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Praying into 2016 Declaring ‘The Year of HOPE’

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(Voice of the Persecuted) Many are reflecting on the past year and considering resolutions to become a better person. They plan to eliminate bad habits, gain confidence, relieve stress, or other reasons to help themselves make changes towards success. Too often, these actions of solving our issues with “I will” or “I can” gets left by the wayside in the short span of 30 days, if at all. Our good intentions end up turning to failure and frustration.

Do we believe without a doubt that God desires to lead and direct our lives? Will we allow Him to guide and work through us in His will?

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

As Christians, we believe our destiny is preplanned by God in agape love.

What will be our response to Him in the new year?

 “Teach us to order our days that we might present to you a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

We stand at a critical moment in history. Daily reports of terrorism, chaos and the threat of world war. The current refugee crisis now a global problem — one whose scale and severity is unmatched since World War II. An exodus of biblical proportions as believers from the Middle East and Africa, attempt to escape violence in lands where Christianity began. Anti-Christian sentiment increases globally, while we witness the persecution of believers as never seen before.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:14-18

Father, we are at a crossroads. Across the globe persecution and suffering increases for Your faithful. The wearing down of the Saints has begun. Darkness grows around us seeking to destroy your sons and daughters. We ask in Jesus mighty name, please guide us and give us mercy and Your protection. Soften hearts of leaders, open eyes and send caring hearts and hands. Give a spirit of Hope to those suffering. Give us strength and courage. Your Saints are calling out to you from Africa, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Thailand and beyond. Father God, send them love and comfort.

We, who are free to eat and sleep, write, speak, and travel as we please—We, who are blessed to work and worship without discrimination or persecution—Let us use our freedom to make a difference in the lives of the suffering members in the Body of Christ.

There is a danger, a trap set by the enemy to prevent us from achieving this goal. Many are tempted to say, “It’s too much”, “the crisis is too great”, “I want to help, but I feel helpless”. “I don’t know what to pray.”

Stop! Push away whispers of the enemy!

Let’s not perpetuate the misery by withholding our own contribution. As members of one Body in Christ, let us follow the Lord’s command to love one another.

What does all this mean for those of us in the Body who are not facing persecution? It means we must work together, hand in hand, to care for our brothers and sisters who suffer immensely in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have Hope, don’t lose your blessed Hope. Our hope is in the Lord, not the world. He tells us, I AM the ALPHA and the OMEGA. Let us keep our focus solely on HIM.

We declare the year of 2016 as ‘The Year of HOPE’. Almighty Father, keep us and strengthen our faith. Help Your church endure the storms and trials of this world. Hold us in Your right hand and guide us to be your hands and feet. Give us Your heart for the persecuted and the world. Keep us on the path for Your Kingdom purposes. Protect us from the evil schemes of the enemy. Protect our families and supply our needs. Draw near to us as we seek Your face. As this new year begins, we will reflect on Your Word and promises. We will remember that we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us; knowing nothing is impossible for You. We give all praise to You in the highest and give You all the glory, now and forever. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord—let the Year of HOPE begin. Amen

In today’s communication with our Nigerian brethren.

“We in the camp always pray for you, our friends and well-wishers in 2015. We thank you for all your blessings and all the support from our benefactors.” In English they sang, ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’. All believers we have helped this year send their love, gratitude and prayers for making it possible for this mission to care for them. They ask God to bless you greatly.

All of us at Voice of the Persecuted wish you a very Blessed and Happy New Year. Thank you for your prayers, encouragement and supporting this mission to bless our persecuted family. We ask that you pray for the mission, that God continues to advance and guide us to help many more in 2016. We are excited to see where God will take us, together, to serve His Persecuted Church.

To our persecuted family, stay strong and we love you! May we all allow God to guide our lives and work through us in the new year!

May the Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

 

Another Christian Leader Arrested in Sudan

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Head of discipleship for embattled North Khartoum church held without charges.

Sudan (Morning Star News) – The head of discipleship at a North Khartoum, Sudan church has been arrested, sources said.

Agents of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) went to the home of Telahoon Nogose Kassa, 36, one night the second weekend of December and told him to report to their offices, the sources said. When he went to a NISS office the following day, they said, officials arrested him and took him to a detention center in Khartoum.

