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Five Middle Eastern Patriarchs Visit North Iraq in Solidarity With Christians – no to sectarian militias

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From left: Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II Karim, Patriarch Louis Rafael Sako, Patriarch Bechara Boutros AlRai, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Youna, Patriarch Gregorius III Lahham. Photo from AINA

(AINA) — Five patriarchs of Middle Eastern Churches visited north Iraq yesterday to support the Assyrian Christians, who have been driven from their homes and villages by the Islamic State (ISIS) and whose religious institutions have been destroyed and occupied.

The Patriarchs were:

  • Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros AlRai
  • Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church Ignatius Ephrem II Karim
  • Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Rafael Sako
  • Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorius III Lahham
  • Syriac Catholic Patriarch Mor Ignatius Joseph III Youna

The delegation was flown to Arbel in a private jet donated by the former president of the Industrialists Association, Jacques Sarraf.

Accompanying the Patriarchs were Harith Shihab, member of the Islamic-Christian dialogue committee, Father Paul Karam, head of Caritas Lebanon, Monsignor Joseph AlBawary, Director of the Catholic Information Center and Father Abdo Abu Kasem.

The delegation was received at the airport by the KRG Minister of Interior Karim Sinjari, the Governor of Arbel Nozad Hadi and a number of officials.

The Delegation’s first stop was the city of Ankawa, where 70,000 Assyrians have sought refuge, swelling the city’s population to 100,000. The next stop was the headquarters of the Chaldean Diocese and Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese in Arbel, where the delegation was briefed on the situation of the refugees.

The mission of the Patriarchs is to assess the state of the refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain and to formulate a plan to deliver aid, as well as pressure Western and Middle Eastern governments to commit to returning the refugees to their homes.

The Patriarchs offered prayers as they visited the refugees and together recited the Lord’s Prayer in Syriac (Aramaic), the language of Jesus Christ.

Patriarch AlRai said the Assyrian Christian refugees are the indigenous people and he does not call them a minority, because this is their land and they must return to it.

Absent from the delegation was the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Dinkha IV, who could not travel because of ill health. -AINA

Erbil (Agenzia Fides) – The defense of the attacked is an absolute right. But only “the forces of the State should take charge of this defense”, while the creation of differentiated militia on ethno-religious basis “can destroy Iraq”.
This is how – according to Lebanese sources – the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I expressed himself during his participation in the initiatives and meetings organized by the Delegation of the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches that arrived on Wednesday, August 20 in Erbil, capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, to express their closeness to refugees from Mosul and other cities which have fallen under the control of the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate. On 18 August, the President of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan Masud Barzani said he was willing to provide weapons to Christian volunteers to form self-defense militias with a mandate to defend their villages currently in the hands of the jihadists. The Chaldean Patriarch also added that in the present situation, speaking in constitutional terms, the proposal to establish an autonomous area in the Nineveh Plain for Christian populations has become possible and according to him “acceptabl e”, adding that such result is obtained “through dialogue and not through conflict”.
The delegation of the Patriarchs currently on a visit to Iraq are, besides the Chaldean Patriarch, the Maronite Bechara Boutros Rai, the Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III, the Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III and Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 21/08/2014)

Muslim Herdsmen in Nigeria Kill 18 Christians in Plateau, Kaduna States

Nigeria persecuted

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – The 14 people killed in an attack by Muslim Fulani herdsmen last week in Plateau state were Christians killed for their faith, not cattlemen slain for their livestock, area Christians said.

In Yelwa, where Muslim Fulani cattlemen have largely replaced Christian ethnicities over the years by means of slash-and-shoot attacks, a throng of heavily armed herdsmen attacked the remnant Christian community in the early hours of Aug. 11, the sources said.

“These Muslim Fulani gunmen were more than 150, and they were armed,” a 40-year-old Christian from the village who fled to Jos told Morning Star News. “They attacked us in Yelwa. Many of the members of our community were killed by them. And they also burned down our houses. Those of us who survived had to run out of the village, some to Shendam town and others to places like Garkawa, Langtang, Pankshin or Jos.”

Yelwa is part of the Shendam Local Government Area in the southern part of Plateau state. On the same morning in Zarazong, in the Jos East Local Government Area, a group of gunmen killed two other Christians, and between the two villages 15 homes were burned down, sources said.

“The gunmen came into the village and began shooting indiscriminately – I saw two dead bodies as I tried escaping from our village,” said a 23-year-old woman of Zarazong whose name, like that of the previous source, is withheld for security reasons. “I cannot for now say who the victims are, as it was difficult for me to know who they are as I was running away. But, I know they are from our village. We are all Christians in our village and are members of COCIN [Church of Christ in Nations].”

