AS RETAKE OF MOSUL LOOMS MUSLIM EXTREMISM EMPTIES IRAQ OF CHRISTIANS
Iraq’s Army recently began its offensive to retake the northern city of Mosul from the “Islamic State” (IS). Though Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi promised to resurrect the Iraqi flag over the city, not many Christians are hopeful of regaining their lost homes, in what once was an episcopal seat of the Assyrian Church of the East. In Iraq as a whole, the Christian presence has been rapidly declining in recent decades. In the early 1990s, one and a half million Christians reportedly lived in the country. Today, at most 250,000 are thought to still be living there. Half of the remaining Christians are displaced within Iraq. One of those displaced is Amer (not real name), a middle-aged man, who was ousted from Mosul. The city, now awaiting “liberation”, was where Amer was born and raised.
It is where he knew every street and alley. Being a Christian, however, his presence was unacceptable to most extremist Muslims in the city. While it was in 2014 that IS managed to seize power and fully act out its beliefs, Amer had seen his city change long before. In his early youth, the atmosphere was less tense. Music, for example, was more accepted and Amer enjoyed his time as part of a wedding band. But as time passed, the atmosphere in the city became grimmer. “It wasn’t the buildings that changed, nothing you could see,” recalls Amer. “What changed was people’s hearts.” It’s hard to say what caused the growth of sympathy for extremist Muslim views. But the effect on Christians was clear. “We were seen as strangers, people that didn’t belong in Mosul and needed to convert,” Amer explains.
Over the years, several Christians, including church leaders, were kidnapped, and some killed. “Around me I heard Christians being threatened to convert or leave Mosul,” Amer recalls. The pressure kept growing until, in the end, the extremists even prevented Christians from selling their houses. What changed was what was in people’s hearts. No exact figure documents how many Christians left Mosul during those years, but in the 10 years before the city fell to IS, an estimated half a million Christians fled Iraq. Others fled to safer regions in the country, such as the Kurdish region. A large number of those refugees and displaced people came from Mosul and the surrounding area. Still, Amer decided to stay in the city. He had married and had four children, two boys and two girls.
Although the music business was under a lot of pressure, due to violence and Muslim extremism, he had opened a little shop, where he restored pianos and other instruments – for those who still used them. But in June 2014, while Amer’s wife and children were away for the summer, the pressure on Christians came to a climax. IS took control of Mosul, leaving little space for Christians to exist. “My shop was in a dangerous area, so I decided to take all I needed to my home and work from there,” he says. While Amer’s house was marked with an “N” for “Nasrani”, or “Christian”, he kept a low profile, staying inside most of the time, working on some repairs. He had hoped that would be enough to keep him safe, but it wasn’t.
On every mosque, Islamic State fighters put up advertisements, re-establishing very strict Islamic rules, calling Christians to convert, pay a high tax (the jizya) as a mark of submission, or prepare to be killed. Paying the tax wasn’t a serious option. Eventually, it’s convert or die. “I don’t believe in Islam and I would never say I do. I am a Christian and I’d rather leave my home than lie about my faith,” Amer says. Amer couldn’t take much. His official documents, some money and his mobile phone – that was it. “I was afraid but it was a huge relief that my family was already out and safe” he says. Having been informed that the IS fighters at checkpoints had become crueller by the day, he decided to take a risk and take a bumpy, dusty side road, a road leading around a checkpoint.
How he did it, he can’t tell us, but somehow Amer managed to reach Doak in Iraq’s Kurdistan, without passing the checkpoint. This was just as well, he says, because if he would have passed the checkpoint, his last miles would probably have been on foot, as he would probably have been robbed of everything he still had, including his car. “I heard from my friends that this was what they did to the Christians – make them walk in the burning hot sun towards the next city,” he says. Re-united with his family, Amer lives with his father-in-law, who fled Mosul a few years before. Amer’s situation is better than many others who had to flee; even though they share one room with the extended family, they have never had to live in a tent or a porta cabin like most of those displaced.