NISS officials gave no reasons for the arrest, though they questioned him for five consecutive days about his relationship with a foreign missionary who had attended a discipleship class, sources said. They believe he was targeted for his Christian activities and his opposition to government interference with his church, Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church.

The church has fought a government takeover of its property. Kassa’s arrest comes four months after two South Sudanese pastors, the Rev. Peter Yein Reith and the Rev. Yat Michael, were released following eight months in prison on false charges of capital crimes due to their efforts to defend the church against the illegal sale of its property.

Michael, 49, was arrested in December 2014 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.

Kassa, whose church is part of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, has since been transferred to Kobar Prison in Khartoum Bahri (North Khartoum), according to local sources who confirmed the arrest.

Since Kassa’s arrest more than two weeks ago, only his parents have been allowed to visit him, and only once, in Kobar Prison. Authorities have prohibited church members from visiting him, sources said. There were no charges brought against him at the time of his arrest, they said.

In further evidence of a crackdown against Christians in Sudan, security officials on Dec. 18 arrested two Sudanese pastors in the Khartoum area, the Rev. Kowa Shamaal and the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim. NISS authorities arrested both leaders of the Sudan Church of Christ (SCOC) separately at their respective homes at 7 a.m., sources said.

Shamaal, head of missions at the SCOC, was arrested at his house in Hai Thiba Al Hamyida, in North Khartoum, while Abdelrahim, SCOC vice moderator, was arrested at his home in Omdurman. Family members and church officials have been given no reason for the arrest of the pastors, who have objected to government demolition of SCOC worship buildings. Their whereabouts were also unknown.

Both church leaders are from the Nuba Mountain region of South Kordofan state. Ethnic Nuba, along with Christians, face discrimination in Sudan, where President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.

Shamaal’s church building was demolished in the Hai Thiba Al Hamyida area of Khartoum North on June 29-30, 2014. This year, after bulldozing a Lutheran Church of Sudan (LCS) building on Oct. 21, authorities in the Karari area of Omdurman demolished an SCOC building on Oct. 27 without prior warning, church leaders said. Local authorities said the SCOC building was on government land, a claim church leaders adamantly denied. The SCOC church was established in 1998.

A source in Khartoum told Morning Star News that Shamaal and Abdelrahim are in detention at an undisclosed NISS site in Khartoum state.

Christians in Sudan and elsewhere are praying for God’s protection and release of Shamaal, Abdelrahim and Kassa. One Christian said in regard to Kassa, “May God protect you, my brother, through the Holy Spirit even in prison.”

Repeated arrests of church leaders and Christian workers have forced many Sudanese Christians to fear possible arrest by NISS agents for speaking against ill treatment of Christians and their churches.

“Due to nature of the arrests in Sudan, many Christians are already afraid to speak out,” a source said.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. 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. 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.

ASIA BIBI FORGIVES HER PERSECUTORS

Asia Bibi

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (Matthew 5:11)

“She is a woman who, inundated by the grace of God, gives her blessing to her own story, a story which human reason can only see as wrong, twisted and unfortunate.”

PAKISTAN (ASSIST News Service) – For Asia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, this Christmas was shrouded in mercy.

A story by Paolo Affatato for La Stampa, an Italian newspaper published in Turin, reported that this was the seventh Christmas she spent behind bars, in the women’s prison in Multan. That’s a town in the province of Punjab, where Asia awaits the outcome of a re-examination of her blasphemy conviction.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court, the third and final stage in the trial, has accepted Asia’s petition to appeal against her death sentence. The wait is now on for a hearing date to be set so that he final verdict can be issued.

For this 50-year-old mother of five, Christmas in the Year of Mercy, is a celebration of forgiveness.

Despite her suffering and isolation and her awareness of the immense injustice she is experiencing, La Stampa said Asia is at peace.

La Stampa said, “She is a woman who, inundated by the grace of God, gives her blessing to her own story, a story which human reason can only see as wrong, twisted and unfortunate.”

Trusting in God’s Providence, Asia told members of her family who went to the prison to visit her on the morning of Christmas Eve, “Christmas is a celebration of God’s mercy. I forgive my persecutors, those who have made false accusations against me, and I await their forgiveness.”

These words, according to La Stampa, had a deep impact on Asia’s husband Ashiq Masih, her children and Joseph Nadeem, the family’s legal advisor and director of Lahore’s Renaissance Education Foundation.

