AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER

CHRISTIANS CALL ON THE WORLD FOR PRAYER SUPPORT FOR UKRAINE

Dear friends around the world:

The world is divided on how to assess developments in Ukraine. We are being asked to choose sides, but doing so means rejecting people of good will on the other side of the barricades. At a time like this, we remember the words of Job: “The Almighty is exalted in power, in justice and righteousness, he does not oppress.” God humbled Himself and accepted His death at the hands of those whom He had created. He accused no one, condemned no one, and did not label people as “friends” or “enemies”. And God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He equally accepts those from both within Ukraine and beyond. He accepts them all as his children.

Let us not claim that God is on our side and against the others! God is above and beyond our pet preferences and loyalties. In the political sphere, God is not for one side or the other. We want to demonstrate our love – and God’s love – for those on all sides. We are teetering on the brink of a disaster, remaining unharmed thanks solely to the grace of the Almighty. All the hosts of advisors, analysts, political forecasters and intelligence services cannot offer an objective overview of all that is transpiring. Jesus Christ is our Lord and supporter, independent of that which occurs. He is in control of all that is developing in Ukraine, Russia and the entire world. It all happens “according to his will” or plan.

On earth, he chose the path of humility and patience. He loved and prayed for his adversaries. Peter wrote “The Lord has taught us not to fear others, nor pain, violence and deception. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; nor be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to those who ask you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, and a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against you may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

No historical events can overcome the love of God. Nothing can change what the Lord did for us more than 2,000 years ago: Each of us needs forgiveness from the Lord, and for that we must come to terms with forgiving our enemies. That is the only way Christ offers us to find peace. Being able to forgive for Christ’s sake means more than death for the cause, more than a treaty with Western Europe, more than a discount on Russian gas. It means more than billions of dollars from Russia or Europe.” Our calling as Christians is to demonstrate the love of Christ and His forgiveness, and his solution to the current situation will be better than anything we could have devised through our own efforts!

Please pray:

*  that we might not become the sons and daughters of violence, nor become guilty of dishonesty, disobedience or insurrection, but that all might be done for Christ and His glory.

*  that all which occurs in politics, economics and otherwise not take over our lives for we must dedicate our time to the most important task of all: preaching the Gospel and praying for the redemption of the lost.

*  for the two fraternal nations of Russia and Ukraine and for peaceful resolution of the current situation. Pray for understanding among the political and religious leaders of our two countries as well as the entire world community. May God preserve and protect us all.

Signed by Rev. Vitaly Vlasenko, Director of External Church Relations

Source: Letter from Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists

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CHRISTIAN YOUTH IN IRAQ FACE A TOUGH WORLD

“It’s a tough world out there,” is an understatement for Iraq’s Christian youth. Increasing violence places Iraq in the #4 slot of the Open Doors USA World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where persecution is the most severe. Islamic terrorist groups are increasing in number. According to an Open Doors source, a Christian is killed, kidnapped, or abused every two or three days in Iraq. Raja* is a young Iraqi believer living about an hour away from Mosul. She recently shared her story with Open Doors. “Being a Christian girl in Iraq makes me very vulnerable. Many young Christian women in Iraq get harassed, and I don’t want to be the next victim,” Raja says.

Heavily influenced by Islamic law, Iraq’s society places great significance on the covering of women’s faces and bodies. Those who aren’t covered stick out like a sore thumb. “I always have the feeling that people are looking at me because I’m not wearing the covered clothes like the Muslims, so I always try not to provoke,” says Raja. “When they told us to veil at the university, I did. “Recently, female students that didn’t veil themselves had acid thrown in their face.” Malik, a believer who attends college in Mosul, shares similar hardships. “Where is the safety?” he asks. “Where are those who should protect us?” Raja and Malik are among the few college-age youth in Iraq able to attend university.

Conflict has severely limited employment and education opportunities for Iraq’s next generation. These limitations are making terrorist activity an increasingly attractive and viable option. In 2009, U.S. Homeland Security released a report profiling the recruitment and radicalization of young people by terrorist groups. It describes “increasing evidence” pointing to the recruitment by terrorist groups of school-aged youth, or those between the ages of 5 and 22. At least 23 of the world’s 42 terrorist groups utilize young people in some capacity, and many prey on young people in vulnerable contexts. The groups offer incentives ranging from financial assistance to a sense of belonging.