“Because I left Mosul, all I owned fell to IS. My house, my furniture and even my shop. I heard they used my house as some kind of a motel. Each time new families came and went,” he says. IS members sat on Amer’s couch, ate from his plates and slept in his bed. Meanwhile, he was trying to find a way to provide for his family in displacement. Despite losing most material things he owned, Amer still hadn’t lost his passion for music. “I found a little shop in my new city and restarted my music business with the help of a charity loan,” he says. Soon, the local community brought in their instruments to sell and repair. But being in Dohuk is only a short-term solution. With a growing economic crisis, he sees the income of his shop rapidly decreasing. What about the future?
“It is difficult to find light in the darkness. Migration is the only light. For me freedom and democracy is living in peace with all,” Amer says. “Unfortunately, there are people in our country who don’t understand this. They think democracy means throwing out all those who are different.” And they might succeed. Tragic as it is, the story of Amer is no exception. His situation is that of some 100,000 Christians in Iraq, who have been displaced since 2014, in addition to 45,000 other Christians who fled before because of threats, who still live in displacement in their own country. Five to seven families per day are leaving Iraq. A quickly shrinking church, traumatised by years of war and persecution, remains. They describe their future in Iraq as “bleak”, but say they “continue to keep their hope in God”.
NATIVE AMERICANS PERFORM SIGNIFICANT PROPHETIC ACT IN WASHINGTON
Some prophetic voices believe that the United States shifted, spiritually on October 21st, 2016, in what may go down as one of the most important days in American history. Largely unnoticed, 1,000 Native American Indian tribes from the United States and Canada collectively forgave the U.S. government for breaking treaties with their ancestors during a public ceremony on the National Mall. The National Day of Prayer for First Nations, held near the Washington Monument, included intercessory petitions, proclamations and declarations of forgiveness by leaders from All Tribes DC, a fellowship of Christians representing 1,000 American Indians from the U.S. and Canada. A full-blood Euchee Indian, Negiel Bigpond coordinated the first ever national prayer gathering of Native Americans in Washington.
Like the annual May observance of the National Day of Prayer, First Nations intercessors will convene again in 2017 during the third week of October. Dr. Billy Graham, whose son and daughter have served on the National Day of Prayer Task Force, is one prophetic voice who believes that forgiveness by Native Americans might be part of a spiritual awakening within the nation. “The Native American has been a sleeping giant,” Graham writes. “He is awakening. The original Americans could become the evangelists who will help win America for Christ. Remember the forgotten people.” Bigpond agrees that Native Americans have taken a good first step toward aiding national awakening by extending forgiveness to the nation. “We chose to forgive the U.S. whether it asked for it or not,” said Bigpond.
Bigpond is a fourth-generation pastor. He offered forgiveness and spoke blessings over the nation alongside other tribal prayer warriors. Bigpond, who has evangelized on 143 reservations, believes the U.S. has suffered spiritual consequences for breaking treaties with Native Americans. In Scripture, breaking a vow or treaty brings a curse on the land, and the U.S. government broke every treaty it made with the Native American tribes, according to Rick Joyner, who called the prayer event “one of the most important in the nation’s history” from his ministry headquarters in North and South Carolina. This is very real,” Joyner said. “National injustices are a major issue we’re facing now whether we want to or not, and this is a big one.”
The nation’s crises parallel conditions on the reservations, said Bigpond, a certified drug and alcohol abuse counsellor. “We don’t want the nation or our people to suffer further,” Bigpond, who holds a doctorate in divinity and is a Euchee tribe chief, said. Mary Faus, who represented the Ojibwa and Cree tribes at the prayer event, said the unity and power of forgiving a nation that’s never apologized or asked for it was amazing. “We believe this has shifted the nation and we are already feeling the effects of what was accomplished in DC,” said Faus, who is the director of a house of prayer in Pennsylvania and lead intercessor with husband Jon at Hope of Nations Christian Centre. Joyner agrees that forgiveness and love are major weapons in waging spiritual warfare on behalf of the nation.