The moment when they exchanged wishes was very moving.

Asia was happy, saying “Jesus has made this day a happy one for me and has listened to my prayers. I am moved and full of joy at being able to meet my family today and celebrate Christmas with you.”

Asia also recalled the moment that changed her life.

La Stampa reported she said, “Today also marks the celebration of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. May peace be with him on this day. I truly cannot imagine disrespecting him. But although I have been in prison for seven years, I do not hate those who have harmed me.”

She added, “I pray that the Prophet Mohammed will bestow wisdom on his followers so that peace can go on being built around the world. I pray that Jesus Christ will grant peace to the whole world.”

Family of Asia Bibi

Family of Asia Bibi

Asia’s husband, Ashiq, said that after the visit, his wife sent a request out to everyone following her story, to continue to pray for a positive outcome in the Supreme Court trial.

“May God the Almighty grant me freedom so that I can celebrate next Christmas with you, in peace and freedom,” she said.

Asia Bibi’s Christmas is an example of the way Christians are celebrating Christmas in Pakistan. They are “bearers of a message of harmony and hope,” said Khalil Tahir Sindhu.

He is a Catholic lawyer who has worked on the Asia Bibi case, as well as many other blasphemy cases against Christians. He is now minister for minorities and human rights in the provincial government of Punjab.

In order to avoid “new Asia Bibi” cases and eradicate the root cause of anti-Christian discrimination in Pakistan, La Stampa said Sindhu is using his political initiative to protect the rights of minorities.

As a result, the Punjab province has set up district committees for the promotion of religious harmony and has implemented a law that requires five percent of government jobs to be allocated to minorities.

Sindhu’s efforts were backed by Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, who at a meeting with Christian bishops stressed the important role religious minorities play in terms of the country’s “progress, defense, security and social stability.”

“Pakistan,” Hussain added, “will guarantee the well being and protection of our Christian brothers using all means possible,” recalling certain provisions that have already been adopted by the Pakistani government.

La Stampa said Sajjad Masih Gill hopes that these words will translate into actions. Gill is another Christian who was sentenced to life imprisonment for alleged blasphemy and presented his appeal to Lahore’s high court in recent days.

Pakistan is witnessing a disturbing trend in abuse of the blasphemy law that has ruined the lives of people such as Asia Bibi, Sajjad Masih Gill and many others: 1,400 such cases were reported in 2014, more than in any other year.

In 2014, La Stampa said, according to information from Pakistan’s human rights commission, the Pakistani courts sentenced three people to death, six people to life in prison and three more people to two years in prison for blasphemy.

Nisar Shar, a lawyer and spokesman for the Karachi bar association, said “it has become dangerous for lawyers to defend clients accused of blasphemy.”

Saiful Malook, Asia Bibi’s Muslim lawyer, is aware of these risks but has decided nevertheless to follow the case through until the final Supreme Court hearing, upon which Asia Bibi’s fate hangs.

By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

 

Islamic Militants Kill Nigerian Christians in Christmas Day Massacre

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Nigeria: (Voice of the Persecuted) While Christians were celebrating Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ, suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked Kimba village and started shooting and set homes and shops ablaze. Witnesses claim the village was burnt to the ground. 15 were killed in the attack and 7 people abducted. Located in Borno state, Kimba is a herding and farming community, 150 kilometres south of Maiduguri, the state capital. Hundreds in the community fled to the nearby town of Biu and now staying in a packed refugee camp to escape the notorious jihadists.

Boko Haram was listed as the most deadly terror group in 2014. Their mission, to enforce a strict adherence to Sharia (Islamic law) in North Nigeria and beyond, wiping out anyone who stands in their way. The militants endorse and aligned themselves with the brutal ISIS group terrorizing Iraq and Syria, but some question the collaboration. For years, Christian leaders have warned of the jihadis mission to eliminate Christianity from the north, as Christians were being singled out in attacks. Rev. Fr. Gideon Obasogie who is the Social Communications Director of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri had shared, “It is quite clear that terrorism has no friend, but it is abundantly clear that the Christians are worst hit.”

The Boko Haram is being blamed for an attack on Sunday in the Borno State capital city, Maiduguri. Further suicide bombings rocked the restive area on Monday.

