(Voice of the Persecuted) Much time is spent communicating and praying with suffering persecuted Christians. Our hearts are heavy, their burdens weighing beyond measure. This morning, I asked God how am I to help when so few seem to care? The problem is so large, what can I, a lowly servant do? I was discouraged. Then the word came ringing in my ear…… Take your burdens to the cross.
Jesus will meet us there. Today, please join us at the foot of the cross of our precious Savior. Our burdens will be met by Jesus, and our faith and strength renewed.
C. Refsland, VOP Advocate
(Voice of the Persecuted) We are deeply disturbed by the recent news of vandalistic attacks on places of worship. In the latest news of the Islamic State’s quest to stomp out Christianity, the terrorist group posted images and video footage portraying militants razing the nearly 1,600-year-old Syriac Catholic Mar Elian Monastery. The location is believed to be where Saint Elian was killed by his father, a Roman officer, for refusing to renounce his faith in Jesus. During the destruction, it is claimed they dug up and desecrated the bones of the martyred Christian saint.
Earlier this month, the jihadist captured the town of al-Qaryatain in the Homs province kidnapping more than 230 Syriac Christians. Purported as ISIS’ biggest military advance since it took over the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra in May, it’s suspected that some of the kidnapped Christians were taken from the town’s ancient monastery. The site is also the location where a priest and church volunteer was abducted in May.
Christians are being slaughtered, cleansed of their lands across the world, as a genocide is taking place. We regularly condemn and demand that governments, particularly Islamic governments, put an end to discrimination and these horrific attacks against Christians. We’ve called on western nations and the international community to stop all ties with nations who continue to promote and condone violence by inaction. We have asked Muslims to stand up and raise their voices against the violence and those wishing to harm their Christian neighbors.
So how can we call this behavior evil and silently witness abusive acts taking place in the West against people of other faiths? It’s hypocrisy to not speak out. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He taught us to turn the other cheek. He gave us the great commission to spread the Gospel in patience and love, but no where in scripture does it tell us to kill, commit acts of violence or desecrate another’s faith. We are warned to stay away from such religions and doctrines of demons, but no where did Jesus, nor the Apostles attack the Roman government or pagan religions in the manner in which was seen before and today.
In no comparison to what is happening to Christians in strict Islamic nations, evidence of discrimination is happening in the U.S. that should be concerning to Christians, true followers of Christ.
For example, twice in one week, an air conditioning unit was vandalized during prayers at a Virginia mosque, in July.
In a report shared in April, pieces of bacon were left in the parking lot and at the entrance of the Islamic Society of Edmond’s mosque. Police said bacon strips were wrapped around door handles at the mosque in Oklahoma. On April 12th, another mosque was targeted when several windows were shot out by vandals with a bb gun near the campus of Oklahoma State University.
Members of both mosques were concerned about drawing negative attention to their house of worship saying they didn’t want to draw more crazy people to their institutions.
Muslims believe pork is an unclean meat unfit for consumption, so Muslims are to refrain from eating pork. A Muslim commented that the vandals use of bacon was meant to be offensive, but pork is not like Kryptonite and would not stop them from going to worship.
Jesus said we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the shining light on a hill. In today’s world, as we approach the end of time, we should be about our Father’s business spreading love and the Gospel. Not wrapping bacon around the doorposts of mosques or synagogues. This type of behavior covers the light in darkness. It’s exactly what the spirit of evil wants, and is mostly likely behind it. Satan wants to discredit God’s people. Jew and Christian alike. Understand this, the world is watching us right now. It doesn’t need an excuse to ban Jesus from the public square. Yet we enable it’s realization, when Western Nation’s that pride themselves in freedom of worship with the right to choose, exhibit the very behaviors we call evil.
So much death and destruction has wrought callousness in western society, including some in the Church. To the people experiencing the affects of the chaos, it’s brought much suffering, pain and sorrow you can’t even imagine. The world is failing miserably as a community to care for those facing persecution and fleeing death. If you have followed our reports, there’s no need for charts and graphs of statistics to be aware of this. So much blood, innocent blood has been shed. So much suffering and pain, a practical Christian genocide taking place…yet the world never misses a beat to condemn Christianity.