Stories of cattle-rustling as a motive for the attacks seeped into the Nigerian press as a means of dousing potential religious conflict, but any stolen cattle was incidental to the attacks, sources said.

The Rev. Sonja Bewarang, chairman of the Plateau chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, confirmed the killings and house burnings.

“Information we have so far received from our pastors in the two attacked villages shows that two of our church members were killed in Zarazong and 12 in Yelwa,” Bewarang said. “We are yet to get the complete details about attacks because of the state of insecurity in the two areas, but I can confirm that all the victims of the attack are members of the Church of Christ in Nations.”

Bewarang said the church was saddened by unprovoked attacks on Christians in Plateau state.

“It is true that there were attacks on some of our villages on Monday, and we are saddened that these have continued without the Nigerian government doing anything to stem them,” Bewarang said.

A week before the attacks on the two villages, the Plateau state government disclosed that 13 years of unabated assaults on Christians have left thousands of widows and orphans. While receiving a conflict management delegation from the Netherlands, Olivia Dazyem, state commissioner for information, lamented that the state has been unable to access humanitarian assistance from the United Nations to alleviate the suffering of Christians.

“It is sad that the U.N. has not deemed it necessary to assist in ameliorating the plight of our orphans and widows caused by violent, religiously induced attacks on our people,” Dazyem said.

Emmanuel Abu, deputy superintendent of police at the Plateau State Police Command, said police had yet to obtain details of casualties in the two villages.

“The commissioner of police, Nasiru Oki, has deployed enough policemen to the villages under attack to control the security situation in both locations,” Abu told Morning Star News. “No arrest has been made yet, and we are doing everything possible to bring the culprits to book.”

Kaduna Attack

In Kaduna state, gunmen in the week hours of Aug. 8 attacked a Christian community in Gimi Dogara village, killing four Christians and setting fire to 15 houses, sources said.

A 47-year-old member of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ in the village who escaped the attack in the Sanga Local Government Area told Morning Star News that Muslim Fulani herdsmen came shooting and burning down homes. His name is withheld for security reasons.

Emmanuel Adamu, chairman of Sanga Local Government Council, confirmed the attack.

“Yes, it is true that there was an invasion of one our villages here in Sanga Local Government Area by Muslim gunmen who are Fulani herdsmen,” Adamu said. “The attack on Gimi Dogara village began at about 11 p.m. and lasted to about 4 a.m.,” he said.

The attack brings the casualty figure of murdered Christians in the area to more than 600 this year, with more than 2,000 Christians displaced in the southern part of the state, according to Christian leaders. Affected Christian communities include Fadan Karshi, Akuku, Ungwar Sankwai, Ungwar Gata, Ungwar Kura, Manchok, Takad and Bondong, they said.

The communities are located in Kaura and Sanga Local Government Areas in the southern part of Kaduna state. In unprovoked attacks in the Sanga LGA, Muslim Fulani gunmen killed 200 Christians over four days, and no fewer than 150,000 of these Christian villagers were displaced. In Bondong, one of the affected Christian communities, 142 Christians alone were killed by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen, they said.

In the attacks in the Kaura LGA, in March alone about 2,000 Christians were displaced in an assault on three villages, an official of the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) told Morning Star News.

“Two hundred forty houses were burnt, 119 Christians killed, and 22 were injured and hospitalized,” said Dogo Makama, executive secretary of the agency.

Among Christians killed in the Kaura attacks was the family of pastor Likita Riku of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Masankwai village. His wife and three children were killed and his church building burned down. Christian leaders in Kaduna state told Morning Star News that there have been more than 50 such unprovoked attacks on Christian communities the past three months.

“The Southern Kaduna Christian Leaders Council can no longer be silent over the systematic and well-coordinated massacre of our people,” the Most Rev. Joseph Bagobiri, Catholic bishop of Kafanchan Diocese, and the Rt. Rev. Zakka Bonet, Anglican bishop of the same diocese, said in a statement on behalf of the council. “There have been as many as 51 separate, targeted attacks in many communities in southern Kaduna, including recent attacks on Takad and Moro’a communities. As a result of these attacks, not less than 600 persons, including old men, old women, young children and babies, are confirmed to have been murdered. Also, not less than 1,060 houses have been burned. Of necessity, tens of thousands of our people are now refugees in their own fathers’ land.”

The Christian leaders said the Nigerian government has done nothing to contain the onslaught by marauding Muslim Fulani herdsmen and described the killings as “genocide.”

They also said attacks on Christian communities in the area reached an alarming rate in March, when more than 148 Christians were killed on a single day.