Vanguard News reported, Sunday’s attack was part of a wider assault on Maiduguri, the capital of northeastern Borno state, a few short days before Nigerian President Buhari’s self-imposed deadline to eradicate the militants expires on December 31.

Mohammed Kanar, head of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the region, told AFP that 21 people had died and 91 were injured when jihadists stormed Jiddari Polo, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, at around 6:30 pm (1730 GMT), shooting guns and unleashing waves of young suicide bombers.

Further attacks rocked the city on Monday, leaving at least one person dead.

“There have been more than a dozen suicide blasts in Maiduguri between last night and this morning,” Babakura Kolo, a civilian vigilante assisting the military in fighting Boko Haram, said to AFP.

“The suicide attacks were carried out by young suicide bombers who managed to make their way into the city during the gun battle between soldiers and Boko Haram gunmen last night.”

Among the victims was the family of a local chief in Dawari village near Jiddari Polo who were killed by a rocket-propelled grenade understood to have been fired by Boko Haram fighters. 21 people had died and 91 were injured

Boko Haram Islamists have made several attempts to retake Maiduguri —- the birthplace of the jihadist movement -— since they were pushed out three years ago.

On Monday, two female suicide bombers blew themselves up at a market near a busy bus station in the town of Madagali, in Adamawa State. 30 were killed and many injured. According to Brigadier General Victor Ezugu, the injured were evacuated to the 143 Rangers Battalion military facility in Madagali and the General Hospital in Mubi. Critical cases were moved to Yola‎ for immediate attention.

20 also died in a bombing outside a mosque, Monday morning.

Though the group has lost areas they once controlled to the Nigerian Military, it’s apparent they still have the capacity to strike communities at will. Continuing their war for an independent Islamic state, they have resorted to using suicide bombers—many of them young girls. The latest attacks appear to be a slap to the face, challenging President Buhari who vowed to stop the group by the end of the year. Buhari declared last week that Boko Haram had been “technically” defeated, capable of no more than suicide bombings on soft targets. 

Nigeria’s biggest threat has now spread their terror campaign into neighboring countries. A Multi-national task force was set up to stop the Boko Haram and end their terror campaign. Nigerians had high hopes the nightmare would soon be over and believed the multi-national joint task force (MNJTF) would be able to end the insurgency. But 6 months later, the 8,700 strong force seems to be collapsing, or has failed. Some wonder if the nations are simply incapable of working together, or if they even have an offensive plan.

Yan St-Pierre, terrorism analyst at Berlin-based Modern Security Consulting Group to AFP said, “Boko Haram is still extremely dangerous, and it’s gaining resources, notoriety, credibility and successfully expanding its reach. To be defeated, Boko Haram must no longer be in a position to kill and inspire people, and right now it can still easily do both.”

Voiorphan-306x4601ce of the Persecuted (VOP) is caring for internal refugees from Christian villages hardest hit by the Boko Haram. Many children reside at the camp, including those orphaned and woman made widows in the insurgency. Their needs are immense. Please consider supporting this mission to care for those suffering great physical and emotional trauma. VOP is on the ground in Nigeria, GO with us on the mission through your gifts.

We want you to know that even in great hardship, they thank God and feel extremely blessed that He has kept His hand on them. They have been so encouraged and thank God for each one of you who have joined this mission through your support and they keep you in their prayers.

Together with your generous help, 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.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

 

 

 

 

Somalia, Tajikistan and Brunei banned Christmas celebrations, this year

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Somalia – According to reports, the Muslim-majority nation banned Christmas. They argued Christian celebrations could threaten the nation’s Muslim faith. In 2013, the nation also banned the Christian holiday citing security reasons, this was the first time it was banned because of religious sentiment. The Somalian population of 10 million is almost entirely Muslim. The country officially adopted Sharia in 2009.

Sheikh Mohamed Kheyrow, director of Somalia’s ministry of religion, said on state radio,

“We warn against celebration of Christmas, which is only for Christians. This is a matter of faith. The Christmas holiday and its drum beatings have nothing to do with Islam.” He said the ministry has sent letters to the police, national security intelligence and officials in the capital Mogadishu instructing them to “prevent Christmas celebrations”

He also claimed, “We [Islamic scholars] are warning against the celebration of such events which are not relevant to the principles of our religion. Such events give also al-Shabaab [incentive] to carry out attacks.”

