Islamic State militants are demanding up to $30 million in ransom to release the hundreds of Christian hostages in Syria, according to an officer within the Assyrian leadership.
In ongoing negotiations between ISIS terrorists and the Assyrian leadership to free the 250-300 Christians abducted by the militant group in February, ISIS is demanding $100,000 per individual, according to the source.
Third-party Syrian Sunni Muslims from the local area are reported to be brokering the talks between the two groups.
“They know we cannot come up with this kind of money, so they are hoping other groups and countries will come up with the money,” the official said.
A total of 23 hostages have been released to date, while the rest remain in ISIS custody after a Feb. 23 attack on villages in the northern province of al Hasakah.
The reason for those releases was not known, but according to some of the freed hostages, they were prohibited from going back to their homes in Syria and instead told to leave the country.
The Feb. 23 attack was a coordinated raid on 35 Assyrian villages in the Hasaka province, an area where the native Christian community thrived for generations.
Nine Assyrian fighters were killed attempting to defend their villages.
In late January, there were similar reports of a raid by the Islamic State on the same area,and threats to bomb churches if crosses were not removed.
The Islamic State has desecrated churches and Christian graveyards in wholesale fashion in both Iraq and Syria.
Reports at the time indicated the Islamic State was using its Christian hostages as human shields in military confrontations.
ISIS militants transported large groups of Christian captives to areas of intense fighting against Kurdish and Christian militias as they continue to battle for strategic areas along the northeastern Syrian border, according to state-run media.
The Islamic State has long targeted Christian communities in the region, at first warning them to convert to Islam or pay aJizya, a minority tax, and later abducting individuals and desecrating ancient landmarks and artifacts.
On Easter Sunday, ISIS blew up Church of the Virgin Mary in Tal Nasri village, an 80-year-old cathedral in the same Syrian province.
(Voice of the Persecuted) We are acquiring information of conflicts in Central Africa that are still waging despite virtual media silence. The Congo has seen many wars and Human Rights abuses. Mass graves, rape of children and many human rights abuses have been brought to our attention. One thing I’ve learned over the last 6 years is to have an analytic mind while reading news. To research the facts and digging out the truth. Often you will find that nothing is as it seems on the surface.
Most interesting is that in Africa, the countries with the most persecution and genocide of Christians, is that Christianity continues to grow. And the demographics of Christians in the world are actually changing. According to Pew Research in 2050, nearly four-in-ten of the world’s Christians (38%) are expected to be living in sub-Saharan Africa, up from 24% in 2010 and less than 2% in 1910. In addition, by 2050, five of the 10 largest Christian populations in the world – Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda – will be in Africa, which had three of the 10 largest Christian populations in 2010.
In December, World Watch Monitor reported when Religious leaders called for dialogue in the Great Lakes Region (Congo).
(World Watch Monitor) Situated in the middle of the continent, the Great Lakes region is one of the most volatile areas of Africa. For decades, it has been ravaged by violent conflicts, such as the bitter ethnic rivalries that led to the Rwanda genocide of 1994, in which more than 800,000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis, were slaughtered in the span of 100 days. Neighbouring Burundi also was torn by deadly ethnic tensions following its independence in 1963. Those tensions broke out in 2003 into civil war that lasted 12 years and claimed more than 300,000 lives.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, however, has suffered the worst conflict in Africa. Up to 6 million people were killed during the five-year civil war that started in 1998. Often referred to as Africa’s “World War” because it involved most of its neighbouring countries, the conflict technically ended with a 2003 peace agreement and the deployment of the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping mission, though the measures have yet to bring a lasting peace, particularly in the eastern regions of the country.
“This would commend us to draw lessons from it, in order to be able to allocate the things we can tolerate and those we cannot afford to tolerate anymore,” said Bishop John Rucyahana of the Anglican Church of Rwanda.
‘‘We need dialogue in order to strategize and set the pace for development,” he said. “We critically have to expose sources of conflicts as much as we need to dialogue to establish policies, not only to eliminate those conflicts, but also do it with the intent commitment to heal our social fabric.’’
‘‘It is imperative to assess and set apart all the things we can no longer tolerate, like the things that hinder our unity and disrupt the process of our development and our total recovery. We don’t only tolerate conflict resolutions or prevention but we remove it if possible,” Rucyahana said.
Further potential sources of violence exist, EIRENE’s regional director, Tahirou Sy Issaka, told World Watch Monitor in a telephone interview.