Pray for Christian young people whose peers are among the terrorist ranks. Pray for those who see loved ones die at the hands of radicals. “I sometimes think of the priest who baptized me; he was kidnapped and killed just before we fled to this place,” shares Raja. “The extremists did horrible things to him because he didn’t deny Jesus.” Raja says the priest’s death greatly influenced her faith life. At first, Raja thought she’d be too afraid to proclaim Christ as the Lord of her life. “But with the thought of the sacrifice of our priest in the back of my head, I started realizing that I never want to deny my faith,” says Raja. “The pain of death only lasts a minute.  After that, I will be with my Saviour forever.”

Source: Open Doors

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CRISIS IN UKRAINE DRIVES PEOPLE TO CHRIST

Ukraine is a powder keg ready to explode. Russia is keeping a tight grip on Crimea, and pro-Russia protests are spreading throughout Ukraine’s eastern and southern cities. But there’s good news: the crisis in Ukraine is driving people to Christ. “During this difficult time, my radio program is going on, and people are very, very hungry, especially now,” says Slavik Radchuk, a Ukrainian missionary supported by Christian Aid Mission, which links to indigenous missions. “People are still coming to Christ like never before, in all churches.” Christian Aid supports a total of six ministries in Ukraine. Their leaders are telling Radchuk that people are desperate for hope.“

From Crimea, we have reports that former Muslims or Muslims are coming to our churches and saying, ‘Can we pray together to God?’” says Radchuk. They don’t want to die without hope, he adds. “This is a very difficult time for us, and all people stay together now and pray to God for peace.” Over the weekend, thousands of people gathered at a Christian Aid-supported church in Crimea and prayed through Monday morning.“Missionaries said more than 2,000 people came to one particular Church and stayed,” Radchuk shares. “All night they prayed because it was a very difficult time in Crimea.”

Radchuk’s radio program is transmitted from Kiev to an area encompassing 100 million people in Ukraine, Moldova, Belorussia, western Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, and many other countries. It is broadcast three times a week. “My message is simple,” Radchuk said. “I don’t promote a certain church or denomination. I preach the message of salvation, deliverance, of healing broken hearts and families. I just invite people to read the Bible and follow Jesus.” “Our neighbours come over to our house when your programs are on the air because they do not have a radio at their house,” writes a listener from Kbmelnitskiy. “After your programs, we pray together.”

Radchuk says literally thousands of Ukrainians are gathering together to pray for their nation. “We pray for protection, because war can start any day,” he said. “We don’t want to have a fight with our Russian brothers, and we want to have peace. Please pray for peace in Ukraine.” The European Union is implementing sanctions on Russia for their involvement in Ukraine’s crisis. Pray that their action will not invoke further violence. “I want to give a big thanks for all Christian people around the world who pray and intercede for our nation in this very, very critical time,” says Rudchuk.

Source: Mission Network News

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NORTH KOREA ORDERS EXECUTION OF 33 CHRISTIANS WORKING WITH BAPTIST MISSIONARY

North Korea tyrant Kim Jong Un has reportedly ordered that 33 Christians believed to be working alongside South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook be put to death. The South Korean missionary—who was arrested last year—and his accomplices have allegedly started 500 or so underground churches. The South Korean press has reported that Mr. Kim has charged that the 33 are attempting to overthrow the government — the same accusation that led to the execution of the North Korean leader’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and all Mr. Jang’s relatives. Kim Jung-wook fronted a North Korean press conference recently to ‘confess’ to anti-state crimes and plead for mercy.

For 7 years, he has been providing food, clothing and sanctuary to North Korean refugees in the Chinese border city of Dandong. Kim was arrested after crossing into North Korea, although a source in China said that Kim was kidnapped by North Korean agents in Dandong. In the press conference, Kim also confessed to receiving funding from South Korea’s intelligence agency. There is no word yet as to what punishment he will face. Dozens’ of people are believed to have been detained, accused of assisting Kim. South Korean news agencies report that 33 of the accused have been sentenced to death. It is reported they will be executed in a secret cell at the State Security Department.

The 33 are probably significant Christians who may or may not have ever been in contact with Kim but whose ministry is deemed an existential threat to the regime. This will be a terrible and traumatising blow to North Korea’s remnant Church. The regime’s main concern is managing the challenges posed by new communication technologies. In response to pressure, the regime is ramping up repression and stoking fear. Security has been doubled, making it more difficult for North Koreans to travel around the country. Security agents have new signal detectors, enabling them to intercept mobile phone signals in real time. Now people using cell phones smuggled in from China can be arrested within minutes.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL —

* spare the lives of the 33 who are to be executed. However, if that is not to be, then sustain and comfort them so that instead of being overwhelmed with fear, they will know ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding’ as God himself encompasses them.