Ebenezer Obadare, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Kansas who focuses on Africa said,

“I find it difficult to understand how the arbitrary abrogation of Christians might help to deter al-Shabab’s attacks. Not only is the government of Somalia giving in to insurgents and their radical ideologies, unfortunately, it is trampling on the legitimate rights of Somali Christians in the process.”

Foreigners were allowed to celebrate Christmas in their homes, but public celebrations were not allowed. Hotels were included in the ban, along with other public places and prohibited from marking the day.

The ban was announced days after suspected al-Shabab militants attacked a bus near the Kenya-Somalia border and killed at least two people. Some of the Muslims refused the request of the gunmen to split into groups of Muslims and non-Muslims, and shielded the Christian passengers instead. In 2014, the extremist group attacked a Christmas party at an African Union military base in Mogadishu that killed at least three peacekeepers and a civilian.

In a televised interview with Network Africa, a Reuters photo journalist was asked to describe the reaction of the Somalian people towards the banning of the Christmas holiday. The journalist relayed the population welcomed and supported the government’s decision because all were Muslims. He also said there was no need for celebrations because Somalia had no Christian communities.

Tajikistan has also issued its toughest-ever ban on seasonal celebrations, banning Christmas trees and gift-giving in schools.  The education ministry put out a decree prohibiting “the use of fireworks, festive meals, gift-giving and raising money” over new year as well as “the installation of a Christmas tree either living or artificial” in schools and universities.

Brunei

AFP reported that Brunei, a predominantly Muslim country, also banned Christmas celebrations as the Sultan shifts the nation towards Sharia Law.

Religious leaders warned that the ban on Christmas would be strictly enforced, for fear that Muslims could be led astray. “Using religious symbols like crosses, lighting candles, putting up Christmas trees, singing religious songs, sending Christmas greetings … are against Islamic faith,” imams said in sermons published in the local press.

Punishment for violating the ban is a five-year jail sentence. The government warned last year that Muslims would be committing an offence if they so much as wore “hats or clothes that resemble Santa Claus”. Christians were allowed celebrate, but told not to do so “excessively and openly”.

Businesses were told to take down decorations, including Hotels who put up dazzling displays as they cater to western tourists during the holiday. Authorities ramped up spot checks across the capital. A Malaysian expatriate told AFP,

“This will be the saddest Christmas ever for me. The best part of Christmas Day is waking up and having that feeling that it is Christmas, but there’s just none of that here and you just feel deprived. “All this is just because of what the Sultan wants. In 2013, I saw many Muslims together with Christians having a good time at their house parties. Everything was normal and good,” he said.

“All this is just because of what the sultan wants. In 2013, I saw many Muslims together with Christians having a good time at their house parties. Everything was normal and good,” he said.

Most people are too scared to speak up about the ban, and while some privately gripe about the rule they know there is little to be done. “I will be working on Christmas after church. We just have to cope,” a Filipino waitress – one of Brunei’s many guest workers – said.

A Muslim woman called the ban ridiculous and projected the image that Islam does not respect the rights of other religions to celebrate their faith.  “Islam teaches us to respect one another and I believe it starts with respecting other religions even if what is being banned are ornamental displays.”

A Christian addressed the ban saying, “It is an Islamic country and so with respect to the law, churches need to keep decorations indoors. The meaning of Christmas for us isn’t all about Christmas decorations.”

A Catholic foreign worker in Brunei told AFP, “In a globalised world, many countries are trying to unite different people and different religions but it doesn’t seem to be the case here. What’s happening here is that Christians are being alienated from the majority Muslim community.”

Some people dared to post pictures on social media depicting Christmas cheer using the hashtag #MyTreedom, part of a global campaign to highlight oppression against Christians.

Last year, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, announced the implementation of the first phase of the sharia-based penal code.  The Islamic criminal law is set to include punishments such as flogging, dismemberment and death by stoning for crimes such as rape, adultery and sodomy. Consensual sex between homosexuals will also be criminalized, with death by stoning the prescribed punishment.

Brunei became the first East Asian country to adopt sharia law, despite condemnation from international human rights groups. Amnesty International said that it will “take the country back to the dark ages.”

“It makes a mockery of the country’s international human rights commitments and must be revoked immediately,” said Amnesty’s regional deputy director Rupert Abbott.