Joyner said. “Very few may even know that anything special happened. “Some of the greatest things happen that way,” Joyner said. A proclamation posted on the All Tribes DC website was read by tribal leaders gathered on the National Mall. The proclamation reads in part, “We forgive every atrocity and broken covenant designed to destroy us as a race of people. We break every curse, and renounce every lie, purposed to decimate us as human beings. “We forgive the government, the Church, and the educational system for the use of residential schools that attempted to destroy our culture and silence our voice by stealing our language. We stand in the gap for those who are unable or unwilling to forgive, and call upon God, to forgive us for harbouring unforgiveness, resentment, hatred, bitterness and rage.
“We repent of every curse spoken over America by our ancestors and we release the power of forgiveness to bring healing and the peace of God to this land. “We declare that our voice will no longer be silenced and that this nation and the world will hear us as we speak life and blessing over the Americas and the world. “We stand in faith believing that our citizenship lies in Heaven, and we too await the return of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. “Being of one mind and heart, having compassion for one another, we declare our love as brothers; not returning evil for the evil perpetuated against us, but on the contrary we choose to release a blessing, knowing that the Father of us all has called us as His children to bless and not curse, that we may inherit a blessing. Amen.”
OVER 600 CITIES ACROSS AMERICA PROCLAIM IN GOD WE TRUST
City councils across America are publicly declaring their dependence on God, with more than 600 voting to put the motto, “In God We Trust” on plaques and decals on city property. City officials in Chesapeake, Virginia, are among the latest to approve such a measure. The council voted 7-0 to allow the words “In God We Trust” to be displayed throughout the chambers of its city hall. Councilwoman Suzy Kelly introduced the proposal. In an interview with the Virginian Pilot, she said she thinks the move is “long past due.” “We have to remember our foundation is in God,” Kelly said. “Displaying ‘In God We Trust’ in no way infringes upon the rights of others who have secular beliefs.”
U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes represents Chesapeake in the House of Representatives and is co-founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. He supported adding “In God We Trust” to the City Hall. “The Chesapeake City council decided to do what many other city councils have done across the country,” Forbes told CBN News. “They’re now the 611th city council.” He continued, “In the last two years alone, we’re excited the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation has gotten over 1.6 million ‘In God We Trust’ plaques or stickers across the country.” “Three-hundred and fifty-six first responders in 26 different states putting it on all their vehicles. Thirty-four states have adopted a similar resolution,” said Forbes.
Chesapeake Mayor Alan Krasnoff is also a devout Christian and is often vocal about his faith. He posted news about the resolution’s passage on his Facebook page. But some residents are critical of the motto. “I don’t think the sign is offensive in any way, it’s not that, but I do think people might find it divisive,” resident Stacy Martinson said. “And if there’s really any building or room in our entire city that should be representing everyone in that city, it’s this room and this building.” Meanwhile, Forbes said the motto cuts across political lines. “We had Republicans and Democrats and people across party lines coming together and saying this can unite us and this is something that’s important for the country,” he said.
IRAQI CHRISTIAN GIRLS SAVED FROM ISLAMIC STATE BY HIDING UNDER BED
“It’s a miracle. We prayed a lot and God answered.” The words of Iraqi Syriac Catholic priest Ammar in the wake of the remarkable story of seven Christian female students in Kirkuk, who hid under their beds for seven hours while soldiers from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) occupied their house. It vividly illustrates how volatile the situation in Iraq is. IS launched a surprise attack on the northern Iraqi city, supposedly to divert the Iraqi military from the battle for Mosul. While the battle to expel IS from Iraq has begun, Christians still fear IS attacks, even in communities deemed safe. Since Kirkuk has been under the protection of Kurdish forces for over 2 years, Iraqi churches deemed it safe enough to send displaced Christian students there to study at Kirkuk University.