“This genocide has reached an alarming scale with the recent massacre of 148 innocent lives in the single attack of Friday, March 14th, that ran through the early hours of Saturday, March 15,” they said. “With heavy hearts and great displeasure we condemn these murderous acts in the strongest possible term and wish to let the whole world know the truth of the predicament that has caught up with us.”

Bagobiri and Bonet listed some of the affected Christian villages attacked by the Muslim Fulani herdsmen as Ungwar Sankwai, Ungwar Gata, and Ungwar Kura (where the 148 people were killed and more than 200 houses destroyed).

“In an earlier attack, a family of seven was wiped out in a heartless and gruesome murder,” they said.

The Christian leaders said neither the Nigerian nor the Kaduna state governments had done anything to check the attacks.

“Why is the government behaving as if they are working in concert with our killers to silence and wipe us out of existence?” they asked.

Security agents seem to be working in concert with some elements in the Nigerian military to attack Christian communities, they added.

“Ours is a double tragedy; we are victims both to the security agents and the Fulani terrorists,” they said. “It is worthy of note, shocking and sad to stress the fact that despite the recent despicable massacre, mass destruction of property and means of livelihood, no effort at all is been made at tracking down these murderers and arsonists who are still threatening the communities using the phones they took as loot during their raids.”

Ephraim Goje, another Christian leader in the area, described the Fulani attacks as a jihad.

“The Fulanis have declared a jihad on Christians of southern Kaduna and other parts of Nigeria, evidenced by this genocide in Bondong village, and the murders in Benue, Plateau, and Taraba states, among others,” he told Morning Star News.

Morning Star News

“It is worrying to see Boko Haram trying to conquer territories”, said the Archbishop of Lagos

alfred_adewale_martins-300x300Abuja (Agenzia Fides) – “The Boko Haram insurgency is becoming even more worrisome that they were trying to “conquer” territories that the military have to try and liberate”, said His Exc. Mgr. Alfred Adewale Martins, Archbishop of Lagos in a statement entitled “Take to heart” with regards to the recent events which have seen Boko Haram taking control of some villages in the north of Nigeria and a series of suicide bombings committed by women also. In this regard, Mgr. Martin says that “it is most disheartening to see women and children blowing themselves up in the guise of fighting a religious war”.
Mgr. Martins also appeals to Nigerians not to despair for the spread of Ebola that is creating serious concern in Nigeria and neighboring Countries. Cameroon has blocked land borders, sea and air with Nigeria to prevent the spread of the disease. Cameroon welcomes tens of thousands of Nigerians fleeing the violence of Boko Haram. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 19/08/2014)

VICTORY! A Christian pastor released from prison, in Tibet

Nepal

ASIA/NEPA: Kathmandu (Agenzia Fides) – Protestant Pastor Chhedar Bhote Lhomi, 37, was freed from blame and released from prison, he is now free after a bad experience of detention.

As Fides learns, the Pastor lives in a remote area of Nepal, where he had started a Christian community that met regularly. He was jailed in October 2012 on charges of “beef consumption” although he carried out his service in an area of Nepal where this custom is normally permitted (in other parts of the country local Hindus do not eat beef because cattle are considered sacred).

In the fall of 2012 the Pastor had been accused by some local Hindus of having eaten “forbidden meat” and a mob had attacked him ravaging and destroying his home. The Pastor was arrested by the police, leaving his family (wife and three children) in the direst poverty.

A court recently declared that Pastor Chhedar is “not guilty” and ordered his release. The Pastor said he will continue to pray and proclaim Christ on the heights of Tibet. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 19/08/2014)

Take time to praise and worship the Lord. This victory is His! Keep Pastor Chhedar in your prayers as he proclaims the Gospel in Tibet.

Massacre in Predominantly Christian Gwoza, Nigeria Said to Leave 100 Dead

let-s-pray-nigeria

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – After weeks of sacking villages and destroying church buildings around Nigeria’s northeastern town of Gwoza, Islamic extremist group Boko Haram on Wednesday (Aug. 6) killed an estimated 100 people in the predominantly Christian town, sources said.

The shooting, fire-bombing and slashing of men, women and children in Gwoza, Borno state, as initially the military reportedly fled before an insurgent force backed by international terrorist groups, began at about 4 a.m., producing eyewitness assertions that Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, had taken control of the town of more than 276,000 people. Local residents reportedly said at least 100 people had been killed.

The full magnitude of the attack and the Nigerian military response was unknown as most sources have been forced to flee to Cameroon or Adamawa state, but on the initial day of the assault Pirda Tada, a Christian resident of Saha village, told Morning Star News that Boko Haram gunmen arrived in Toyota Hilux vehicles and motorcycles and attacked houses with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and fuel-bombs.