* comfort and encourage the North Korean remnant Church.

* take this evil event of the executions and use it for His glory to effect the exact opposite of the regime’s intent. May the news of these executions spread through all the country, establishing not terror, but the link between Christianity and freedom. May interest in the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ and in God’s power and grace to spring up all across the nation.

Source: The Washington Times

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BUDDHIST NATIONALISTS ATTACK CHURCHES IN SRI LANKA

There has been considerable unrest in recent months in the South of Sri Lanka with a Buddhist nationalist group ‘Hela Bodu Pawura’ involved in attacks upon Christian Churches. Whilst the Churches had been promised police protection, instead of standing their ground against the Buddhist aggressors, the police struggled briefly before melting away. In several attacks Christians had to run for their lives as the Buddhist protesters broke down gates and invaded Church property. They shattered windows, smashed furniture and burnt Bibles and other materials.  Hela Bodu Pawura falsely maintains the two churches are operating illegally, however both churches are registered and fully legal.

Doubtless fanning the flames of Buddhist nationalist zeal is the fact that in September 2013, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won 30 of 38 seats in the Northern Provincial Council elections. This sent a loud message to Colombo that the North is still wanting autonomy. The TNA, which maintains ties to the separatist rebel army LTTE, is lobbying to have the constitution’s 13th Amendment fully implemented. This amendment enables decentralisation by establishing provincial councils, which the Buddhist nationalists vehemently oppose. The more conciliatory Tamil parties are talking about forming an alliance to create a viable opposition and alternative to the TNA.

Writing in the Colombo Gazette, Dharisha Bastians blames the escalating violence on the pervasive Buddhist nationalist hate speech ‘which has coloured the teachings and the discourse in every Buddhist temple, from the smallest villages to the largest towns across the island’. She also blames impunity and the silence of political leaders who are unwilling to confront the monks for fear of alienating their Buddhist constituents. Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of the United National Party’s Leadership Council, is an exception. He slammed the monks, pointing out that the majority of Sri Lanka’s Buddhists are moderate, peace-loving citizens who are repulsed by this spate of violence against religious minorities.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL —

* enlighten influential Sri Lankan men and women to the threat posed by militant religious nationalism which promotes hate, fuels intolerance and incites violence; may more Sri Lankans raise their voice against violence, communalism, repression and persecution.

* embolden the Courts to set a new precedent by ending impunity, delivering justice and condemning violence as criminal and dangerous, unacceptable and intolerable. 

* continue to bless and build his Church in Sri Lanka, raising up more pastors and evangelists, and pouring out his Spirit generously on both the Christian Sinhalese and Tamil communities alike so they might be able to live as one in Christ Jesus.

Source: Religious Liberty Monitoring

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IRAN BEGINS NATIONAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH SHUTDOWN

According to Michael Wood of Open Doors USA, a nationwide church shutdown is underway in Iran. “It’s basically illegal to even go to a church,” Wood explains. “Those that have been going — the government has their names, their addresses; they’re really being scrutinized and followed.” Believers began meeting in houses instead, but even then they weren’t safe. “Anything that draws large crowds to a home brings attention and investigation,” says Wood. “I know of one church leader who is encouraging his people to … just go out and have coffee or something, and that’s their church. They share what God’s doing in their lives one on one.”

Wood says the situation has gotten increasingly difficult for believers since the last presidential election. More people are coming to Christ, he says, which results in resistance from Iran’s Islamic government. Shortly after Christmas, Farsi-speaking members of a major church in Tehran were told they can no longer attend service. Farsi is Iran’s official language, and the majority of this church’s congregation are Farsi-speakers.“The government thought that would inhibit people from wanting to come, but it did the opposite: More people were trying to attend a worship service,” Wood explains. When government officials became aware of this reaction, they ordered a nationwide church shutdown.

Iran’s Shiite-led government views Christianity as a threat, and any Muslim who becomes a follower of Jesus faces the death penalty. And yet, “Under the persecution that’s going on, you see a growing church,” Wood says. A knee-jerk reaction to this story might be to pray for persecution in Iran to stop. However, as Wood points out, “The only way that you’re going to stop persecution is to stop sharing your faith in Jesus Christ.” Instead, ask the Lord to protect Iranian believers. Pray for perseverance and strength for believers who are tortured in prison for their faith. Pray that more Muslims will discover the truth of the gospel.

Source: Open Doors

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