Child marriages in Holland exist on a small scale mostly among migrant communities and asylum seekers. With the arrival of Syrian refugees the number of child brides has risen significantly , according to the report ‘Just Married’ from the University Maastricht and the Verwey-Jonker institute in December 2015. The main cause: the Syrian civil war. In July 2014 there were two cases of Syrian child brides among the asylum seekers in Holland. The number rose drastically to 55 requests of Syrian child brides in 2015. Most of the times the men are ten or twenty years older than the underage girls, while most marriages took place in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey.

One in 5 girls marry before their eighteenth birthday, according to Girls not Brides, a global partnership of more than 550 civil society organisations committed to ending child marriage. The main reason for child marriage is poverty. Parents with lack of money regard it as a way to collect the dowry early. The second reason is to ‘protect’ the girl, child marriage in this case is meant to safeguard the honour of the girl and with that the honour of the family. The family-honour in Middle Eastern societies is connected to the virginity of the daughter in question. That’s why parents let their daughter marry young to make sure that she enters marriage as a virgin. In war situations the risk of rape is very high and early marriage is seen as protection.

The Syrian civil war strengthens the reasons for parents to marry their daughters off at a young age as is shown by the alarming increase of the number of child brides among Syrian refugees in Jordan. While before the civil war in 2011 the percentage amounted to 13% this doubled in 2014 to more than 30%, according to UNICEF reports in 2014. Also in Turkey this development is noticeable, the German newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine reports in an online-article of 7 March 2016 that the Syrian refugee girls in the Turkish border city of Killis are increasingly forced to marry Turkish men out of dire poverty. A growing number of these refugees are coming to ask asylum in the Netherlands, which caused the rise in number of child brides in Holland.

For most people in Europe it’s quite shocking to realize that child marriage is not just a phenomenon in foreign countries, it’s also an issue at our doorsteps. The Syrian refugee crisis has highlighted this matter, however it has been an issue long before that, for instance in England. There have been quite some cases reported of underage girls born and raised in England, who have been taken on a ‘holiday’ to their parent’s home country, where they were ‘sold off’ as brides. Gabriella Gillespie’s father took her from her home in the UK to Yemen in 1977 and married her off when she was only 13. Soon after her marriage she became a mother. With the help of the British embassy in 1992 Gabriella escaped to England with her five children.

She shared her story on a blog of the NGO ‘Too Young to Wed’: “Some may think that because I was a child bride 20-odd years ago, things have improved and this practice no longer exists, but all we need to do is look at the photos of child brides to know otherwise. My heart breaks every time I see another picture of a child bride, read another story, or see the statistics on child marriage.” Child marriage continues to be an issue because the breeding ground for child marriage still exists: poverty and war. Now it’s unrealistic to ban poverty and war worldwide, but it is possible to make parents aware that child marriage is not the solution for their poverty problem or a way to ‘protect’ their daughter. Raising awareness is one of the most important tools to prevent child marriages.

Arab Vision, an international Christian organisation which produces Christian and social TV-productions for and about the Arab world, is currently in the preparation phase of a production about child marriage in the Middle East. “The production has as its goal to raise the awareness of the inhabitants of the Middle East that child marriage is a malicious practice. It violates the interests of the child and at the same time it doesn’t offer a solution for poverty. On the contrary, it sustains poverty because the girl in question often is taken out of school and with that she’s deprived of the possibility to develop her skills, skills which can actually lift her family out of poverty”, according to the organisation.

Source: Arab Vision

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Otoniel Martinez grew up in a Christian family. His father was a pastor in a time when government pressure made it difficult to follow Jesus. Otoniel was a gifted student and could have attended one of the top schools in Cuba. But in order to attend a top university, he had to deny his Christian faith, which he would not do. He decided he would bypass upper-level education to follow Christ no matter what, according to a report by United World Mission (UWM). His resolve was tested many times as he faced opposition from the authorities. He successfully planted one church, which proceeded to reproduce 26 other churches. From there, the Holy Spirit planted a God-sized vision in Otoniel’s heart: to see churches planted in every corner of Cuba and to send workers into the rest of the world.