Several Great Lakes countries — Rwanda, Burundi, DRC and Uganda – will hold elections in 2015. Issaka said religious and ethnic affiliations maybe manipulated for political purposes, creating conditions that could spark violence. (Read the full report)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo also known as DR Congo, DRC, Congo, Congo-Kinshasa, DROC, or RDC(known as Zaïre 1965–97), is a country located in Central Africa. It borders theRepublic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan to the north,Uganda, Rwanda,Burundi and Tanzaniato the East, Zambiaand Angola to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world. With a population of over 75 million.
- The Congolese Civil Wars, beginning in 1996, brought about the end of Mobutu Sese Seko’s 31 year reign, devastated the country, and ultimately involved nine African nations,multiple groups of UN peacekeepers and twenty armed groups.
- The wars resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people since 1998 with more than 90% of those deaths the result of malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by displacement and unsanitary and over-crowded living conditions.
- Nearly half of the victims were children under five.
These facts seem to ring true in every conflict present today. The weak and the vulnerable are the victims, not the governments or the groups waging war against them. We are told that the Congo is still in conflict and human rights abuses abound, but are simply not being shared. So we went to work. We found reports of abuses, and raging conflict, that rebel groups in this area have alliances with Al-Shabob, (through the Allied Democratic Forces). And remember this is where the LRA raged their murderous campaigns of kidnapping and rape. When you begin to peel back the layers, the smell is overwhelming.
For the last couple years rights groups like Amnesty International and and sources such as World Watch Monitor have been reporting on the abuses of women. One Congolese Doctor say’s that “Rape is a weapon of mass destruction.” Last June, Fides Agency reported Denis Mukwege, a Congolese doctor, who has been working for years to treat victims of rapes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Dr. Mukwege manages the health center of Panzi, in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu which together with North Kivu are two of the most unstable areas of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, due to the presence of numerous armed groups that terrorize the population.”Rapes – explains the doctor – are born from the desire to destroy the woman as the bearer of life. In this sense, they are weapons of mass destruction”. He goes on to say that “A woman is considered first of all a mother”, recalls the document. “She gives life. That is all which is to be considered sacred in African tradition. … In such a context, violence against women is considered a way of inflicting death to an entire community. It is a way to strike at the very heart of the community”. According to Dr. Mukwege, war rapes are weapons used in various conflicts around the world, from the former Yugoslavia to Syria: “I met some Bosnian women and Syrian doctors who told me of similar rapes.”
Reuters shared in March, that girls as young as 18 months old are being raped and left with horrific injuries. Precious babies and as one doctor said, their bodies have been destroyed. They cited that 34 babies and young girls had been treated from one community alone. Giving credence to the above report from Fides. It seems this evil is dead set on controlling the population and indeed destroying communities by attacking those who give life, not a new tactic. Whole communities in the Congo are being attacked, attacking the very vulnerable and defenseless….children. And nothing is done to stop this. Nothing from the media, nothing from World leaders, only silence.
The UN Peacekeeping force does have a presence and refuse to leave until they can make progress with Rwandan rebels, so we find many factions just lurking under the surface. Many rebel groups, many mentions of bloody and disastrous conflicts, incessant human rights abuses and the innocent suffer unspeakable horrors.
The New York Times did do an op-ed in Dec. of 2012, and titled the conflict in the Congo “The World’s Worst War.” The author of this articles say’s “The Congo has become a never-ending nightmare, one of the bloodiest conflicts since World War II, with more than five million dead.” (Read here)
Something else stands out in the above report, the rapes have been marked by a level of brutality that is shocking even by the twisted standards of a place rived by civil war and haunted by warlords and drugged-up child soldiers.
More than 5 Million people killed. Wikipedia puts the numbers at 5.4 million since 1998. In January of this year, it was reported that the government opened fire on civilians protesting election law change. It seems this is a practice. A mass grave has been uncovered and reports say that overnight in January 421 bodies were buried by the government. It was uncovered when women working in a field smelled a stench and found a leg. A US based Human Rights Organization say’s that the bodies are from the crackdown on protesters in January. They called for exhumation of the bodies since the government said they were babies that died or fetuses. But the Government is refusing to exhumation—Human Rights Abuses again meet silence.