It’s interesting to note that the Sultan is one of the richest men in the world. Prohibition did not extend to his business interests. His estimated $20bn fortune includes the historic Beverly Hills Hotel – part of his Dorchester Collection with branches in London, Paris, Milan and Rome. Christmas was very visible in the upscale Le Richemond hotel in Geneva where guests were greeted by lavish Christmas displays in the hotel lobby. The Le Meurice hotel in Paris advertised a Christmas Eve seven-course gourmet menu for €650 (approx. $713 USD) – before drinks – while the Beverly Hills Hotel was also decked out for the holidays.

 

Philippines: Islamists kill 7 Christian farmers on Christmas Eve

Philippines

(Voice of the Persecuted) 7 Christian farmers were killed during a series of attacks by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Christmas Eve.

Christmas attacks by Muslim rebels in Christian villages in the southern Philippines left at least 14 people dead and may have been partly influenced by the notoriety of the Islamic State group, officials said Saturday. The raids raised tensions of those in the Christians communities. One report claimed people have become so scared some go to the  local gymnasium to sleep at night.

Manila Bulletin reported more attacks by the BIFF Bunayog could not rule out.  BIFF continues to seek a separate Islamic state and remains opposed to a government-MILF effort to create a Muslim autonomous area in Mindanao as part of a peace agreement. The group split from main Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)in 2008 after the MILF opened a peace process with the government.

Contacting a military spokesperson, USA Today spoke with Capt. Joan Petinglay by phone. About 200 rebels took part in at least eight attacks on Thursday and Friday,  She said the military learned about the impending attacks and secured towns and villages and warned villagers not to venture out, preventing a larger number of casualties.

“We learned that the BIFF had plans to attack civilians and our detachments so we went on heightened alert even before Christmas,” Petinglay said. “That prevented the rebels from attacking villages and inflicting more casualties.”

Despite warnings from the military, five farmers went to their farms [on] Thursday to spray insecticide on their crops in Maguindanao province and were captured and gunned down by the rebels, she said.

In a nearby village in Esperanza town in Sultan Kudarat province, rebels fleeing from army troops took a family hostage on Thursday, freeing a mother and her child but killing three men. A village official was also gunned down by the militants late Thursday in a village in North Cotabato province.

Villagers in one area hid in a Roman Catholic church after word of the rebel assaults spread, Petinglay said.

The group had been seen meeting in numbers beyond their usual size. The motive for their new attacks on Christian communities was not known. A BIFF spokesman earlier confirmed they were behind the raids, but had said it was over a land dispute.

The BIFF seeks a separate Islamic state and establish Sharia law. The group opposes the government-MILF effort to create a Muslim autonomous area in Mindanao as part of a peace agreement. The latest attacks were the most brazen by the group to date.

Last year, the BIFF shared a video where one of its leaders pledged support for the Islamic State, the jihadists that controls a large territory in Iraq and Syria with a goal to establish an Islamic Caliphate.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.

VOP Prevents Arrested Christian Asylum Seekers From Going To Central Jail

Child arrested with mother on Christmas Eve

Child arrested with mother on Christmas Eve

(Voice of the Persecuted) Barely an hour after sharing a report on Christmas Eve highlighting persecuted Pakistani Christians in Thailand, we received a distressing call that more had been arrested including women and children. We immediately added that update to the earlier report. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we were able to pay the overstay fees for 4 woman, including one who is pregnant and their children from going to the Central Jail. (Children between 8yr-3 months) They’re so grateful to you!

Child being comforted through cage of police van

Child being comforted through cage of police van

 

Thailand is not a member state of the of 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention and the UNHCR has been powerless to protect them from arrest. The Thai government considers these persecuted believers as illegals in spite of the fact they’re documented registrants with the UNHCR as genuine asylum seekers. Asylum status often takes 5-6 years as they wait in fear to be resettled in a welcoming nation. They are unable to legally work and their children unable to attend school. These wait times are unbearably long, inhumane. Read our Dec. 15, 2015 report to learn more of what these persecuted believers are facing in Thailand.

Paying the overstay fees prevents them from being mixed in with the criminal element at the Central Jail, but they will still be taken to the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC). The cost to bail them out of the IDC is much higher (approx. $1450USD at today’s exchange rate), but paying the bail guarantees they will not be rearrested for 2 years.

