AUSTRALIAN  PRAYER  NETWORK  NEWSLETTER

AT LEAST 200 KILLED IN A WEEK OF TERRORIST VIOLENCE IN NIGERIA

At least 200 people have been killed in the north east of Nigeria in a series of terrorist attacks on rural areas. At least 121 people died and several others were injured when Boko Haram gunmen attacked Izghe Village in Borno State on 15 February.  According to survivors, gunmen dressed in military fatigues and chanting Allahu Akbar (God is great) arrived at the largely Christian community at night in seven pick-up trucks and on motorcycles. They ordered villagers to gather together and then opened fire, chasing and killing any who attempted to escape and slitting the throats of several victims. The gunmen subsequently set fire to houses, looted food stores and stole ten vehicles.  

According to local reports, Boko Haram gunmen carried out attacks on other villages in both Borno and Adamawa States on the same day. While casualty figures from other villages are unknown, a survivor from Yazza informed local media that he counted 25 corpses before he escaped. The assault on Izghe came three days after the Nigerian Air Force began daily aerial bombardments to flush the sect out of its hideouts in the nearby Sambisa Forest on the Cameroonian border. At least nine soldiers and an unknown number of militants died in a fierce and prolonged gun battle that followed the bombardment on 12 February.  

On the evening of 11 February, Boko Haram gunmen launched a 4 hour attack on Konduga in Borno State, destroying around 70% of the town, including homes and schools, and reportedly took hostage 20 young women from a local college. The death toll in the Konduga attack rose to 62 after 4 people died in hospital and 5 bodies were found in the bush. On 13 February, the gunmen reportedly attacked Konduga again, but were repelled by a combined force of soldiers and members of a youth vigilante group. Boko Haram gunmen also launched an attack on Wajirko Village, also in Borno State, killing four people, injuring an estimated six people, and destroying up to 50 homes.

Mervyn Thomas, CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide said, “We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed in these attacks. The efforts of the Nigerian military are to be welcomed, however we echo local calls for a surge in numbers in order to stem the sect’s violent campaign in rural areas, which remain soft targets. Nigeria is a strategic nation, thus it is vital that members of the international community render every possible assistance to enable the country to counter this growing threat to peace and security in the region. It is also urgently important for neighbouring states to assist by reinforcing security on their borders and denying Boko Haram a hiding place.”

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

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SYRIAN PEACE TALKS END WITHOUT A BREAKTHROUGH

While talks ended between government and opposition parties in Geneva without any apparent breakthrough, the UN relief operation in Homs highlights the fact that only a few Christians are choosing to stay in Syria. There are just 28 Christians left in the Old City of Homs. Not one building in Homs’ Old City remains fully intact after 18 months of fighting, but the believers still don’t want to leave because they’re worried their properties will be completely destroyed. Dutch Jesuit priest Frans van derLugt is staying, too. “When I leave, nothing will be left of this building,” he explained from Homs, to Dutch Radio. “And I don’t want to leave the 28 Christians who have remained, alone.”

Van der Lugt went on “But that’s not the only reason. I am here to serve all Syrians. I will always stay because I am here to serve all Syrians.” Van der Lugt has lived in Homs since the early 1970s. Before the conflict, he was working with people with learning disabilities. Because many of them didn’t want to leave the city centre, he stayed with them. Homs, a city between Damascus and Aleppo, was seen as the capital of the Syrian Arab Spring in 2011. Then, the city had 600,000 inhabitants, of which 60,000 were Christians. Due to the conflict, that number dropped to just 66 Christians but last week dozens more agreed to leave the Old City during a tense evacuation process – and now there are only 28 left.

For about a year now, the rebel-held city has been surrounded by government troops. No one had been allowed in or out, and officially no food has been allowed into the city. However, the UN-brokered ceasefire allowed civilians to be evacuated, getting 1,200 people out of the city and food and medicines for around 2,500 into Homs. But, says Van der Lugt, it’s not enough. “They brought pans and cloths the people didn’t need: we need rice, food, that didn’t come in sufficient quantity. There is a huge lack of food. At our breakfast, we eat olives and drink tea. In the afternoon, we make soup with what grows between the stones on the street. In the evening, we just see what we can get.”

PLEASE PRAY:

*  giving thanks for Frans Van der Lugt’s servant heart – pray for his safety and health.

*  for God’s provision for those who remain in Homs, and intense healing in all aspects of the lives of those who have made the decision to leave.