For assistance, Otoniel reached out to UWM, because they led his family to Christ many years ago. A church planting trainer from UWM was introduced to Otoniel. Together, they developed the Sowers Network. They assembled 50 people from 20 denominations in Bayamo, the heart of communism in Cuba. After just one training session they were kicked out of the church they were using because the pastor feared retribution from local authorities. “We began to meet outside in a remote campground,” noted Joseph Milioni. “We didn’t use chairs so that we could scatter if local officials came near.” Rocks scattered around the camp became their chairs. “Even with setbacks, stopping the training was never in question. Otoniel showed dependence on God when things went well and when obstacles developed.

Many of our current network leaders came out of this training.” As churches were planted a new need arose. In a country where the average person makes $15 a month, how could churches support church planters and achieve Otoniel’s long-term vision? “By partnering with several different North American partners we began to help develop micro-enterprises on the island. We have seen everything from bicycle taxis to ice cream stands. All the funds go towards church planting and the churches that support it,” according to UWM. Milioni marvels at the fruit. “Together, we developed a church-planting network that has seen close to 1000 church planters trained in less than 5 years. One of the greatest lessons Otoniel taught me is dependency on God.” Otoniel’s reliance on God sets him apart.

“Despite having more talent, passion, and vision than is normal, he met every step with a heart pleading to God for guidance,” Milioni notes. “Despite success, Otoniel has never relied on his own abilities. He is recognized by many national leaders and has tremendous respect both in and out of Cuba, but still he humbly gathers his family together, looking to God to meet needs and give guidance.” Inevitably, a God-sized vision is met with adversity. “When everything seemed to be going well, Otoniel’s father passed away and his wife, Idalmi, was diagnosed with cancer. However, because Otoniel has established a habit of leaning on God, he is seeking God to comfort him and be with him as he has always been,” Milioni notes. Otoniel’s vision has grown to develop Cuban missionaries to go to the unreached.

From the beginning, the responsibility of the church to be involved in missions was taught. A missions professor from Costa Rica was brought in to teach the Cuban pastors how local churches could be involved in missions. After a few days the hearts of the pastors were burdened to send church planters around the world. Despite the fact that these churches had very little income, the pastors raised $60 for missions on their first night (4 months wages). A committee was formed to create a Cuban missions organization and training centre for missions. The Sowers network has resulted in more than 300 new churches being planted. Many second generation churches have been counted. More than 20 micro-enterprises have been established. “We have seen God do amazing things and believe there is still more to come.”

Source: God Reports

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Haiti has virtually vanished off the front page news. It is difficult finding any news on the government crisis, the flooding, or the doctor’s strike in Haiti. Yet, Haiti is in real trouble. Two-and-a-half million Haitians live in extreme poverty in the poorest country in the northern hemisphere, according to the World Food Program. The government is in chaos. The United Nations is “deeply concerned” that the January date for holding elections in Haiti was not met. Lawmakers have not yet set an alternate date. January was followed by weeks of heavy rain and flooding in the North in February and March, and now this month in the West. Yet, few of these stories remain on the global consciousness. The only way details are getting out is through word-of-mouth communications from Haitians working to be part of the solution.

For Haiti With Love (FHWL) co-founder Eva DeHart says the government hasn’t paid its doctors in so long, they’ve gone on strike, effectively closing the main hospital. But, life goes on, and when people get hurt, there are few choices — except for the privately-run medical clinics, like the one FHWL runs. DeHart recently shared a picture on the ministry’s Facebook page with the following caption: “This man went first to the hospital and then to FHL with a major cut – shaved his dreadlocks but still had difficult time getting the bleeding to stop. Got him stitched up and will see him tomorrow.” She goes on to note that there is a lot of illness, because people don’t have the money to see doctors or buy medication. “There are vendor strikes because the food is too expensive for them to buy, let alone be able to resell it.”

For Haiti with Love is there, with a feeding program and a medical clinic that has already had more burn patients in 2016 than ever before. DeHart writes, “There are more seizure patients. Whether it is increasing from stress, or we are seeing them now because they don’t have money for medications they had before, the numbers are climbing.” People are desperate to find a way to survive. Haiti faces big challenges. For Haiti With Love is doing what it can to meet the physical, spiritual and emotional needs. They show God’s love by following the Lord’s commands in Matthew 25:35-40 to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and shelter the homeless. When their team meets the physical needs, it often gives them an opportunity to open the door to hope in a way that they’ve never known before.