“I thank God for sparing my life, but three of my neighbors and members of our church were killed during the attack,” Tada said. “These Christians in our village had their throats slit with knives while their hands were tied behind their backs. Some houses were bombed as the Boko Haram gunmen were chanting, ‘God is great!’ in Arabic.”

Six Christians were killed at Saha village, and the insurgents destroyed houses and shops and burned the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) building in Pegi Barawa village, Tada said. Boko Haram rebels on July 19 had attacked Saha and Pegi Barawa village, near Gwoza; six Christians were reported to have been killed in Saha village.

Francis Mbala of Gwoza confirmed that Boko Haram attacked Saha and Pegi Barawa this week.

“The COCIN church and some houses and shops were burned down,” he told Morning Star News.

Since December, Boko Haram has also attacked in the Gwoza area the villages of Mainok, Barawa, Chinne, Arbakko, Attagara, Ngoshe, Klala, Kunde, Hembe, Gathahure, Klala, Himbe, Amuda, Agapalawa, Ashigashiya, and Chikedeh, Mbala said.

John Gula, a leader in the Christian community in Gwoza, told Morning Star News by phone that 42 Christians were killed at Attagara village; 24 in Agajara; four in Angurva; 20 in Agapalwa; one in Amuda; three in Alavawa; 13 in Chinene; three in Arboko; one in Ashigashiya; and one in Ngoshe.

It is estimated that more than 300,000 Christians have been displaced from the greater area, forcing many to flee to neighboring Cameroon.

In December Christian leaders had reported plans by Boko Haram to attack Christian communities in Gwoza. COCIN leaders and the denomination’s Gwoza District Church Council (DCC), in collaboration with the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Gwoza, sent a petition to the Borno state government and security agencies reporting a threatening letter that Boko Haram had sent to Christian communities in Gwoza.

“You have been fleeing your homes, but we are still pursuing you, because the soldiers with you people cannot protect you,” the letter reads. “Your lives, farmlands and other property are also not safeguarded. Allah willing, we shall not fail to attack your communities and the listed churches in this letter.”

In December 2013, 15 Christians were killed, 274 houses were burned and 12 church buildings were destroyed by Boko Haram gunmen, the Christian leaders wrote in their letter. Yakubu Toeye, a Christian from Gwoza, told Morning Star News that the 12 church buildings destroyed in December were located in the Gwoza hills settlements of Kunde, Hembe, Gathahure, Himbe and Klala.

The Rev. Joel Y. Ndirmbita, secretary of the COCIN DCC, signed the petition calling attention to the plight of Christians in Gwoza area.

“We consider it an onerous task to bring to your notice an attempt and grand design to wipe us, Christians, from the face of the earth by some who claim to be members of the Boko Haram sect,” Ndirmbita and others wrote. “Boko Haram has perfected plans to launch an attack against us as contained in their threat letter of July 8, 2013, and addressed it to various churches in the Gwoza Local Council…They have now commenced … by attacking us and uprooting crops on our farmlands and spraying them with chemicals.”

Morning Star News

Young Believer Inspired To Pray By Faith of Abedini’s

child prays

Evelyn (Columbus, MS)

Dear Saeed Abedini,

My name is Evelyn, I am 11 years old. My family and I pray for you every day. We pray for your wife and children too. Sometimes I think how it would feel for my dad to be in prison, I would feel very sad.

This time is a time for you and your family to trust in the Lord Jesus, and for me to trust that the Lord will deliver you from this time by setting you free or taking you to be with him in his perfect heaven. I will keep praying for you and your family.  I can’t wait to see you in heaven!!!!!!!!!

________________________________

Thank you, Evelyn for sharing your prayers and letting the Abedini’s know that you care for them.

Trusting in God can be very hard for us. But HE knows the end from the beginning and goes with us through the storm. Though in our human ability it may be hard to understand, God must have a very good reason for allowing Pastor Saeed to remain in prison.

God knows Saeed will be faithful to share the Gospel and the love of Christ with prisoners who don’t know Jesus. HE is making a way for them to be found in Christ; not wanting any to perish. Hallelujah! 

Together, we will keep praying for Pastor Saeed to be released and reunited with his family very soon. We must remember that our Father in Heaven loves us very much. And that HE is a sovereign God in control of all things—even in a prison cell.

To the glory of God, keep trusting in the Lord with all your heart and He will guide your path wherever He takes you.

God bless you, dear sister.

Lois Kanalos, Founder/Advocate

Join in this project to let the Abedini’s know how they have inspired or renewed your faith. Each testimony will be a source of encouragement to them and the Body of Christ. When the family is reunited, we will gather the stories to be published in a book and presented to them as an appreciation for their steadfast faith. Together, we will be able to provide a little insight into how God has worked through them to be a blessing to more than they realize.  Add your testimony below. If your church has been active in praying for this persecuted family, inform them of this special mission so they too can share their thoughts and be an encouragement.