This morning the Fides Agency shared that The Democratic Republic of Congo would have the potential to be a rich country, not just for exotic and natural landscapes, but also for the presence of minerals such as gold, diamonds, iron, coltan and natural gas. The same oil fields, if properly exploited, could bring important resources to invest in the Country. Unfortunately, the proliferation of armed groups and often the economic interests of other Countries, which agree that the situation remains so, make any kind of change difficult. The violence of rebel groups, particularly in the eastern part of the territory, leave destruction everywhere, broken families, women raped, children abducted to be recruited by criminal gangs. In addition, health care is possible only in major cities. School education is not remotely contemplated. Extreme poverty is widespread with the exception of a very small group. Volcanoes in full activity and that are close to Goma make the already precarious situation even worse. One of the most active volcanoes in the world, Nyiragongo has already erupted over 50 times in the last 150 years, causing widespread damage and deaths, flooding the city and 14 other surrounding villages. A short distance from Nyiragongo is Nyamuragira volcano, the most active in all of Africa.
No justice, no condemnation, too few calls for committees to investigate. This is an ongoing story, one of indeed a never ending war, with the same players moving with the same agendas. Where is the outcry for their protection? Who will be their VOICE encouraging those with the power to act? Has history not taught us how our silence only emboldens violent men? With these questions, we are reminded of:
“A sad truth of human nature is that it is hard to care for people when they are abstractions, hard to care when it is not you or somebody close to you. Unless the world community can stop finding ways to dither in the face of this monstrous threat to humanity those words Never Again will persist in being one of the most abused phrases in the English language and one of the greatest lies of our time.” ― Paul Rusesabagina
“We must recognize that if we feel helpless when facing the record of human depravity, there was always a point at which any particular scene of madness could have been stopped.” ― Robert H. Abzug
2 Timothy 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy
And the parable Jesus told of the Good Samaritan when a man beaten, half dead on the side of the road was overlooked by religious men, but noticed and shown compassion by a certain Samaritan. Luke 10:25-37
Often we miss the chance to care for those who truly need us. To speak up for those who are silenced out of fear or oppression. Maybe we’re afraid of being rejected or possibly humiliated in someway. For many, it’s simply easier to say nothing and go about our own business…to speak would require action. “My schedule doesn’t allow for that?” Surely someone else will step up to improve the situation, or so we hope… If that rings true for you, you’re not alone. In the past, a few of us have been guilty of the same.
Didn’t Jesus advocate for others? We should all remember that faith and action to go hand in hand. We have the power of God behind us and we are not called his hands and feet for nothing. Let us not find ourselves one day saying in regret, “Why didn’t someone do something…why didn’t I?” There will be no passing the blame, collective guilt begins with ‘me’. And we need to be accountable for our own actions or reactions.
Matthew 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
We are Christians, be bold in faith, stand up, be a VOICE. It’s time for us to do something!
We will watch this closely and report as information becomes available.
- Pray for the Children
- Pray for the innocent
- Pray for God to shine light on this darkness.
- Pray for Him to send caring hands and comfort.
(Voice of the Persecuted) Nigeria: BOKO HARAM: They may destroy our structures but not our faith. Our Faith is active and alive…..in persecution we are purified.
This was the statement on the lips of the bishop, Most Rev.Oliver Dashe and the internally displaced persons who had just returned to their communities.
The Chief shepherd of the diocese took what he calls a consolation tour to some of the communities that have been recaptured by our prayers and the gallant effort of the joint task force of Niger, Chad and Cameroon, with the Nigerian military.
The director social communications who was on the entourage of the bishop reported that the visited communities were; Kala’a, BAHULI, Mishara, Betso, Muchalla, and Mubi; all in Mubi North / South LGA of Adamawa state and Uba LGA in Borno state.
The bishop and priests encouraged the returnees in the Mass of Reconciliation and Reparation to remain steadfast despite the calamities that have befallen them. They must learn to forgive as Christ himself present in the Most Holy Sacrament had already forgiven the radical elements for their sacrileges, profanation and hate. The priests and bishop were in the confessional for over three hours in some communities visited.
In his homily, Monsg. Dashe, encouraged the people just returning home after months of seeking refuge in other parts of Nigeria to remain steadfast in their faith. He charged them not to allow themselves to be misled with the idea of VENGEANCE. It is obvious that at times like this when a lot of damages had been done and from a visual estimate there is apparently no standing church in Mubi and the surrounding communities, people would seek vengeance. The bishop encouraged; vengeance is for the Lord… anyone who resorts to violent revenge is practically in the same bowl with the devil. Seeking out vengeance would only lead to a chain reaction or a vicious cycle of war. He encouraged the people to remember the core values of our Christian faith, to love even our enemies and those who persecute us. For in love we are saved…. He thanked them for the high sense of commitment in the faith. He told them he was never afraid, some day we shall be victorious.
