NEARLY 200,000 DISPLACED IN PHILIPPINES AS MUSLIM EXTREMISTS ATTACK
The Philippines has started working with Indonesia and Malaysia to prevent funds and weapons destined for extremist groups from crossing their borders. The trio of countries has also launched naval patrols to stem any influx of radical Muslim groups. While these Asian nations have a history of ignoring the threat of Muslim extremists whose aim is to establish a caliphate, the recent violence has grabbed international attention and threatened national stability. Christian Aid Mission’s Steve Van Valkenburg reflects, “I think too that it’s getting the government of the Philippines to think more clearly about what they’re facing and what they need to be doing and what’s going to be involved with dealing with the more radical elements within Islam.”
Ministry partners in the Philippines with Christian Aid Mission have been impacted by the violence. They will often send Filipino Christians as evangelists into Muslim-majority communities. But with the extremist attacks taking place, these local Christians now face extra scrutiny and could even become targets. Some of the workers have left; others are laying low or being protected by Muslim neighbours. Van Valkenburg says it’s also affected their ministry partners’ ability to travel. “There are supposed to be some 12 people coming in to become new evangelism workers with Muslims, but because they have to go through that area of Marawi, they’re stranded now and they can’t get out to go to the training.” According to local news outlets, nearly 200,000 people have been displaced due to the ongoing chaos in Mindanao.
Van Valkenburg says they have Filipino ministry partners on the ground giving aid to the displaced families, many of whom are Muslim. “One interesting timing aspect is that this occurred during Ramadan, and they basically were helping people come off Ramadan fasting and often it’s like just apples and clothing, rice, soap, those kinds of things, meeting medical needs. But it’s not really convenient for these people fasting for Ramadan and then having this happen.” Some of the internally displaced people (IDPs) have family elsewhere in the Philippines they can go and stay with. Often, they’ll divide the household space with a curtain to provide privacy. But with several families in one house, it’s close quarters and they can’t always afford the extra mouths to food. Many families hosting IDP relatives have run out of money.
That’s where the local churches are coming in as the hands and feet of Christ with this aid. And now they’re seeing that Christians and churches even from farther regions of the Philippines have been sending support to help these churches around Mindanao in their outreach. “Their long-term goal would be that when things settle down again, that the people of Marawi City know there are Christians there who care for them and have shared with them the Gospel, and that they would have a new foothold within the city once things settle down.” One thing is for sure: this societal upset isn’t going away anytime soon, which is why your prayers are vitally important. “Pray for the Christians there to know how best to help these people so they can emotionally deal with what they’re facing and then help them to come around to asking eternal questions.”
Gunmen have ambushed an Egyptian security checkpoint, opening fire on a car and killing five policemen in an area just south of the capital. Three gunmen on a motorbike attacked police in al-Badrasheen area of Giza province, 30 km (20 miles) south of Cairo, killing two officers and three conscripts in the latest attack on Egyptian security forces battling an Islamist insurgency. “A police officer who was near the site of the attack exchanged fire with the assailants forcing them to flee,” a Government statement said. Witnesses said attackers blasted the vehicle with automatic rifles then took equipment and threw petrol bombs inside the car before fleeing. Residents extinguished the fire. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but Egyptian security forces have been battling the local affiliate of Islamic State in the northern Sinai area and attacks have spread to other parts of Egypt.
Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed since 2013 in the Sinai Peninsula. At least 23 soldiers were killed last week when suicide car bombs hit two checkpoints in the region in an attack claimed by Islamic State. It was one of the bloodiest assaults on security forces in years. Islamic State has also intensified attacks in other areas, often targeting Coptic Christians. About 100 Copts have been killed since December. In May gunmen assaulted a group of Copts in a bus traveling to a monastery, killing 29 people and two bombings of churches killed more than 40 people a month earlier. Security has told all 3 major church denominational groups including the Coptic church, to close all their conference centres until August 15th.
No big gatherings or large meetings are allowed. A Christian spokesman said “This is not a good development and has never happened before. We ask that our brothers and sisters around the world pray for the church in Egypt not to become fearful”. He said that fear is shaping the responses of the security forces and others. “Security is telling church leaders they can’t secure buses to travel to conferences nor can they gather outside churches. We have had to cancel conferences already. One centre had to send hundreds back home after closing a week-long conference that had just started. This is going to have a huge impact, especially on income, as well as cause much panic amongst the people. The Church has no control over what happens next. We are in the hands of Government and the Security forces” the spokesman said.
Editor’s note: The CityHarvest/Australian Prayer Network annual Pastors Conference in Egypt is due to be held in September. The terrorist threat and the resultant security closure of Church Conference Centres and religious activities threatens that event. We would value your prayers for the situation to be resolved before then so that the Conference can go ahead as planned.
DEMOCRACY IN TURKEY IN JEOPARDY ONE YEAR ON FROM FAILED COUP
On 15 July Turkey commemorated its one-year anniversary of the failed coup to oust President Erdoğan. Marches and speeches extolled the 250 “martyrs” who died in the attempt, and Erdogan vowed “to decapitate the traitors.” The declared state of emergency remains in place. A referendum vote in April on a constitutional amendment barely won, but it gave Erdogan sweeping powers. The resulting purges have resulted in massive arrests. The Minister of Justice just announced 169,013 people have faced legal proceedings related to the coup attempt, and 50,510 are currently under arrest. Erdogan pledged to be tough on the alleged coup plotters, vowing that they would wear single coloured uniforms during court hearings, “just like in Guantanamo.”