Source: Mission Network News

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According to reports, a local Philippines ministry spent eight months building a relationship with the Manobo tribal peoples in northern Mindanao. During that time, mission leaders held Bible studies, teaching chronologically through the narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures to the New Testament. Men, women and children began attending these sessions and expressed a tremendous thirst for the Gospel. “The week before presenting the Gospel lesson was a week of suspense,” said the director, whose name is withheld for security reasons. “Everyone was in anticipation as to what would happen to Jesus after He was arrested by the Jewish leaders. To make the teaching of the Gospel that night more vivid, the teacher inserted a brief video clip of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus from the movie, ‘The Passion of Christ.'”

After viewing “The Passion,” which depicts the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus, on the day of His crucifixion in Jerusalem, many of the villagers expressed anger at the mistreatment of Jesus by Jewish authorities and Roman soldiers. “One of the old men emotionally said, ‘How I wish I could be by Jesus’ side and help Him!'” But after the truth had been explained concerning the death and resurrection of Christ as God’s only provision for man’s salvation, a feeling of awe and amazement was felt. Moved by the sacrifice of Jesus, many of the villagers professed faith in His death and resurrection, and embraced Christianity. “Finally, after teaching over the past eight months from Genesis onward, we were able to present the Gospel, and nearly the whole village responded and trusted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour,” he said.

“It was a great joy for us to see them understand the saving grace of Jesus for salvation; some cried as they shared their testimony of faith.”  The next day, even more villagers shared how the Gospel had changed their lives. One elderly man who said he had put his trust in Jesus as the promised Messiah concluded, “He suffered so much for me. I’m glad He rose again from the dead.” One particularly heart-warming story came from an 84-year-old woman who said that she was grateful to hear what Jesus had done on the cross for her. She said that while she had little time remaining in this world, she knew that Heaven was her sure home because of what Christ did for her. “Many more Manobo, both children and adult, expressed faith in Jesus,” the ministry director said “Truly, God is at work in the lives of these people”

Source: Gospel Herald

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North Carolina State University is facing a lawsuit after requiring Christian students to have a permit before talking about Jesus. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the lawsuit after university officials forbade an on-campus Christian group called Grace Christian Life from handing out fliers and talking about Jesus without a permit. The university has a campus-wide policy that requires a permit for any kind of student speech anywhere on campus. However, ADF attorneys say the policy is unconstitutional and was used to discriminate against Grace Christian Life. Although Grace Christian Life followed school policy and obtained a permit, they were still prohibited from passing out fliers, and talking about Jesus. Meanwhile, other student organizations were able to speak freely without a permit.

“Grace members observed other groups freely speaking with students and handing out literature without a permit, sometimes in full view of the same officials that stopped them from doing the same,” ADF said in a statement that the policy is unconstitutional. “The courts have established that a public university can’t require permits in this manner for this kind of speech—and certainly can’t enforce such rules selectively,” explained ADF Senior Counsel David Hacker. “Unconstitutional censorship is bad enough, but giving university officials discretion to decide when and where to engage in silencing students makes the violation even worse,” he said. “Public universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas. The only permit needed to engage in free speech is the First Amendment.”

Source: CBN News

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A video of Bible teacher Joyce Meyer discussing the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father has been trending online and across social media. In the video, which was originally released on Meyer’s website in 2012, the Christian teacher and author details the extent of the abuse she suffered growing up. Meyer, 72, has previously and publicly admitted she was abused as a child, but details of her abuse were unknown until the video’s release.  She said that she was sexually, mentally, emotionally and verbally abused as far back as she can remember and that it continued for years. The fact that the video has resurfaced now speaks to the number of people it resonates with. In the video, Meyer shares how she had been raped more than 200 times and that her father abused her at least once a week.

She said he also abused her classmates and neighbours as well. “He didn’t force me physically, but through lies, and manipulation, and fears, and threats, I was still forced,” Meyer said. “Literally, what he did was rape me, every week, at least once a week, until the time I was 18.” “My father, who I was supposed to be able to trust, who was supposed to keep me safe, raped me a minimum of 200 times,” she said. She said her father also forced her to look at pornography and watch her parents have sex. Meyer said she hopes her testimony enables other people suffering abuse to seek help and encourages them that healing from abuse is possible through God.

Source: CBN News

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