In their difficulty, they have lost their members; a good number of their members are still displaced. Parents are yet to connect with their children and wives. Majority have just returned from the Cameroonian borders. They faced a lot of challenges and difficulties, some of them are yet to locate their loved ones. They had their houses heavily looted; their churches were completely burnt down. The returnees are gradually clearing the tables and searching out new ways to make ends meet. Life is pragmatically no longer the same as some persons pointed out; on our return we are beginning life anew.
The community of Mishara in Uba Local government area was agog upon seeing the bishop and the four priests on his entourage. Although, the security network in this community was still tight, there were no vehicular movement, everyone was expected to move on foot. The people who returned had no option, because life was very difficult outside. On returning home, they were not to open their shops, no schools or medical facilities. But they had to return; because home is always home and they were eager to go count their losses. Their homes were terribly looted, their churches and rectories were razed down and their aged parents killed as they refused to recant their faith. In all these, the bishop said they should keep their faith high. The rosary is the major weapon we have in this trying moment.
The bishop told them, for healing to occur they have to forgive the past and look to the future with great hope and confidence. He knows clearly that they have lost their members and loved ones. Some are still displaced; he prayed that in no time they shall be reunited. He told them not to border about the destructions done, particularly on ecclesiastical structures, they belong to God and he alone knows how to reconstruct his house.
The prelate knows full well that at this moment of trial people would ask some existential questions; regarding the existence of God, while all these killings and destructions are ongoing, he charged them to remain focus because God would work out wonders in our life as a church. There should be no draw backs in our faith journey.
For the bishop, The Lord in his abundant knowledge might have allowed this great persecution to befall us in order that he might teach us some great lessons. In this post-war times, we should come closer to God. Our lives should be purified and God must be our point of attraction. We must take church activities seriously. Since the Boko Haram violent saga was meant to purify our faith.
As we count our losses, we also count our blessings…thanks to Boko Haram for adding more MARTYRS in the Canon of the Saints of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri in heaven…..
By Rev. Gideon Obasogie, Director Social Communications Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri
Persecuted Christians in North Nigeria have and are suffering greatly. Remember to keep them in your prayers. Pray that they will remain strong in faith. And in Christ, to endure through trials overcoming the darkness that is trying to consume them.
Voice of the Persecuted’s aid mission, Project 133 is working in Nigeria to aid those who are now faced with rebuilding their lives, including orphans and widows who are at the greatest risk of further abuse. Missions in Nigeria have been overwhelmed by the extreme numbers of the displaced(IDP’s). And with each trip to the affected areas, the numbers documented grow, particularly cases of widows and orphans.
Voice of the Persecuted has stepped in to help with the great needs of the suffering. We are very concerned for their long term status and will work to aid them in becoming self sufficient. But we cannot do this alone and need your help. If the Lord has put it on your heart to do more for the care of our suffering family in Christ, please join us by partnering in the mission to save one family at a time. If you have not been sure of how to help, become a part of this mission to bring joy to those in great trial, as One in the Body.
Together with your generous support, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you have greatly blessed others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
(Voice of the Persecuted) It can be overwhelming when learning of all of the suffering, and persecution of Christians in the world today. When the biggest request is prayer from those persecuted how do we Pray? When you pray with your heart and soul before the Throne of God, He hears and know’s your heart for the persecuted.
Some of the prayer requests we hear are,
- That God won’t bring about the death of those persecuting, but to forgive them and show them the Light of Christ. They ask that their hearts be softened.
- For endurance to persevere
- They ask for courage, and strength to face the day.
- To be comforted and that their immediate needs be met.
- They ask for those who can help to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
The many survivors of persecution have said they forgive their attackers. You may have heard that when you forgive, you end the conflict. But how? Take the Lords lead.
Jesus said “Forgive those who persecute you, and if your enemy is thirsty give him water.” One of Jesus’ last words on the cross, was, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” When Stephen was stoned his last words were “ Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”
It’s not easy to forgive tormentors, in fact it’s almost humanly impossible, but when you give it to God He can heal, and He can bring you into forgiveness.
It takes prayer, and seeking the Holy Spirit. The Apostles talked of this forgiveness and their greatest need as being perseverance.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days.Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
So with the world in chaos and the genocide of Christians around the globe, here again are the countries we feel need your prayers, pray for God’s mercy also to be spread across the world and for His children to be protected. You can’t put a number on Countries, all are the same, all are persecuting our brethren. The following list is in no particular order.
