The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham/Syria (ISIS) formally split from Al-Qaeda earlier this year over long-disputed matters of principle and strategy. (1) Regarding principle: Al-Qaeda’s more seasoned leaders – the ‘old guard’ – are prepared to co-operate with Iran / Shi’ites in pursuit of higher goals. The ‘young-guns’ of ISIS are not. Rather, ISIS is sticking uncompromisingly to the Saudi Wahhabi / Salafi creed which is vehemently anti-Shia. (2) Regarding strategy: Al-Qaeda’s more seasoned leaders have learnt that fighters must treat local Muslims gently and win their hearts and minds if they are to avoid generating local resistance. On the other hand, ISIS regards that as compromising and soft.
Rather, ISIS is enforcing strict Sharia codes and enacting cruel Sharia punishments, including public lashings, amputations and execution, even crucifixions. It is not that al-Qaeda is ‘more moderate’ than ISIS, it is just more rational. Al-Qaeda still wants to annihilate Israel, establish a Caliphate and take jihad to the West. Al-Qaeda is well aware that division and intra-Muslim conflict will weaken the global jihad movement. ISIS has ruled Syria’s Raqqa Province, plus territory along the Euphrates River and Iraq’s restive Sunni Anbar Province since February. The border between Syria and Iraq (pencilled in by Sykes and Picot in 1916) now exists only in theory.
Recently Iraqi security services (mostly Shi’ites) melted away as ISIS advanced through Northern Iraq’s Nineveh Province. ISIS captured its capital, Mosul, along with its airports, banks, armouries and more. The immediate goal of ISIS is to restore Sunni power in Baghdad. Shi’ite militias, including Iranians are defending the Shia heartland and holy places. Kurdish forces are defending the Kurdish heartland and oil-rich Kirkuk. While launching terror attacks, ISIS will consolidate its rule over the Sunni-dominated but ethnically and religious diverse region of Upper Mesopotamia (Arabic: al-Jazira). Spanning north-east Syria and north-west Iraq, Upper Mesopotamia is the ancient Christian heartland.
Some 1000 Christian families fled Mosul as ISIS invaded. They have fled to Christian churches, monasteries and schools. Many thousands of Iraqis from across Nineveh Province have fled into Erbil, the Kurdish capital. One Christian couple from Mosul who found refuge with their young children in a church in Erbil said they had been eating dinner, having already made plans to leave, when two homes around them burst into flames after being hit by rocket fire. The family fled carrying nothing but their papers. The Archbishop of Mosul, Amel Nona, said that in the 11 years following the 2003 US-led invasion, Christians in Mosul had declined from 35,000 to 3,000. Now ‘all the faithful have fled the city’.
There are reports that ISIS has taken an unconfirmed number of Christians hostages. With such a vast area to defend ISIS will doubtless secure its bases with human shields. In Nineveh, as in Raqqa, Syria, ISIS is enforcing strict Sharia codes. Christians in Mosul had been paying jizya (protection money) to al-Qaeda for years. In 2008, the then Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Rahho, was killed for refusing to pay jizya. Now ISIS has released a ‘Contract of the City’ laying down the rules and penalties. Theft will be punished with amputation. Those who are corrupt face the penalties of death, crucifixion, cross amputation or exile.
If police, soldiers and other government workers fail to repent they will be killed as apostates. All shrines and graves will be destroyed. Women should not leave their homes unless absolutely necessary, and if they do, must wear the niqab, the full black covering with a slit for the eyes. Such conditions make it unlikely that the displaced Christians will ever return to their homes. Upper Mesopotamia’s Christians are caught in ‘the eye of the storm’. Though they do not have their own army, they do have Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of Heaven’s Hosts. Please pray for these people as they face unimaginable hardship.
Please pray specifically that God will –
* frustrate the way of the wicked by dividing and weakening them.
* aid, protect and provide for the thousands of displaced Christian families, along with those who give them shelter. Pray that God would awaken the Church in the West to see and respond to the suffering Church in Iraq.