Be encouraged, view submitted testimonies HERE 

 inspired by faith

abedini-1

 

Displaced Nigerian Christians Vow Return To Worship God In Attacked Village

Pray for Nigeria (1)

By VOP Nigerian Correspondent

Gwoza Local Government Area, Nigeria(Voice of the Persecuted) Brave Christian leaders from Attagara who had been displaced by Islamic insurgents after a brutal attack, vowed to return—resolute to worship the Lord in their respective churches. Our Foreign correspondent gathered that over 340 Christians from a refugee camp in Cameroon, came back to Attagara village and resumed church services and worshiped on Sunday August 3, 2014.

One worshiper said, “How can we stop worshiping God because of persecution?”

The deadly attack which began on June 1, 2014 and lasted for 3 days, lead to the displacement of over 7,000 Christians to neighboring Cameroon. Islamic insurgents had rounded up Christians and shot them in the cold-blooded attack. See our June report NIGERIA: Women bury over 40 children after massive attack on Christians

It was stated that the Christian community received no help except for that of local Christians to ease the suffering of the residents, who were mainly women and children. This claim was also confirmed by a leader of the Attagara Development Association. He explained that the only help that reached the displaced villagers were contributions from area Christians immediately following the attack. The funds were equally disbursed to Christians who had been trapped in the hills without food and to those in makeshift camps in Cameroon. “Anything outside of this is not true,” he added.

The returning Christians were unable to go back to their farms and businesses, due to the threat of another attack by Boko Haram insurgents. But they said, “We’re looking up to God for help to survive.” Our correspondent was told none of the returning Christians were willing to go back to the Cameroon refugee camp. “We better die here,” one member said.

In a phone interview with a church leader, it was confirmed that over 200 Christians came to worship at EYN (The Church of the Brethren) LCC Attagara. EYN Angurva had over 100 brethren in the service and EYN Aganjara saw 40 worshipers in attendance.

Left homeless, Christians  sharing food at refugee camp

Left homeless, Christians sharing food at refugee camp

UPDATE: Returning Attagara Christians Suffer Another Attack By Boko Haram

The return of Christians restarting worship services to honor God, angered the insurgents who had forced them to flee the area in June. They sent in an agent to spy on the village to observe if it was being protected by the military. The Christians keeping watch, sighted and caught the operative; then handed him and his weapons over to military personnel.

On August 5, 2014, dressed in military uniforms, the Islamic militants returned riding 3 per seat on motorcycles. They captured and brutally slaughtered Peter Talaka, a dedicated Christian who had been active in church planting.

nigeriachildwarOne eye witness said, “I saw over 23 motorcycles, The militants were carrying AK 47’s, each chanting “Allahu Akbar.” They went straight to the newly rebuilt church and burnt it. After looting anything of value, they set the remaining houses on fire destroying everything. While the Christians were fleeing, a few were brave enough to report the attack to the military. They then courageously guided the soldiers in apprehending the insurgents.

The pursuit by the Christians and soldiers forced the insurgents to drop 6 of the motorcycles and weapons. One of the Christians told our correspondent, “We handed them over to the military who then burnt all the motorcycles.”

Once again, the returning Christians were displaced from their village. But the majority of the young Christian men promised to stay on until the day God called them to Glory.

©Voice of the Persecuted. (VOP)  Article may be reprinted with credit to Voice of the Persecuted

Inspired to Forgive by example of Pastor Saeed Abedini forgiving his persecutors

forgive

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

Sherry Schubarth (Colorado, USA)

I have for the past 14 yrs. suffered persecution by satans minions, like I have a target on my back , in a city said to be the headquarters for demon worshipers.

I have found it very difficult to have a forgiving heart and find sympathy for these people.  Saeeds ability to forgive his captures who are brutal beasts has helped me to see it is possible to forgive.  I don’t yet have all the answers, but I am encouraged that I too can have a forgiving heart in all circumstances, even in the midst of satanic relentless attack.

Please pray for me. I am praying and have been sharing the posts about Saeed, his story and updates about him. And I will continue to for as long as it takes.

God bless this precious Abidini family and keep them forever safe and sound.

________________________________

To forgive can be one the hardest thing for us to do. We must follow Christ and remember his words, “ Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

Sherry, we will keep you in our prayers.

VOP Project Team

Tell Pastor Saeed that we understand, and we will pick up the cross and follow Christ as he has.

Join in this project to let the Abedini’s know how they have inspired or renewed your faith. Each testimony will be a source of encouragement to them and the Body of Christ. When the family is reunited, we will gather the stories to be published in a book and presented to them as an appreciation for their steadfast faith. Together, we will be able to provide a little insight into how God has worked through them to be a blessing to more than they realize.  Add your testimony below. If your church has been active in praying for this persecuted family, inform them of this special mission so they too can share their thoughts and be an encouragement.