The most recently issued warrants for arrest are for 105 tech experts. Education has been hard hit with the dismissal of many academics. Some have accused Erdogan of a brain drain. Presently jailed are more than 150 journalists and 2,423 judiciary members. The aim is to rid the country of any and all independent thinkers who threaten Erdogan’s goal of establishing a dictatorship and an Islamic state. Very few of those arrested have been brought to trial. One Friday a presidential decree announced a dismissal of 7,348 public-sector workers who are barred from leaving the country. Can democracy and freedom of religion survive in this NATO country?
Please pray for:
* the fear of the Lord to come upon President Erdogan and his supporters. One of the signs of a country in decline is locking up the journalists, judges, professionals, and those who speak truth to those in power.
* freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of expression to survive in this state of repression presently existing in Turkey. Pray for Turkish Christian Believers to intervene through prayer around the clock for their country, which is the cradle of Christianity.
* the international community to get involved and justice to prevail in the trials of those who are in jail on trumped-up charges. Pray that the Lord would deliver them. .
CALIFORNIA BANS GOVERNMENT TRAVEL TO STATES THAT PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The state of California has ordered a travel ban for its government employees to states that have adopted laws to protect religious freedom. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a pro-abortion Democrat, has unilaterally prohibited all state-sanctioned trips to Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota, and Texas because those states have passed legislation allowing those who uphold natural marriage and biological gender to live by their sincerely-held beliefs. Becerra’s actions are designed to pressure target states to abandon religious freedom laws protecting Christians who oppose sodomy and/or disagree with gender theory. The latest four additions bring California’s “No Visiting List” to eight states in the lower 48, or eight percent of the country.
Becerra noted his reasons for adding the four states:
* Alabama enacted a law in May that allows Christian adoption agencies to follow their faith’s moral criteria for placing children in homes. Their faith-based criteria prioritize placing children in healthy, stable families with a mother and a father.
* Kentucky enacted a law in March that recognizes the right of student-led Christian organizations in public schools to adhere to their faith’s “doctrines and principles,” and which prohibits administrators from punishing students for expressing religious beliefs.
* South Dakota law protects Christian adoption and child placement agencies that seek to place children in traditional families.
* A similar Texas law enacted in June allows Christian child welfare agencies to be protected from lawsuits if they place children according to their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” It also allows faith-based organizations to deny referrals for abortion drugs or devices.
“I am adding four states to the list of states where California-funded or sponsored travel will be restricted on account of the discriminatory nature of laws enacted by those states,” Becerra decreed in a press release. “When California said we would not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ members of our community, we meant it.” Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee are already verboten. Travel is forbidden for public universities as well, which means college sports team may not play teams in prohibited states unless the game was already scheduled and contracted before January 1. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey explained that the bill Becerra objects to simply affords First Amendment freedoms to religious organizations. “This bill is not about discrimination but instead protects the ability of religious agencies to place vulnerable children in a permanent home,” she said.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION UNVEILS WORST HUMAN TRAFFICKING OFFENDERS
First daughter Ivanka Trump has joined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to unveil the State Department’s annual report on human trafficking, which is being released amid disputes over its listing of countries where child soldiers can be found. Topping the list is the country of China, which is ranked among the worst human trafficking offenders, joining countries like Russia, Syria and Iran. Tillerson told members of the media, “It is our hope that the 21st century will be the last century of human trafficking, and that’s what we are all committed to.” “Regrettably, our challenge is enormous,” Tillerson added. “Human trafficking is becoming more nuanced and more difficult to identify. Much of these activities are going underground, and they’re going online.”
Ivanka Trump, who serves as a White House adviser, also spoke at the report’s launch, emphasizing that combating human trafficking is a “major foreign policy priority of the Trump administration. As a mother, this is much more than a policy priority,” she said. “It is a clarion call into action in defence of the vulnerable and the exploited.” The congressionally mandated report has been used as a diplomatic tool since its inception in 2000.
SWEDISH CHRISTIAN SCHOOL STUDENTS BANNED FROM PRAYING OVER MEALS
A Christian preschool in Sweden has been prohibited from saying grace during mealtimes and teaching Bible lessons. The preschool was told that guiding children in prayer before meals and doing snack times accompanied by Bible lessons violated Sweden’s Education Act which prohibits schools from incorporating these elements into class time and also ensures that children are able to opt out of religious activities. The preschool, run by the Salvation Army, was accused of not giving students a choice of whether or not they wanted to pray before meals and engage in other religious activities. The Kindergarten’s manager, Britt Martensson, acknowledged that Sweden’s Education Act “can be interpreted in different ways,” and that the school did not believe saying grace before meals would be considered part of the students’ education. “We knew we could no longer have prayer time while children are at their desks where they learn, so we thought we would add grace as a nice feature during mealtimes. We interpreted the law differently from the municipality” Martensson said.