*  there will be another round of Geneva talks that will result in a constructive agreement on a positive strategy for Syria’s future.

Source: Open Doors

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OPEN DOORS RELEASES 2014 WORLD WATCH LIST

For the 12th consecutive year, North Korea is the most difficult place in the world to be a Christian. The country is once again Number 1 on the World Watch List, Open Doors’ annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians live in political prison camps in North Korea, and being caught in possession of a Bible means a lengthy prison sentence or even death. Although the Number 1 country is still a communist nation, overwhelmingly the main engine driving persecution of Christians in 36 of the top 50 countries on the 2014 World Watch List is Islamic extremism, with the most violent region being the states of the African Sahel belt.

The recent ‘Islamist awakening’ in sub-Saharan Africa means that Somalia is positioned at Number 2 – the highest ranking ever for a country in that region. At Number 3 is Syria, where atrocities against the Christian community, perpetrated especially by foreign supported jihadi groups, run at their highest level since the war began. Islamic extremism is also the main factor for persecution  In Iraq, where the north is developing into a more and more dangerous place for Christians. Iraq sits at Number 4 on the World Watch List in 2014. However, the fact “that people have died because they rather die than deny their faith gives me hope: it shows me that Christianity is strong,” says one Iraqi believer.

Afghan Christians continue to face enormous pressure in all spheres of life, which sees Afghanistan at Number 5 on the list. There continues to be no public church in the country, even for expats. It is easy to be overwhelmed when hearing the stories of the 2014 World Watch List, but it’s also important to remember that the 50 countries represent millions of Christians – and each one of these Christians is an individual with their own personal relationship with God, just like you and I.  As Open Doors’ Ron Boyd-MacMillan explains, “The World Watch List is more than a set of numbers – it must also be seen as a human document, reflecting millions of sad and also amazing stories of fear and faith.”

PLEASE PRAY:

*     for the impact of this list as it has been released in the news media, through churches and many other avenues, that it will raise the issue of persecuted Christians around the world

*     that as the 2014 World Watch List is presented to International Leaders that action may be taken by them on behalf of persecuted Christians

*     for protection, encouragement and peace for all Christians represented by the figures in the 2014 World Watch List.

Source: Open Doors

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WORLD DAY OF PRAYER 2014

Friday 7 March has been designated a World Day of Prayer with the focus for prayer being on the women of Egypt. For Australians wishing to participate in the World Day of Prayer a website has been established at http://www.worlddayofprayeraustralia.org/   If you click on the menu item “Find Your Local Service” at the top of the home page, a list of services being held across Australia will be accessible. Those wishing to attend one of the services are welcome to do so.

In a message from Egypt a representative of the World Day of Prayer in that country wrote “We are deeply thankful to God who, through the Interim Government, has “turned the tide” in Egypt’s favour. We thank Him for putting us on the right track towards true democracy. We pray for continued guidance to our Interim Government in their preparations for upcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections. May only those who really care for Egypt be elected, whether to Parliament or to the Presidency. And may they all be guided by God’s own wisdom in whatever decisions are taken.”

In today’s Egypt, educational opportunities, as well as all the professions, all cultural pursuits, and artistic activities are open to women. The new Constitution also ensures that women have a say in political life. During the reign of Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood, all these liberties were in grave danger. Their notion of a woman’s role was to confine her to household chores and the bringing up of children. Women could not be involved in any of the professions and girls not allowed to go on to higher education, but married off at the age of 12 or 13! We praise the Lord that none of these restrictions now holds, thanks to the combined efforts of enlightened contemporary Egyptian women.

“The Muslim Brotherhood also tried to control every aspect of life including the Trade Unions. Devastating attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood on Churches and Christian properties, were designed to create a civil war between Christians and Muslims! Not only was this intention thwarted by the forgiving spirit of the Church, but also the effect was the exact opposite. Instead of causing a civil war, it has brought Muslims and Christians much closer together than ever before!  Our Message to all groups around the globe celebrating World Day of Prayer on March 7 is that they will help all true seekers first to find the Lord, and then to be His ambassadors to others, even as the Samaritan woman did.”