Be encouraged, view submitted testimonies HERE 

 inspired by faith

abedini-1

Prayers Needed Pastor Saeed Abedini Facing New Death Threats from ISIS Terrorists

pastor-saeed-danger

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is working to secure the release of American Pastor Saeed Abedini from an Iranian prison, said today Pastor Saeed is now facing new death threats from ISIS terrorists who are being held in the same Iranian prison where Pastor Saeed is being held. Pastor Saeed has been able to communicate to family members and let them know that he fears for his life after he was told the ISIS prisoners plan to murder him because of his Christian faith.

“This is an extremely dangerous development that puts Pastor Saeed’s life at grave risk,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, which represents Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, and their two children living in the U.S. “Not only is Pastor Saeed facing threats from Iranian militants who have imprisoned him because of his Christian faith, he now faces new and perhaps even more dangerous threats from Iraqi ISIS prisoners who want to murder Pastor Saeed because of his faith. We call on President Obama and Secretary Kerry to intervene immediately to secure Pastor Saeed’s release and to ensure that he is protected during this transfer to freedom. Pastor Saeed, who is approaching his second year of imprisonment in Iran, must be returned to his family without delay.”

Pastor Saeed, who continues to suffer from injuries sustained at the hands of his captors, revealed to family members this week that Iraqi ISIS members are now being held in Rajai Shahr Prison – in fact in the same prison ward where he is being held. Other prisoners have told Pastor Saeed that – if ISIS prisoners have the opportunity – they intend to murder Pastor Saeed because of his Christian faith. Pastor Saeed has told family members that he is currently in a separate section of the ward – removed from the ISIS terrorists – but is concerned that he will be subjected to the general prison population – including the ISIS terrorists – during a brief, daily exercise period in the prison yard.  Pastor Saeed has said he will not leave his prison cell to go to the prison yard for fear of his safety. Due to the severe overcrowding and lack of supervision of the prisoners, Saeed communicated that he has had to hide inside his cell and rely on the protection of fellow prisoners when some of these extremists have ventured into his section on their return to the ward from these daily outings.

September 26th will mark two years since the 34-year-old Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen – was taken into custody, tried and convicted – sentenced to eight years for his Christian faith.

Pastor Saeed’s two young children – Jacob and Rebekka – have recorded a personal plea asking President Obama to bring their father home. That video is available here.

The ACLJ continues to work in this country and abroad to secure his safety and freedom. Thousands continue to add their names of support for Pastor Saeed by signing on to this petition for his freedom.

ACLJ

Pastor Saeed urgently needs our prayers for protection and release.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many2 Corinthians 1:8-11

A Spiritual Battle Is Taking Place – Who Are The Warriors Of Christ?

 

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As chaos spreads, the world seems to be edging closer to all out war and destruction. But there is a far greater unseen battle that is raging on—a spiritual battle.

Many report we’re witnessing a war against Christianity.The persecution that Christians are facing today, surpasses any other time in history. Though others are subjected to suffering at the hands of oppressors, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. A growing hatred and horrific brutality perpetrated against them. These attacks are being recorded daily, shocking the very core of modern civilization.  What stirs hatred so deep and hardens hearts to be ice cold? It goes beyond the comprehension of most.

Jesus told us, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (John 15:18-20)

What is this ‘Spiritual Battle’ taking place?

In one example in Hebrews we read of the unseen spiritual realm—Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. As Christians we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. HE gives us no reason to doubt HIM and we can trust HIS words as Truth. Though unseen, the spiritual realm of God is real.

Anyone who who truly follows Christ will become a target in this unseen battle.

Many, even some in the Church mock any reference of a spiritual battle.  But the Bible says we have an enemy [the devil] prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan was the first to rebel against God. His goal, to be God…this is where the battle begins. He is not alone…others followed him. Scripture tells us we have an enemy who seeks to destroy and will do all he can to discourage, tempt, lie and accuse to corrupt us. We are his main targets. The Bible tells us that Satan knows his time is short. He is set on deceiving Christians, so we will doubt and feel defeated. But Jesus promises that His followers can both survive and thrive through the battle:  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10) In Christ, we will have strength.

How can I be a true disciple and warrior for Christ?

We need to put on the armor (Ephesians 6:10-18).