* graciously open the eyes and hearts of all those Muslim families who are sheltering with Christian families in Christian churches, monasteries and schools across Nineveh; may Muslims, who essentially view God as a ‘strongman’ in the sky too transcendent to love or relate to humanity, be transformed by what they witness and experience of Christians finding and sharing grace through faith, assured of God’s ear and his heart. May no Muslim be left unchanged.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) is calling for prayer for the safe return of three Israeli teenagers abducted by Hamas recently. The ICEJ is urging Christians around the world to join in prayer for the release of the three young men and for their safe return to their homes and families. In addition, the ICEJ is calling on all world leaders of goodwill to press for the safe return of these young men, including pressure on Palestinian leaders to cooperate fully in the on-going efforts to locate the abducted teens, identify their captors and secure their release.
In the meantime Mayors from around the globe, attending the 29th Israel International Mayors Conference, presented Prime Minister Netanyahu with an open letter condemning the recent abduction of the three teens by terrorists and called for their immediate release. The following is an excerpt from the letter: “We, the undersigned mayors from the cities representing diverse communities around the world, call on any and all involved in the disappearance of the three Israeli boys Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach – to release them immediately, without conditions and safely return them to their families.”
“We were all saddened and deeply disappointed to learn of the boys’ abduction. Kidnapping as well as taking hostages is a violation of the international law. It is our firm belief that at no time and under no circumstance should children become the victims of such an inhumane and unjust way of action. As adults, we have a moral responsibility to protect all children and ensure their safety and security. Again, with that in mind, we call on all involved to immediately release, without conditions and safely return the three boys.” As the search for the missing teenagers enters its second week, several prominent American legislators have issued condemnations of the kidnapping.
The calls have spanned both sides of politics. US Republican, Grace Meng, said her “heart aches” for the kidnapped youths, and called for their immediate release. “The kidnapping of the three teenagers is outrageous and unacceptable, and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” said Meng, who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East. Another Democratic Congresswoman, Karen Bass, linked the kidnapping to war crimes in Syria and Nigeria, and called on the world to “rise up to snuff out the aspirations of those who use children to further their political or religious agenda.”
TONY BLAIR SAYS WE NEED PUTIN’S HELP TO BEAT RADICALS
Tony Blair wants the West to reach out to Vladimir Putin in the fight against radical Islam, despite the Russian President’s militant stance over Ukraine. The former British prime minister warned that Islamism poses the greatest threat to world peace. Mr Blair went on to claim that the case for supporting those who oppose Islamists has never been greater. “The threat of this radical Islam is not abating, it is growing,” Blair said. “It is destabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation. And in the face of this threat we seem reluctant to acknowledge it and powerless to counter it effectively.”
Mr Blair defends last year’s military coup against Egypt’s democratically elected government. The Muslim Brotherhood had not just run a bad government but had been systematically taking over the traditions and institutions of the country, he says. Mr Blair acknowledges that 500 of its activists were recently sentenced to death but says that critics of Egypt’s military-backed interim regime should “show some sensitivity” after the killing of hundreds of police and soldiers. Following the recent election of a new President, former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, he called on the West to give the new leader “as much assistance as we can”.
On the issue of Ukraine, Mr Blair says that “whatever our other differences, we should be prepared to reach out and co-operate with the east, in particular, Russia and China”. He called on Western politicians to overcome their reluctance to acknowledge that competing views of Islam are at the root of the Middle East’s disparate conflicts. “There is one very clear and unambiguous struggle: between those with a modern view of the Middle East, one of pluralistic societies and open economies, and those who want to impose an ideology born out of a belief that there is one proper religion and one proper view of it, and this view should determine the nature of society.”
DERANGED VIOLENT HOMELESS MAN TRANSFORMED BY JESUS
Mentally disturbed, John lived on the streets of Lucknow, India, and responded violently to anyone who attempted to approach him. But God moved one pastor’s heart to take him in, and the love of Jesus transformed the man’s life. “When we first met John he was very violent. The local police and two students had to help me bring John to the Mercy Home,” says Pastor Paul, who started the outreach to the mentally ill. Mercy Home is a ministryof Empart, which plants churches throughout Asia. For several months John did not speak to anyone at the facility. He resisted bathing or changing his clothes. His eyes stared ahead of him blankly, according to the staff.
Brian Lockhart, president of Empart USA said “John was physically wounded and could only be described as despondent and detached. He displayed visible anger and recoiled from any touch, rejecting those trying to love him.”Through minimal bits of information we obtained from him, he seemed to have a troubled upbringing.” John was rejected all his life, never loved, and never cared for. There was only darkness” Pastor Paul’s wife, Bincy said”John still doesn’t remember his past or his family. We prayed for him, cared for him, and loved him, and John began to respond.” The power of God’s Word and the prayers of the saints, began to break down barriers in John’s heart and mind.
