”
PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT SAYS HE WILL DEFY THE CHURCH ON OVERPOPULATION
The new president of the Philippines wants to implement a three-child policy to combat what he says is growing overpopulation of his country. Speaking to reporters, Rodrigo Duterte blamed the Catholic Church for the nation’s fast-growing population. “I only want three children for every family,” he said, vowing to defy bishops on the issue. “I’m a Christian, but I’m a realist so we have to do something about overpopulation,” Duterte said. “I will defy the Church on this.” The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country made up of more than 7,000 islands. According to the 2015 census, the population of the Philippines is more than 100 million and is one of the largest in the region. Eighty percent of the country say they belong to the Catholic Church. A majority of the people oppose abortion and contraception.
In 2012, a law was passed allowing the government to provide contraceptives. The Catholic Church lobbied hard against the law but failed, however Bishops later managed to persuade politicians to cut funding for the program. Duterte has vowed to expand the program dramatically now he is in office. Duterte, who is Catholic, has lashed out at the church, accusing them of being the “most hypocritical institution” and criticizing bishops for getting involved in politics. “You sons of whores, aren’t you ashamed? You ask so many favours, even from me,” Duterte said during a television interview. The 71-year-old Duterte has vowed to confront Catholic bishops who’ve made money by taking advantage of the poor. Duterte said the Catholic Church has played a big role in the nation’s political life but he will change that.
Antonio Contreras, a political science professor at De la Salle University in Manila, told a French newspaper that Duterte’s criticisms of the Catholic Church has garnered him more support and marked the first time a candidate has directly challenged the country’s religious elite. “A lot of ordinary people say it is about time you have to challenge the Church and its hypocrisy,” Contreras told AFP. “This is going to be an interesting episode. Whether the Church will use its muscle, we will see what happens.” Duterte is a controversial figure. In November 2015, he called Pope Francis a “son of a whore” after the Pontiff’s visit to Manila caused numerous traffic jams. Weeks later, he wrote to Pope Francis asking for forgiveness for his remark; the Vatican replied offering “assurances of prayers.”
Turkey reels as it is targeted once again by terrorists. The scene of the most recent carnage was Ataturk International Airport. Three masked men arrived in taxis and rushed into the departure area. Aiming to maximize fear, they randomly began firing automatic weapons. They then spread out amongst the crowd of dazed and crying passengers and set off suicide vests. The results of the carnage killed 41 and injured over 230 people. No immediate claims for the barbaric attack were made, but it bears all the hallmarks of Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists. A British counter-terrorism official called it “a marauding terrorist firearms attack,” similar to those in Mumbai in 2008 and more recently in Brussels.
Turkey’s participation in the U.S. led coalition against Daesh and its improved relations with Western allies and Israel has infuriated Daesh. Istanbul’s position straddling Europe and Asia makes it both physically and literally the bridge between competing cultures. Ataturk Airport is Europe’s third largest and a hub for passengers from all over the world. Casualties among the dead included five Saudis, two Iraqis, and 13 other foreigners from China, Jordan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Ukraine. President Erdogan of Turkey said the global fight against terrorism has “no regard for faith or values.” Let’s Pray For:
* Counter-terrorism officials all over the world to increase their efforts to integrate and share information to detect and thwart the plans of these evil-doers.
* Prayer Warriors all over the world to realize that this fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the evil one, Satan.
* the families of those killed and pray for a full recovery back to good health by those maimed in the attack.
The Nepal earthquake in 2015 killed over 8,000 people and was the worst natural disaster to strike that country since 1934. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless, entire villages flattened, which prompted many Christian organizations to respond with humanitarian aid. A prominent Buddhist monk watched as Christians helped rebuild his community from rubble. “As a Tibetan monk with 1,000 disciples, his word was law,” a ministry director for Christian Aid Mission said. “He was watching us continually for 7 days as Christians became salt and light to the community.” Between the witness of the Christian workers and a powerful move of the Holy Spirit on the man’s heart something remarkable happened. “After watching us for 7 days, he said, ‘I’m going to give my life to Jesus.’”
Before the earthquake, the monk would not allow missionaries to preach in his area. But he was disheartened that none of his fellow monks assisted the rebuilding following the earthquake. “Where are the 330 million gods of Hinduism? Where are the Buddhists?” the monk asked. The monk placed his trust in Jesus Christ, along with his family and many others, and became the leader of a church. The former Buddhist monks two sons were recently baptized, and his daughter has become a Bible teacher for children in the area. His former Buddhist colleagues now oppose him, and have made a false accusation that he was paid to convert. Undaunted, the former monk says he wants to go to remote areas on Nepal’s border with Tibet to proclaim Christ.” “I want to go where no churches are,’” he told Christian Aid Mission.
US SUPREME COURT JUSTICE SAYS CHRISTIANS HAVE CAUSE FOR GREAT CONCERN
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has warned that the Supreme Court’s decision to turn away an appeal by a family-owned pharmacy that cited Christian beliefs in objecting to providing emergency contraceptives to women under a Washington state rule is an “ominous sign” for those who value religious freedom. The justices declined to grant an appeal in the case of Stormans v. Wiesman, which involves Christian pharmacists suing Washington over a law mandating that pharmacies provide contraceptives despite conscience objections. Reuters notes that three conservatives among the eight justices – Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas – argued that the court should have agreed to hear the appeal by the Stormans family, which owns a grocery store and pharmacy in Olympia.
“If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern,” Alito warned in his 15-page retort. Alito argued that the rule, adopted by the Washington Board of Pharmacy (now the Pharmacy Commission), singled out people of faith to deny their freedom. “There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for – or that they actually serve – any legitimate purpose,” Alito wrote. “And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State.”