Christian girls in Egypt are being targeted for kidnapping, forced marriage and conversion. There is an epidemic of grooming of young girls believed to be funded by religious leaders from Saudi Arabia. Hundreds of Coptic Christian girls in Egypt have been kidnapped, forced to convert and marry their captors, according to both Egyptian and western sources. And the latest target is young Christian boys. Many abductions take place in Upper Egypt, a poor, rural area where attitudes are ultra conservative and the persecution of Christians is most severe. Kate Ward who works with Release International says they are in direct contact with 2,500 families who daily face the problem of kidnapping.
The kidnappers target girls as young as nine and develop friendships with them, offer them gifts and groom them until they are considered sexually mature at age 14. Young women and girls are targeted as part of a deliberate strategy to convert Christians to Islam. They seduce the young girls, by telephone calls. They have affairs with them and convince them to marry and the girl is then trapped. Frances Windsor has lived in Cairo for many years. Windsor says “A young girl will be targeted by a slightly older man. He will make friends with her and treat her with great respect, be kind to her and offer her romance and the promises of riches. And then he’ll seduce her and she will marry him.”
Then the situation dramatically changes and she effectively becomes a slave. Local men are being offered money to target Christian women. “Every young man who can seduce a girl to convert to Islam is paid up to $1500 for a non-educated woman or $3000 for an educated woman. The money is believed to come from religious leaders in Saudi Arabia. After that, he might divorce her. She then goes back to a life of shame.” The girls are often told that when they have children, they will be able to bring them up as Christians. But this is a lie, says Kate Ward because in practice, these wives are now considered to have become Muslims. And even if they leave, their children will be forced to remain.
Many families have had letters back from their daughters saying, “Take care of our sisters, we are now in a trap.” If they do manage to escape, they lose their children. Those girls who do get away often apply for refugee status overseas. “But we prefer the majority to remain in Egypt,” she says, “as society has to face this one day.” One of the biggest problems facing kidnap victims and their families is the shame attached to the sexual compromising of the girls. All of the girls are injured inside. The feeling of shame and infamy is very strong. So, the girl may be afraid to turn back to her family. Many of the girls are young and illiterate and fear their families will reject or harm them if they return.
The Egyptian media has been reluctant to report the outbreak of grooming and kidnapping. That reluctance is shared by the police, because of the religious dimension to the crime. Kate Ward says a new and disturbing trend has been noticed within Egypt. “They are beginning to target boys and young men. We’re hearing of Christian mothers who are being paid 300 Egyptian pounds to bring their boys to the mosque to get Islamic teaching. Extreme poverty makes them easy targets,” Ward says. But the militants are combining this with another strategy, she believes, of targeting strong Christian families. “They aim to bring shame on these families and lead to the destruction of the family itself.”
“We are talking about the intentional destruction of strong families by targeting the most vulnerable. Thirty years ago, they had heard nothing of this. This is new.” Egyptians trace the rise of kidnapping back some 50 years. But the problem grew to epidemic proportions when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power. Foreign money poured into Egypt, cash from militants available to anyone who would kidnap Christians and force them to convert. Kate Ward describes the assault on Christians as “a deliberate attempt to rid Egypt of its Christian minority.” She adds: “This grooming epidemic is a tool and strategy of religious persecution. We urge the authorities to protect the Christian girls and women of Egypt.”
JEWISH WOMAN COMES FACE TO FACE WITH AN ANGEL AND GIVES LIVE TO CHRIST
Alyce Merritt grew up as a devout Jew who loved the Torah and wanted little to do with the Christian faith. “All I knew was that Jesus was the false God of the gentiles because that’s kind of what was beaten into our heads since we were very young,” Merritt said. “I thought actually that he was Catholic or Italian because of everything I’d been told and seen on T.V. It wasn’t until college that I had a supernatural encounter,” she continued. After graduating from high school, Merritt moved out of her childhood home, went to college, and began working at a frozen yogurt shop. That’s when she met a customer who would change her life forever.
“A man who was literally about seven feet tall with piercing blue eyes one day came in. He had a white Bible, about the size of a family Bible and he started telling me the Gospel and that Jesus was actually Jewish,” Merritt said. “For the first time in my life I was told that Jesus was a Jewish Saviour and that he was my Messiah.” The man, who called himself Alan, began popping up wherever Merritt was. “Everywhere I would go on my days off from work he would show up randomly. If I went to the mall spontaneously with a friend he would always be there alone at a two-seater as if he was waiting for me to arrive. Many times he would call me and just start witnessing the Gospel to me,” she said.