‘The Christian life requires discipleship. We follow Christ while using his life as the example for the way we should live. We read and implement his words and commands into our own lives, living out our faith. The love Christ has for us far out ways the love of man. He laid down his own life so that we would be set free from sin and death. There is no way by our own hands that we can be saved. Redemption solely comes through Christ and there is salvation in no one else. He even calls us friend when we do as he commands.

 warriors
A Christian Warrior is someone who is not afraid to pick up their cross and follow Christ. To become a warrior for Christ—ready for battle, you must take your orders from your Commander. You can trust you are on the winning side, serving the all powerful, one true God!  Below you will find 50 commands Jesus gave us.
  1. Repent—Matthew 4:17—Humility
  2. Follow Me—Matthew 4:19
  3. Rejoice—Matthew 5:12
  4. Let Your Light Shine—Matthew 5:16 —to bring God glory
  5. Honor God’s Law—Matthew 5:17–18
  6. Be Reconciled—Matthew 5:24–25
  7. Do Not Commit Adultery—Matthew 5:29–30
  8. Keep Your Word—Matthew 5:37
  9. Go the Second Mile—Matthew 5:38–42
  10. Love Your EnemiesMatthew 5:44
  11. Be Perfect—Matthew 5:48
  12. Practice Secret Disciplines—Matthew 6:1–18
  13. Lay Up Treasures—Matthew 6:19–21 —Give
  14. Seek God’s Kingdom—Matthew 6:33
  15. Judge Not—Matthew 7:1
  16. Do Not Cast Pearls—Matthew 7:6
  17. Ask, Seek, and Knock—Matthew 7:7–8
  18. Do Unto Others—Matthew 7:12
  19. Choose the Narrow Way—Matthew 7:13–14
  20. Beware of False Prophets—Matthew 7:15
  21. Pray For Laborers—Matthew 9:38
  22. Be Wise as Serpents—Matthew 10:16
  23. Fear God, Not Man—Matthew 10:26
  24. Hear God’s Voice—Matthew 11:15
  25. Take My Yoke—Matthew 11:29
  26. Honor Your Parents—Matthew 15:4
  27. Beware of Leaven—Matthew 16:6
  28. Deny Yourself—Luke 9:23
  29. Despise Not Little Ones—Matthew 18:10
  30. Go to Offenders—Matthew 18:15
  31. Beware of Covetousness—Luke 12:15
  32. Forgive Offenders—Matthew 18:21–22
  33. Honor Marriage—Matthew 19:6
  34. Be a Servant—Matthew 20:26–28
  35. Be a House of Prayer—Matthew 21:13
  36. Ask in Faith—Matthew 21:21–22
  37. Bring in the Poor—Luke 14:12–14
  38. Render to Caesar—Matthew 22:19–21
  39. Love the Lord—Matthew 22:37–38
  40. Love Your Neighbor—Matthew 22:39
  41. Await My Return—Matthew 24:42–44
  42. Remember His sacrifice—Matthew 26:26–27
  43. Be Born Again—John 3:7—Security
  44. Keep My Commandments—John 14:15
  45. Watch and Pray—Matthew 26:41
  46. Feed My Sheep—John 21:15–16
  47. Baptize My Disciples—Matthew 28:19
  48. Receive God’s Power—Luke 24:49
  49. Give–Luke 6:38
  50. Make Disciples—Matthew 28:20

Think of them as your instructions for being disciples and warriors of our Lord and Savior. And for carrying out the Great Commission spreading the Gospel—his teachings to all the world.

Be encouraged by the prayer that Jesus prayed for us.

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Jesus Prays for All Believers

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:6-26)

satan tempts ChristConsider how Jesus handled attacks from Satan when He was tempted by him (Matthew 4:1-11). Each temptation was answered with the words, “It is written.” Jesus knew the Word of God is the most powerful weapon against the temptations of the devil. If Jesus Himself used the Word to counter the devil’s attacks, should we do it any other way?

We must study, hear and preach God’s word even if it’s not always pleasant to hear or say, but it is for the good of man. Timothy was told,  “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:2-4 
Always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3-7
Do not ‘fall away‘ by getting snared into this trap.  See a contrast of the Upright and the Wicked—Proverbs 18:1-10
We therefore must be careful that we do not turn our ears from hearing the Truth by listening to those who only say what sounds good to us, but contradicts the very words of God. Like a child who doesn’t agree with all the rules made by their parents, we may find ourselves disagreeing with the Word of God. And when the child breaks the rules, they like even less the punishment doled out by their parents. Parents don’t make rules or punish their children to irritate them, they do it to keep them safe or to teach them an important lesson to be decent human beings. It is the same with God, who loves us more than any earthly parent ever could.(Matthew 7:9-11) But as our Heavenly Father who knows the end from the beginning, we can trust HE knows best—and each word has it’s purpose. And one day, we will all understand.
Read the commands of Christ listed above—try to memorize them. Don’t rely on others to tell you what is in the Bible, study it for yourself. It is the only way to be sure they are teaching the truth. Many say that they don’t understand the scriptures. Their not alone! Most have a hard time reading the Bible at first. But when you are continually picking it up, pray before hand and ask for understanding. God doesn’t want us to be in the dark, He wants to bring us into the light. And this is where we learn who we worship and develop a personal relationship with the One who cared enough to created us. Think of it as a letter written to you, because it is. When you are seeking God with all your heart, HE will send the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom. Knock and the door will be opened!