After several months at Mercy Home, John accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour. After his conversion, he began to absorb the Scripture like a sponge. “He reads and remembers God’s Word. He has given his life to Jesus and wants to serve the Kingdom. His restoration is complete,” says Bincy. John is full of gratitude to the Lord and those who loved him. “The Lord has healed me,” John says. “I want to thank Pastor Paul for bringing me to Mercy Home. For the first time in my life, someone cares and loves me. I can now see light and hope for the future.” “Mercy Home has now become his home,”Bincy says. “He has now become a leader, caring for others, and learning new things.”
A Bill known as Marriage Bill 2014 which legalizes polygamous “marriages” between one man and multiple women has been passed into law by the Kenyan Parliament. Under the Bill parties to a marriage have equal rights and obligations at the time of marriage, during the marriage and at the dissolution of the marriage. All marriages registered under the Act would have the same legal status. Although strongly criticized by the nation’s Christian leaders and Kenya’s Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), the new Bill has been hailed by some as a return to traditional African practices, shorn of Western Christian influence.
“In Africa, polygamy is a way of life, and when you’re making a law you must go back to what the society wants,” said Nderitu Njoka, the chairman of Men’s Empowerment and Development in Kenya. Kenyan lawyer Judy Thongori blamed the existing taboo on British colonial laws, which do not account for the practice of many Kenyan ethnic groups, which practice multiple partner” marriage.” Female lawmakers walked out during the proceedings that led to the bill’s passage. The new law does not require that a man get his wife’s approval before taking another wife. Legislators removed a measure to institute a spousal veto.
“I have to say that the proposal to recognize in law the right of men to have as many wives as they like was cowardly and is a backward step for Kenya,” Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Eliud Wabukala said. Archbishop Timothy Ndambuki, from the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK)said, “The tone of that bill is demeaning to women, since it does not respect the principle of equality of spouses in the institution of marriage.” Although the law allows men to take multiple wives who are at least 18, polyamorous “marriages” of one woman to many men are still illegal. So too, are homosexual “marriages”.
SOUTH SUDAN’S TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT TO AID CRISIS
South Sudan has agreed to end fighting and set up a transitional government to resolve the conflict that’s resulted in thousands being killed and more than 1 million people fleeing their homes. In a rare meeting between South Sudanese political rivals, President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar agreed to end the fighting and set up a new transitional government of national unity within the coming 60 days. The talks were mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IAD), chaired by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. The IAD has threatened sanctions if Kiir and Machar fail to abide by the agreement. Previous deals to end the violence have been broken by both sides.
This is the first time South Sudan’s neighbours have issued such a warning, reflecting the region’s frustration. The United States has already imposed sanctions on both sides of the conflict and condemned attacks by the Sudanese government on civilians in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states saying they have been deliberately targeting hospitals and schools. The United Nations has warned of a famine that could affect as many as 4 million people if the situation doesn’t improve. Incidents against Christians include faith-related killings, damaging of properties and forced marriage as well as arrests, deportations and raids on church offices. Muslim converts to Christianity especially suffer maltreatment.
TWELVE YEAR OLD MUM PROOF THAT BRITISH SOCIETY HAS LOST ITS MORAL COMPASS
A 12-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy have become Britain’s youngest parents, in a case described as “symptomatic of a society that has lost its moral compass.” The girl, who has not been named, was primary school-aged when she conceived. She lives with her mother, who has become one of the U.K.’s youngest grandmothers at 27. Speaking on radio, a man claiming to be the girl’s father said while he was “proud” of her, he would not allow the situation to happen again with his other children. The man, named as Greg, said, “It’s not the ideal situation; we will be keeping an eye on things in the future.”
Responding to the story, Director of Family Education Trust Norman Wells said, “children having children is one of the bitter consequences of a highly sexualized society.” He said that a shift in attitudes was needed, and not more sex education, saying teaching the subject at an early age “runs the risk of breaking down children’s natural sense of reserve.” “Unless we begin to challenge the common perception of sexual intimacy as a casual recreational activity, we shall continue to see cases of children giving birth to children.” Wells noted that restraints aimed at curbing underage sexual activity had been removed in recent years. He said: “It is time to reverse these trends and restore the restraints.”