Alan continued to witness to her for seven months. “He would say Jesus is the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, and in Exodus it says without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. So, one day I actually thought, ‘You know, in Judaism on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the sacrifice of an animal was symbolic for our atonement. But we didn’t have a temple anymore.’ So I thought, ‘How are we atoned for?'” Merritt explained. “One day it totally connected for me and I just fell to my knees after seven months of Alan just witnessing to me and accepted that Jesus, Yeshua, was the Lamb that atoned for my sin.”
Something shocking happened after Merritt accepted Jesus as her Saviour. “Alan completely disappeared,” she said. “I went to call him on the phone we’d been talking on for seven months and the line was completely disconnected. I went back to my yogurt shop and the malls where I would always see him at a two-seater witnessing to me and he was gone.” After a year of looking Merritt finally had one last encounter with Alan. “One day I was invited to the home of a dear friend from the church that I started attending. I walked into her living room and on her wall was a huge painting of Alan. His eyes were unmistakable, his chiselled cheekbones and jaw and I was just flabbergasted,” she said.
“Where did you get this picture? Who painted this?” Merritt asked her friend. “She and her husband proceeded to tell me that that was an angel that her friend had witnessed when she was on her deathbed. A seven-foot angel appeared to her and said Jesus was going to heal her. She described him as being seven feet tall, with piercing blue eyes,” she explained. To this day, Merritt has never seen Alan again and she believes God’s supernatural power played a big role in her salvation. She explains her full story in the book Autumn Whisper and encourages Believers everywhere to tell others about Christ.
Merritt said. “The life Messiah walked was one of sacrifice. The thing I’m teaching my children as well is that it’s not about us. Each day we take up our cross and we follow Him.” Merritt said Christmas is the perfect time to share the Gospel with others, adding that she accepted Jesus during Christmastime. “At Christmas people are more open to hearing Jesus and the stories, and reading books they wouldn’t normally read. She also has a message of Jews like her who are searching for a deeper relationship with God. “Number one, pray. There is nothing to compare with the power of prayer. Also, read the Scriptures, both old and new covenant.”
CHRISTIAN TEACHER IN BRITAIN SUSPENDED FOR CALLING GIRLS GIRLS
In a world where 8-year-olds are allowed to decide whether they want to self-identify as boys, girls or pineapples, Joshua Sutcliffe’s story may come as no surprise. The British math teacher’s ‘misgendering’ debacle is one that needs to be heard. “Absolutely fantastic job, girls,” are the words that Sutcliffe used to encourage a small group of females who had excelled in a recent test. Those same words have led to the accusation that he demonstrated “discriminatory behaviour” and “contravened the school’s equality policy.” It turns out, one of those girls wished to be identified as a boy, and Mr. Sutcliffe slipped-up. Though he profusely apologized to the student for his mistake, the damage had been done.
An investigation was launched, and he was officially suspended from teaching. “I was shocked to be told that I was under investigation,” said Sutcliffe. “I said it was only one incident for which I had apologized, but the Headmaster insisted the investigation would go ahead. He added. “It’s like I have been publicly shamed.” The 27-year-old teacher who is also a pastor of an evangelical church in Oxford felt his career crumbling beneath his feet for a comment that he intended to be uplifting. The girl who wished to be identified as a boy had previously the lowest score in the class, but this time had scored the highest. Thus, he wanted to include her in the group he was congratulating.
He had never been informed or instructed to refer to the student as a boy, so to be reprimanded for this unknown offense seemed extreme. He had no official instructions about how to address the student, but along with other staff decided to use the pupil’s chosen first name. “My first objective is to get to know each student by name, to make them feel welcome,” explained Sutcliffe. “For me, this student was a girl. Turns out, the student wants to be called a boy. Though as a Christian he has convictions about God’s designation of the male and female gender, he had no intention of breaking school policies or causing harm to the student. I had always tried to respect the pupil and keep a professional attitude.”
“But it seemed to me that the school was trying to force me to adhere to its leftist agenda,” said Sutcliffe. Now Sutcliffe has had enough, and is seeking to take a stand for what he believes is right. He has informed the School that he will be taking legal action over the matter. “As a Christian, I do not share your belief in the ideology of transgenderism. I do not believe young children should be encouraged to self-select a ‘gender’ different from their biological sex’. Kudos to this brave teacher for remaining strong in his Biblical convictions in the midst of a system trying to replace Christianity with a watered-down version of ethical relativism.