Take the Central African Republic for example. It’s been called ‘the forgotten crises’. Lately, much attention has been given to the Daesh and the Mid East and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, but few care to hear about the CAR and the atrocities there. We have covered this extensively in the past, but it’s back in the news with the worldly blasting Christian militia’s are beheading and slaughtering. Yet not a mention from the Western media that they are not followers of Christ. Not Christian doctrine or behavior, but behavior of an evil anti-christ spirit that has manifested in Militia’s like the Lord’s Resistance Army. They’re still very active in this region, even the UN admits their presence and has set up roadblocks and networks to trap them. But due to their cameleon abilities to morph into other groups like the Anti-Balaka to invade, capture and spread their evil doctrine much like the Daesh.
This spirit is not new to the world. But again, not the doctrine taught by Jesus. This spirit of evil manifested many times in Biblical history and now in modern times. Bible history tells us of this evil spirit manifested in ‘Antiochus lV’ that is easily without a stretch, fits today’s events.
He was violently bitter against the Jews, and was determined to exterminate them and their religion. He devastated Jerusalem in 168 BC, defiled the Temple, offered a pig on its altar, erected an altar to Jupiter, prohibited Temple worship, forbade circumcision on pain of death, sold thousands of Jewish families into slavery, destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found, and slaughtered everyone discovered in possession of such copies, and resorted to every conceivable torture to force Jews to renounce their religion.
Again throughout history, evil has existed and present day barbarity is staggering. We, as a Body and the world have are failing. It’s time to show the light and love of Christ to the world instead of selfishness, hatred and revenge. Stand up, be counted and stand firm or the darkness will overtake you.
Instead of harboring negative feelings towards those of other faiths, open your eyes and see that God is bringing the nations to us! Opening the door for them to hear His Gospel! Share it in love, then let them choose. Let them see His love and light through you. It is God who draws those near to Him, not us.
If you don’t submit yourself to the Holy Spirit and do God’s will, even if it hurts or goes against the flesh or the carnal, you won’t come out of this crisis. Let our focus be on our Father’s business.
Serving those most affected by the crisis, we ask for your help. 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 to persecuted Christians.
Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
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Saudi Arabia recently preached to the international community about the need to confront “intolerance, extremism and human rights violations.”
If this sounds surreal, consider the following excerpts from a July 26 report in the Saudi Gazette(emphasis added):
Saudi Arabia has reiterated its call on the international community to criminalize any actvilifying religious beliefs and symbols of faith as well as all kinds of discrimination based on religion.
Saudi Arabia wants Western cartoonists, comedians, and others—people who represent only their individual selves—to stop mocking the religious beliefs and symbols of Islam, even as the Arabian kingdom’s owninstitutionalized policy is to vilify and discriminate against the religious beliefs and symbols of all other faiths.
Not a single non-Muslim worship building is allowed there; the highest Islamic authority decreed that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.” Whenever Christians are suspected of meeting in a house for worship—or as one Saudi official once complained, “plotting to celebrate Christmas”—they arearrested and punished.
Any cross or other non-Muslim symbol found is confiscated and destroyed. Anyone caught trying to smuggle Bibles or any other “publications that have prejudice to any other religious belief other than Islam” can be executed.
In 2011, a Colombian soccer-player “was arrested by the Saudi moral police after customers in a Riyadh shopping mall expressed outrage over the sports player’s religious tattoos, which included the face of Jesus of Nazareth on his arm.” In 2010 a Romanian player kissed the tattoo of a cross he had on his arm after scoring a goal, causing public outrage.
And yet, Saudi Arabia has the unmitigated gall to ask the West—where Islam is freely practiced, where mosques and Korans proliferate, and where Muslims are granted full equality—to cease “discrimination based on religion.”
Continues the Saudi Gazette:
Addressing an international symposium on media coverage of religious symbols based on international law, which started in this French city on Saturday, a senior Saudi official said the Kingdom emphasized years ago that the international community must act urgently to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance, which has become widespread in all communities and peoples of the world.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, few countries exhibit as much “ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance” as does the Arabian kingdom. Along with the aforementioned discrimination and intolerance against all other religions, Saudi Arabia is notoriously clannish and racist.