- North Korea
We hope this helps, we hope you will enter your prayer closets and pray with a renewed vigor, for these, our Brethren. If you are in these countries and have specific prayer requests submit it here and we will put the VOP Prayer Warrior team on it immediately. God be with you dear ones. You are not forgotten.
How many of us lose “hope” after we misplace or not-have–in-possession something dear to us? Such as keys, wallets, assignments, purses, cell phones, computers. Your heart rate raises, you’re not able to think clearly, your not able to communicate; it is your sensorium process going in over drive. You have heard of flight, fight, or freeze process?
Jesus Christ experiences something similar. He didn’t lose his keys, he was going to lose his life, for us. He was experiencing what the medical field now calls a rare occurrence hematohidrosis, it is better explained in Luke 22:44 (ESV),”And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Even though Jesus was in agony and blood drops like sweat where exiting his glands, what did He do? He prayed more earnestly.
We may not experience hematohidrosis when we are in distress, but we still feel the absence and the pain, be it momentarily for losing something. Momentarily, i.e., briefly, quickly, fleeting moment. There is no linkage to momentarily when you haven’t been with that something or in this case someone for 920 days. It has been 920 days since Saeed Abedini has been in prison. Naghmeh hugged Saeed 2 years, 9 months, 1 week, and 5 days ago on June 22, 2012, when he went to Iran to finalize the openings of an orphanage for kiddos in his homeland.
I am confident that Naghmeh is in agony, but what does she continue to do? What Jesus showed us in Luke, she prays earnestly; praying for husband, but also for many of us, her support. So I challenge all of you to pray on by praying for Naghmeh. Pray specifically for Gods peace that will guard her heart and mind in Jesus. In Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV), we read, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus Christ taught us how to pray earnestly in times of agony, and the Apostle Paul encouraged us to control our sensorium process by praying with thanksgiving; giving our anxieties to God. What does God give us? Peace. So pray on for Naghmeh to continue to experience peace, but with that peace emotional regulation, so she can continue to perform her daily living activities of being a mom, and the other expectations she has chosen to carry, such as, a voice for her husband, which has directed her to be share Christ worldwide. Sharing with the world Jesus and the experience He had which was preceded by the hematohidrosis on the Mount of Olives.
Pray for Naghmeh, pray for each other, to have peace and pray on.
By Dr. Jim Seward
(Voice of the Perseucted) An unknown number of students are being held hostage after gunmen stormed Garissa University. As the jihadists—Al-Shabaab engaged in a shoot out with authorities, 147 people were killed, many injured and hostages taken. The group said they are “holding many Christians alive.”
Around 5:30 a.m, the attack came as morning prayers began at the university mosque. The worshipers were not attacked by the gunmen. The chaos sent the students scattering for safety. Many of the university’s 815 students have not been accounted for.
Witnesses said they divided Christian students from Muslims, and then gunned them down without mercy. Many ran for their lives through a spray of bullets to find cover. Others escaped the dorms with the help of military soldiers at the scene. Another witness claimed, “Most of the people still inside there are girls.” Defense forces have the area surrounded.
Al-Shabaab originated as a branch of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which splintered into several smaller factions after its defeat in 2006 by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the TFG’s Ethiopian military allies. The group describes itself as waging jihad against “enemies of Islam.” The group fights for the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state.
Al-Shabaab is said to have many foreigners within its ranks, including recruiting those from western countries—particularly at the leadership level.
Al-Shabaab has been designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. As of June 2012, the US State Department has open bounties on several of the group’s senior commanders.
In 2011, Al-Shabaab claimed NGO’s were conducting illegal and inappropriate activities and banned all foreign non-governmental organizations from areas under its control. In retaliation for these alleged ulterior motives, it’s members intimidated, kidnapped and killed NGO and international workers, leading the organizations to suspend or withdraw their operations.
Their focus had primarily been within Somalia, but they have carried out deadly strikes in the region. The group took a hard hit and was weakened in the efforts to eradicate them. They now seem more focused on creating fear and chaos through terrorism on easy targets where the number of casualties may be large. The jihadi-linked group has been blamed for multiple attacks, including the terror operation at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013. In the attack they executed 67 unarmed men, women and children.
In the struggle for influence and recognition, Al-Shabaab has been trying to maintain its relevancy similar to radicals such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Boko Haram—who they have connection with.