Christians in China’s city of Wenzhou are ignoring an official ban on Sunday School classes, and have vowed to continue teaching children about Jesus. Recent bans on unregistered church worship and on teaching Christianity to children have startled Christians. Churches in Wenzhou, known as “China’s Jerusalem” due to its sizable Christian community, started teaching children in private homes or at other venues after authorities outlawed Sunday School last year. In her house, “faith comes first, grades come second,” one parent surnamed Chen said, explaining that children must attend Bible classes because state education fails to provide sufficient moral and spiritual guidance.
“Drugs, porn, gambling and violence are serious problems among today’s youth and video games are extremely seductive,” she said. “We cannot be by their side all the time so only through faith can we make them understand the right thing to do.” She added, “There will definitely be more Christian believers in the next generation.” In addition to banning Sunday Schools, children are also barred from taking part in faith activities such as summer camps due to “high temperatures” being a possible health hazard. While Chinese law grants religious freedom for all, including children, regulations on education and protection of minors says religion cannot be used to “coerce” children to believe.
Last September, officials warned Christian parents that if they continue to take their children to churches not approved by the government, their offspring will be banned from attending college or serving in the military. The government sanctioned Protestant church, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, forbids its members from “brainwashing” teenagers with religious beliefs and bringing children to religious activities. “The government is trying to control ideology,” a local Christian named Zhang said. “During Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao’s time, the government tolerated preaching and missionary work. After Xi Jinping came into power, the government’s grip on religion has strengthened.”
In 2014, the government launched a campaign to demolish “illegal” churches and tear down crosses. During the campaign, as many as 360 crosses were removed from places of worship. Hundreds of pastors, lawyers, and activists, have been arrested for speaking out against the ongoing persecution. Attorneys providing legal support to churches in China have also been coerced into confessing on television that they have disturbed the peace, and jeopardized national security. There are now around 30 million Christians in China, while independent estimates suggest the number is about 60 million, most of whom are Protestants.
A YEAR AFTER THE FALL OF ALEPPO BISHOP SAYS LIFE IS BETTER FOR CHRISTIANS
The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo has been speaking about life for Christians a year since the fall of Aleppo. More than 600 civilians died in the five-week-long offensive before the last rebel-held urban centre in Syria surrendered. Bishop Antoine Audo, said in his pastoral visits he had been told life was better for them since President Bashar al-Assad launched the final assault on the opposition-held east Aleppo. Explaining what he’s often told, Bishop Audo said: “First of all we can say there is no more bombing on our part, especially in the west part of Aleppo. “The second point is that we now have electricity in Aleppo – more than ten hours by day and this is very important to live.
We can have a refrigerator, we can wash clothes, and we have portable water in all the house. “We have opportunities of work, not too much but there are some factories and small industries, so there is real change.” While things have improved in Aleppo, Bishop Audo said the same cannot be said for all of Syria. East Ghouta, a rebel enclave of some 400,000 people in the suburbs of Damascus, is facing the same fate Aleppo faced a year ago. The area is meant to be covered by a de-escalation zone deal brokered by Turkey, Iran and Russia earlier this year – but monitors and rebels have claimed fighting has continued on many fronts. Bishop Antoine said: “It will take time to have a political solution in general in Syria.”
PRINCE CHARLES SAYS DONT TAKE CHRISTIAN FREEDOMS FOR GRANTED
Prince Charles has urged Christians not to take for granted the freedom to practise their faith, as he pointed to persecution against believers in the Middle East. The Prince of Wales issued the warning after meeting Christian children forced from their homes by the recent bloody conflict to grip Iraq and Syria. His Royal Highness said: “It is heart-breaking to see how much suffering is being endured by Christians today because of their faith. “As Christians we remember of course how our Lord called upon us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, but for those confronted with such hatred and oppression I can only imagine how incredibly hard it must be to follow Christ’s example.”
More than 700,000 Christians have left Syria during a conflict which is now into its sixth year, while the major city of Aleppo has shed 75% of its Christian population, only 35,000 remain. Addressing members of the Melkite Greek-Catholic community, he said: “It is important that Christians everywhere, who enjoy the rights of freedom to worship and freedom of expression, do not take those rights for granted. “We must remember to do what we can to support our fellow Christians who are denied these rights.” Islamic extremism remains the primary factor behind Iraq and Syria being ranked two of the countries where living as a Christian is most difficult, according to the anti-persecution charity Open Doors.