Ten percent of the population is denied equal rights because of their race; black men are barred from holding many government positions; black women are often put on trial for “witchcraft”; castrated African slaves are sold on Facebook in the birthplace of Islam, and its princes are known to beat their black slaves to death. Human Rights Watch has described conditions for foreign workers in Saudi Arabia as resembling slavery.
Worse of all is if you’re black and Christian. After 35 Christian Ethiopians were arrested and abused in prison for almost a year, simply for holding a private house prayer, one of them said after being released: “They [Saudis] are full of hatred towards non-Muslims.”
This is unsurprising considering that the Saudi education system makes it a point to indoctrinate Muslim children with hatred, teaching that “the Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.”
According to Saudi novelist Hani Naqshabandi, “Our religious institutions do not give us room to exercise free thought…. They [Saudi institutions] said that the Christian is an infidel, a denizen of hell, an enemy to Allah and Islam. So we said, ‘Allah’s curse on them.’”
Again, bear in mind that all this is official Saudi policy—not the “free expressions” of individuals, which the Saudis are condemning as creating “ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance” around the world.
The Saudi Gazette goes on to quote one Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, “a senior Saudi official.” Speaking at the recent international symposium in France which hosted representatives from 16 European nations, he said that Western “freedom of expression without limits or restrictions” are “abuses [that] bred intolerance, extremism and human rights violations…”
Again, it bears reemphasizing that in the West individuals are free to express themselves. And it’s just that—expression, not action (as in murder, terrorism, rape, enslavement, church bombings, or the slaughter of “apostates”).
As for Western governments, thanks to political correctness, not only do they discourage freedom of expression but honest, objective talk concerning Islam is suppressed (hence every Western leader maintains that ISIS “has nothing to do with Islam,” AKA, “the religion of peace”).
Meanwhile, it is precisely Islamic teachings that breed “intolerance, extremism and human rights violations,” and not just in Saudi Arabia but all throughout the Muslim world. And it is precisely these teachings that prompt Western peoples to criticize Islam, including through cartoons.
None of this is enough to embarrass the Saudis from their farce:
Al-Omari said the Saudi participation in the symposium falls in line with its efforts to support the principles of justice, humanity, promotion of values and the principles of tolerance in the world as well as to emphasize the importance of respecting religions and religious symbols.
Actually, because of Saudi Arabia’s absolute lack of “justice, humanity, promotion of values and the principles of tolerance,” even the U.S. State Department lists the home of Islam and Muhammad as one of eight “Countries of Particular Concern.”
Thus in ultra-hypocritical manner, Saudi Arabia asks the international community to stop exercising freedom of expression—even as it openly and unapologetically persecutes non-Muslims, discriminates against non-Saudis, and violates the most basic of human rights on a daily basis.
It still remains to determine which is more surreal, more unbelievable: that Saudi Arabia, which tops the charts of state-enforced religious intolerance and ethnic discrimination, is calling on the West “to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance,” or that the West deigns to participate in such disgracefully hypocritical forums.
(Morning Star News) – Two South Sudanese pastors arrived home in Juba from Khartoum, Sudan today after an eight-month ordeal of imprisonment, fabricated charges of capital crimes and a ban on leaving the country.
The Rev. Peter Yein Reith and the Rev. Yat Michael were acquitted of the crimes calling for the death penalty on Aug. 5 but were prevented from boarding a plane out of the country the next day. Sudan’s notorious National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) had ordered the travel ban when they were initially detained – Michael on Dec. 14 and Reith on Jan. 11 – and gave the orders to the airport personnel.
Attorneys for the two pastors have been working for their release since then, but it was not immediately clear how they were able to leave the country today. Michael and Reith were transported from Juba International Airport to a church in Hai Jebel in Juba, where they attended a thanksgiving service.
“Thank God for their arrival home,” the wife of Michael told Morning Star News after the service.