Father Ammar told how 50 female students and 8 nuns lived there in church-rented houses. An IS militia bombed and stormed that part of the city. “Suddenly the street was filled with IS warriors, shouting ‘Allah is the greatest’. Most students were able to leave their houses in time, but seven girls couldn’t,” Father Ammar said. “They texted me in the evening; they were terrified: ‘We are in danger. Please come for us’. At least four IS soldiers had entered their house. The girls had gone to their bedroom, and were hiding under their beds, covered in blankets.” IS is known to rape and enslave non-Muslim women, to kill them brutally or to use them as human shields. All those thoughts were going through the minds of the 7 while they waited in the dark for hours, trying to lay still and not make a sound.
After the girls notified their church leader in Erbil, he set the wheels in motion to save them. People started praying, and the church reached out to the Iraqi and Kurdish forces, asking them to save the girls. While the rescue was being planned, Fr. Ammar stayed in touch with them through texts. “All this time they were hiding under their beds, undiscovered by IS. One time the IS warriors even entered the bedroom, to pray and to care for one of their wounded soldiers. Luckily the electricity was cut off, so it was dark. Nevertheless it was a miracle the girls weren’t discovered,” he said. After 3 or 4 hours, Iraqi soldiers liberated the house and the girls were taken to safety. “In the end none of the them were injured. said Fr. Ammar. However, shortly after the IS soldiers left the house, one blew himself up.
US SUPREME COURT JUSTICE SAYS AMERICA IS DESTROYING HER INSTITUTIONS
American Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently spoke at the Heritage Foundation in celebration of his 25 years on the High Court. In a video interview, Thomas shared some strong words about the “broken” way things seem to be handled in Washington, DC. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
* “I think we have become very comfortable with not thinking things through, and debating things. That’s one of the things I love about the Court, you can actually talk to people about things.
* “I think that we have decided that rather than confront the disagreements and the differences of opinion, we’ll just simply annihilate the person who disagrees with you. I don’t think that’s going to work in a republic or in a civil society.
* “At some point we have got to recognize that we’re destroying our institutions and undermining our institutions. …The day’s going to come, if it’s not already here, when we need the integrity of the institution…
* “I don’t think that’s going to change in this city until we get back to the notion that we argue, that we debate, that we decide things based on logic and facts and reason, as opposed to who yells the loudest or who has the best narrative or the best meme, or some other nonsense.”
GEORGIA’S GOVERNOR DEMANDS PASTOR HAND OVER HIS SERMONS AND BIBLE
Dr. Eric Walsh was one of the nation’s leading health administrators until being fired in 2014, after Georgia officials learned of his faith. Documents released by First Liberty include emails showing that Georgia officials assigned employees to examine his sermons on YouTube, sermons dealing with common Christian themes including creation, compassion, spiritual growth, the family and Christian living. He was fired after this examination. Family Research Council (FRC) today expressed outrage after the State of Georgia issued a legal demand that Dr. Walsh, a lay pastor, hand over his sermons, sermon notes and all pastoral documentation, including his Bible. FRC launched a petition that calls on Governor Deal to “correct this egregious over-reach of the state into church affairs.”
“This demand for Dr. Eric Walsh’s sermons, sermons notes and ministerial documentation is an alarming display of government intrusion into the sanctity of the Church, pastor’s study and pulpit,” said Tony Perkins, Family Research Council president and himself an ordained pastor. “This is something that I would have expected to see in a communist country, not America. The pulpit is to be governed only by the Word of God. Government scrutiny of speech in the pulpit is unconstitutional and unconscionable. Family Research Council stands with Dr. Walsh, and any other pastor who is targeted by the government because of what is said in the pulpit. We call on Gov. Deal to correct this egregious over-reach of the state into Church affairs.”