The-Sword-of-the-Lord-voiceofthepersecuted-orgThe Armor of God

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvationand the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Become a warrior, put on the armor of God. Take the Sword of the Lord and be prepared in this raging battle. On our Study the Bible page, you will find an explanation of what the Bible is and why God gave it to us. We have compiled ways  to help you get started reading the Word. Whether you are new to study or would like to get back to the Bible, we’d like to encourage you to start today.

Let us remember to pray as warriors for the persecuted. Please keep them constant in prayer.

study arrowHERE

Broken to Beauty – Inspired By Faith Of The Abedini’s

heals-wounds

Teresa Botkin (Illinois,USA)

I first heard about Saeed and began praying for them at the beginning of his imprisonment. I became friends with Naghmeh and would read her posts on Facebook, listened to her interviews on the news, radio and YouTube.

All this time I was going through a lot of personal difficulties, and hearing about this and praying for them helped give me purpose in my prayers, taking the focus off myself and finding God giving me words of encouragement to share with Naghmeh.

When the time came for the one year anniversary and the announcement about prayer vigils, I wanted to attend one, but there wasn’t one near us. I began to pray about it and knew that God wanted me to step out of my comfort zone and coordinate a vigil in my city. Naghmeh was so sweet, saying she didn’t know how and we would do it together.

I saw such strength and courage in her, knowing that she was in such deep sorrow, but still pressing on, stepping out of her comfort zone, traveling and speaking,

I committed to coordinate the vigil here, and found God giving me what I needed to do the task. The presence of God was so strong on that day, the prayers around the world unified, at the end of the prayer time we sang “Overcome” and 7 eagles came out from the clouds and circled over the prayer group! It was amazing!

Praying for them and speaking out for them has become a part of me. I have had the opportunity to share my testimony of broken to beauty and include how the Abedini family has been a part of my healing and finding the message that God has for me to share with others. I always avoided speaking to groups but now, I’m going wherever He leads and sharing the message of how forgiveness and repentance along with  gratitude will lead us to healing. How God can fill the broken places with gold and cause those places of mending to be magnificent!

I will pray and speak out for the Abedini’s until he’s safely home.  And after that, for all the brokenness to be made beautiful, healed!

___________________________________

Thank you, Teresa for sharing your testimony as it has also inspired us. It is so encouraging to see others joining in prayer and speaking out for our suffering family in Christ. The Abedini’s and the persecuted, globally need our support so desperately.

I too have had the pleasure of meeting Naghmeh and now call her my sister and friend. She demonstrates a grace that surely comes from divine assistance. Truly an inspiring woman and no doubt one being used by God. Saeed has been a great witness of what it means to follow Christ. His faithfulness in persecution is inspiring Christians, globally and causing them to look inward at their own faith. Many have drawn closer to God.

I am in contact with Christians facing extreme persecution in some of the hardest hit nations. I am continually inspired by their great faith in horrific trials. They may be seen as the weakest members of the Body, but in my eyes—they are the strongest. There is a mysterious thing that happens in times of persecution, the Church grows. We can all be encouraged by them.

As you have mentioned, it is amazing to watch God move when we step out onto the water where we are called. Often, we believe a task impossible with no chance for accomplishment. We begin to doubt and wonder if God is truly calling us. “Why me? I CAN’T do this!”  But when God leads—mountains move! And there is no denying where our help comes from. May all the glory go to HIM. Keep moving forward sister. He goes before you and clears the path. And you will be continually awed by the power of our Great God!

We will keep you in our prayers.

Lois Kanalos, VOP Founder/Advocate

Tell Pastor Saeed that we understand, and we will pick up the cross and follow Christ as he has.

Join in this project to let the Abedini’s know how they have inspired or renewed your faith. Each testimony will be a source of encouragement to them and the Body of Christ. When the family is reunited, we will gather the stories to be published in a book and presented to them as an appreciation for their steadfast faith. Together, we will be able to provide a little insight into how God has worked through them to be a blessing to more than they realize.  Add your testimony below. If your church has been active in praying for this persecuted family, inform them of this special mission so they too can share their thoughts and be an encouragement.

Be encouraged, view submitted testimonies HERE 

 inspired by faith

abedini-1

 

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