South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) leaders welcomed the pastors, who expressed their gratitude to Morning Star News amid the cheering congregation. An international outcry erupted over their weeks-long incarceration without charges after Morning Star News on Dec. 28, 2014 broke the news of Michael’s arrest, and on Jan. 20 published the first account of Reith’s arrest.
“Thank you very much, Morning Star News, for your great role which led to our release from jail,” Reith said.
Reith and Michael were convicted of lesser charges and released on the time they had served. Reith was convicted under Article 65 of “establishing or participating in a criminal organization,” while Michael was convicted under Article 69 of “disturbing public peace.”
The SSPEC pastors had also been charged with spying (Article 53), punishable by death, life imprisonment or prison and confiscation of property; undermining the constitutional system (Article 50), punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment and confiscation of property; disclosure and obtaining information and official documents (Article 55), punishable by two years in prison or a fine; blasphemy/insulting religious creeds (Article 125), punishable by one year of imprisonment or a fine or no more than 40 lashes; and joint acts in execution of a criminal conspiracy (Article 21).
Agents from NISS, said to be manned by hard-line Islamists, arrested the pastors.
Michael, 49, was arrested after encouraging Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church; the church was the subject of government harassment, arrests and demolition of part of its worship center as Muslim investors have tried to take it over. Reith, 36, was arrested on Jan. 11 after submitting a letter from SSPEC leaders inquiring about the whereabouts of Michael.
Police in North Khartoum on Dec. 2 beat and arrested 38 Christians from the church that Michael encouraged and fined most of them. They were released later that night.
On Oct. 5, 2013, Sudan’s police and security forces broke through the church fence, beat and arrested Christians in the compound and asserted parts of the property belonged to a Muslim investor accompanying them. As Muslims nearby shouted, “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” plainclothes police and personnel from NISS broke onto the property aboard a truck and two Land Cruisers. After beating several Christians who were in the compound, they arrested some of them; they were all released later that day.
Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.
Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians (see Morning Star News).
Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.
Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face most persecution, moving up from 11th place the previous year.
Persecution Watch, is a national prayer conference call who pray specifically for the persecuted Church—will join global prayer vigils being held for Pastor Saeed Abedini on the night of September 26th.
For over 6 years, Blaine Scogin has led this national network of believers faithfully praying for the persecuted Church and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group normally meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 8pm CST. But dedicated in their prayers for our persecuted brothers and sisters, these prayer warriors have been known to meet every night for months at a time—lifting them up as the Lord leads. Often, they host callers from nations other than the United States. And on occasion, they pray with the persecuted on the call as they tell of their hardships and share their amazing faith and stories of endurance through Christ. The group is honored to serve them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer.
Persecution Watch is inviting all who cannot leave their homes, or do not live within driving distance to one of the many planned prayer vigil events on Saturday evening, September 26th. This call will be open to all who would like to lift up our brother, Saeed in prayer. In silent prayer or crying out—you’re invited to stay on the call as long as you feel led to do so.
VOP encourages you to share this information with everyone, so those unable to attend the vigil locations can still participate in the prayer event.
MEET YOU ON THE CALL!
(Morning Star News) – A Muslim in eastern Uganda beat and left for dead his wife and 18-year-old son on Tuesday (Aug. 11) after learning they had converted to Christianity, area sources said.
Issa Kasoono beat and strangled his wife, Jafalan Kadondi, in Nsinze village, Namutumba District, but she survived, said a source who requested anonymity for security reasons. He said other relatives joined Kasoono in beating her and their two sons, Ibrahim Kasoono, 18, and Ismael Feruza, 16, though the younger son managed to escape with only bruises on his arm.
All three were treated at a local clinic. Due to injuries from the strangling, Kadondi has lost her voice and has difficulty eating, according to the source and an area pastor.
“The mother and Ibrahim Kasoono were seriously injured,” the source said. “Ibrahim was hit with a blunt object, had his right arm broken and has stomach pains, while the mother was strangled and sustained neck and throat injuries.”
Kadondi requires specialized treatment for her throat injury, said an area pastor whose name and church are withheld for security reasons.