Source: World Day of Prayer Australia

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MUSLIM BABY BOOM FOR BRITAIN

Almost 10% of babies and toddlers in England and Wales are Muslim, a breakdown of census figures shows.  The percentage of Muslims among the under-fives is almost twice as high as in the general population. Fewer than one in 200 over-85s are Muslim, showing the extent to which birthrate is changing Britain’s religious demographic. One expert said it was foreseeable that Muslims who worshipped would outnumber practising Christians. “It’s not inconceivable,” said David Voas, professor of population studies at the University of Essex. A breakdown of Britain’s religions and age groups was produced by the Office for National Statistics.

The figures were extracted from data collected for the 2011 census. They show there were 3.5 million children aged 0-4, of whom 320,000 were Muslim. That proportion is more than 9 per cent and compares with a total Muslim population among all age groups of less than 5 per cent. “It certainly is a startling figure,” said David Coleman, professor of demography at Oxford.”We have had substantial immigration of Muslims for a long time … There seem to be very low levels of falling away from religion among Muslims.” Christians remain the largest religious group among those aged 0-4, at 1.5million, or 43 per cent. Professor Voas said he saw no prospect of Muslims becoming a majority in Britain.

Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the large number of young Muslim children reflected the confidence that Muslims had in the country, encouraging them to bring up families here. “I just wouldn’t want our fellow citizens to be alarmed by an increase in numbers,” he said. “This generation is very much British. They feel very much this is their home.” Danny Lockwood, publisher of The Press in Batley, West Yorkshire, said that the fast-growing young Muslim population in Kirklees borough had led to old pubs, hospitals, houses and public buildings being turned into Muslim private schools, mosques and a sharia court to satisfy rising demand from families.

Source: The Times

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MORE KILLED FOR THEIR FAITH IN SYRIA IN 2013 THAN IN THE WHOLE WORLD DURING 2012

The civil war in Syria has been especially deadly for the country’s dwindling Christian population. Nearly twice as many Christians died for their faith in the past year than in 2012, according to Open Doors International. Open Doors, a charity that supports Christians under pressure for their faith, said 2,123 Christians were reported to have been killed during the 12 months ending Oct. 31, 2012. That compares to 1,201 during the previous 12 months. During the most recent period, more Christians were killed in Syria alone than were killed globally in the previous year. The Open Doors World Watch List, emphasises that this is the “very minimum” count – only those who have been documented as killed.

Estimates of the total number killed range from around 7,000 or 8,000, according to the International Institute for Religious Freedom’s Thomas Schirrmacher, to the lofty 100,000 estimate of the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity. Beyond those killed, the World Watch List recommends that three more categories, Christians whose death is never reported; Christians killed due to increased vulnerability, such as those in conflict areas; and Christians who die due to long-term discrimination should be considered. Taking these into account, the figure may be higher still, however the precise number of Christians who die due to these factors is very difficult to quantify.

Not surprisingly, Syria heads the list of the countries in which the most Christians were killed for their faith (1,213), followed by Nigeria (612), Pakistan (88) and Egypt (83). Of the top 10, six are in Africa, Kenya, Angola, Niger, the Central African Republic and Nigeria and Egypt . The World Watch List states that the number of Christians killed in the Central African Republic is especially likely to have been under-reported because “most analysts still failed to recognise the religious dimension of the conflict”. Considering only the sum of violent incidents recorded, Egypt (167) tops the list, followed by India (125) and Nigeria (118).

Source: World Watch Monitor

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SEVENTY PERCENT OF TEENS GAVE FALSE ANSWERS ON SAME-GENDER POLL

Questions are being raised about the validity of research on teenagers with same-sex attractions after a researcher found that more than 70% of teens who said they had a same-sex “romantic attraction” later told researchers that they were unreservedly heterosexual. The study, analysed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, also known as Add Health, which conducted four surveys on teens as they matured into adulthood from 1994 to 2008.  Ritch Savin-Williams, director of Cornell’s Sex and Gender Lab, said that some “inconsistent” data may have been caused by confusion over the questions which could have led some teens to incorrectly say they were homosexuals.

But Savin-Williams highlighted “mischievous adolescents who played a ‘joker’ role”. “We argue that researchers who base their investigations on reports of romantic attractions of adolescent participants from the 1st survey must account for their disappearance in future surveys” Savin-Williams wrote in his study. He said that survey questions about “romantic attraction” might have confused the teens, especially since the Add Health survey did not define what the term meant. He also noted the role of “joker” replies, citing hundreds of survey responses from teens who said they had an artificial arm, hand, leg, or foot, which subsequently proved to be false when the teens were interviewed at home.

Source: Breaking Christian News