Issa Kasoono left his wife and oldest son inside the house expecting them to die, the two sources said. After Ismael escaped, he ran to a church and informed the pastor of the violence. The pastor and two elders drove to the house, discovered Kadondi and Ibrahim were alive and took them to the clinic in Nsinze, he said.
On Wednesday (Aug. 12), the pastor took them to a relative’s house in another district, he said.
The mother and her two sons put their faith in Christ three months ago, and Kadondi had occasionally been able to secretly attend church meetings. After attending an open-air evangelistic event in May in Nsinze village, Kadondi and her two sons met with the pastor. After he further explained the gospel, they prayed with him to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, he said.
“It was only during this time, when Ibrahim and Ismael are in their holidays, that Issa discovered that the three had joined the Christian faith when a Muslim neighbor informed him,” he said.
Recently converts from Islam to Christianity in eastern Uganda have been suffering persecution regularly. The wife of a former sheikh (Islamic teacher) was poisoned to death on June 17 after she and her husband put their faith in Christ in Nabuli village, Kibuku District. Namumbeiza Swabura was the mother of 11 children, including a 5-month-old baby.
In Kiryolo, Kaderuna Sub-County, Budaka District on March 28, five Muslims gang-raped the 17-year-old daughter of a pastor because the church leader ignored their warnings that he stop worship services, she said.
Uganda’s population is 85 percent Christian and 11 percent Muslim. The country’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.
(Morning Star News) – A case involving the constitutional position of sharia (Islamic law) courts in the Malaysian legal system could strengthen the power of the courts to block Malay conversions from Islam.
In the potentially landmark case, that had been scheduled to be heard today, the Federal Territory Islamic Council claims that sharia courts are separate from and not subject to Malaysia’s federal court system.
Malaysia has two legal systems: the sharia courts and the federal courts. The sharia courts settle family matters (such as divorces), inheritance questions and violations of the pillars of Islam. These courts can impose limited punishments (six months’ imprisonment and fines up to about $1,300). They apply exclusively to Muslims – only Muslims can bring cases to these courts, and until 2006 only Muslims testified in them.
A Christian lawyer, Victoria Martin, noticed that it was difficult to resolve interfaith disputes in sharia courts, so she obtained a diploma in sharia from the International Islamic University Malaysia. In August 2009, she applied to the Federal Territory Islamic Council (Majilis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan, or MAIWP) for permission to practice in sharia court.
Her application was not processed because she was not a Muslim; rule 10 of the Sharia Court Rules Act (1993) states that sharia lawyers must be Muslims. By contrast, Singapore, which has a similar legal heritage, allows non-Muslims to practice in sharia courts.
In October 2009, Martin sued in Malaysian court requesting a judicial review of the rejection of her application. She lost, but later she won on appeal. The appeals court cited section 59(1) of the Sharia Court Rules Act (1993), which states that anyone with “sufficient knowledge of Islamic law” may be an advocate (attorney) in sharia courts.
Both the Malaysian Attorney General and the MAIWP have challenged Martin’s argument that her constitutional rights have been denied. Their case was due to be heard in the Malaysian Federal Court on Aug. 13, pitting constitutional rights against sharia. The ruling was expected to be delayed, however, over political issues.
The Islamic Council holds that because Islamic law always prioritizes the rights of the community over those of an individual, such laws should not be subject to freedoms that are part of the Malaysian Federal Constitution.
A decision for Martin would affirm the supremacy of the Federal Constitution. A decision against her, however, would mean that Islamic laws supersede federal laws. This would place the sharia courts beyond the reach of the federal courts.
If the position of the sharia courts is beyond review of federal courts, Malaysia’s 15 million ethnic Malays would be affected immediately, because all Malays are defined in the Constitution (Article 160) as Muslims. As “sons of the soil” (bumiputeras), they are given special affirmative action types of privileges.
One consequence of bumiputera status is that it is not possible for a Malay to convert to any other religion without changing ethnic status. Only sharia courts can change a person’s religious (and ethnic) status. A decision against Martin in the case thus would strengthen the sharia courts’ power to impede Malays converting to other faiths.
In short, the Martin case will be critical in defining the position of the sharia courts with respect to the federal court system. The placement of one system over the other will rest on the decision.