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The conditions in the IDC is horrifying and a place full of contagion. They’re fed a soupy mix with little nutritional value of cucumbers and rice in boiling water—nothing else. You can imagine the condition of those detained in only a few short weeks. Voice of the Persecuted was able to offer food relief to those suffering ‘inside’ 4 times last month. We are greatly concerned for their wellbeing, particularly the little ones, the pregnant women and their unborn babies.

It’s a very hard situation for Pakistani Christians in Thailand. Too many are living in fear, afraid to even go outside, unable to support their families. Those who work illegally are at greater risk of arrest, but what choice do they have? Voice of the Persecuted is paying monthly living/medical expenses for families suffering the greatest need. More cases are continually brought before us, but heartbreakingly unable to help them all. With your love and support, we’re praying that 2016 will see many more of our brothers and sisters covered and comforted by the Body of Christ, us!

If you are feeling led to bring hope to Christians suffering in Thailand please consider the following:

  • Cover the monthly living expenses for a family in great need. (approx $250+/- based on family size)
  • Provide bail to protect a persecuted believer from rearrest for two years. ($1450 based on exchange rate)
  • Food deliveries for the nutritional needs of those detained in the IDC. ($50 provides 2 meals a day for 4 people weekly – personal hygienic products such as soap, tooth brushes and paste are also much needed items.)
  • Donation of any amount which is always greatly appreciated.

Voice of the Persecuted is on the ground in Thailand. Come with us on the mission through your gifts!

Together with your generous help, 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.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

Voice of the Persecuted - Project 13:3 Aid Mission

Voice of the Persecuted – Project 13:3 Aid Mission

 

Heartfelt Prayers and Encouragement for Persecuted American Pastor in Iran

The story of Christmas represented by the birth of Jesus and his death on the cross.

The story of Christmas represented by the birth of Jesus and his death on the cross.

(Voice of the Persecuted)  This Christmas, Christians around the world shared personal messages of encouragement, love and prayers for Pastor Saeed. Below you will find the last submissions for the Christmas campaign to lift up our brother and let him know he is not forgotten. Please continue to pray for our brother and his family as they suffer in persecution.

To all of you who shared during this campaign: Your loving words and prayers have deeply touched our hearts. They’re a radiant example of the true Christian meaning of brotherly love and being ‘one’ in the Body of Christ. Thank you! Merry Christmas and may God bless you now and in the coming year.

Kristen Gilmore- Pa., USA 

Dear Paster Saeed,
When you write someone, you ask how they are and that you hope all is well. I don’t know nor will I pretend all is well, but I will say this: I pray you find comfort in the Lord which I’m sure you have and are. Your courage has spread all over the world. You have touched the lives of people you do not know.  I pray everyday you are as well as you can be and that the Lord extends you strength every waking moment of everyday.

Gwen Muncey – United Kingdom

Dear Brother Saeed, You ate not alone or forgotten my family and I stand with you in prayer that God will strengthen you, surround you with His love and that your hope will be renewed as nothing is impossible with God. You are precious and He is watching over you. God Be With You Brother and may you trust in Him for your freedom.

Peace & love

Gwen, Richard & Patrick

Kathy Everette – North Carolina, USA

Dear Pastor,
You and your family are so often in our thoughts and prayers.
Please hold on. I encourage you that you are not forgotten.

John W. Rappleyea – Arkansas, USA

Saeed- I pray for you, Brother. I have a deep desire in my heart for you to be encouraged to hold fast and stand firm and ultimately be returned to your family. I pray that Jesus, our Lord and Savior will provide you with peace and joy this Christmas and throughout all of your days. I have a great amount of respect for you and proud to call you Brother. My heart is heavy in that I am here at home and you are there. You are on my mind often, since hearing about your circumstance. I am proud of your family for standing with faith for you. I pray for comfort for Naghmeh and your children also. I hope that brings you comfort also, knowing that Jesus has kept them close to His heart. I don’t know what else to say other than Merry Christmas to you. Just know that there are so many of us holding on to our faith that you will be returned home to your family. I will continue to pray for strength, patience, and good health to you. I pray for our Lord’s protection over you. Perhaps, you will pray for us as well this Christmas- to find some of the strength and patience you have had- to boldly stand, unwavering, in the presence of the sight of God to share His love with those who desperately need it.
Merry Christmas Saeed-
your Brother in Christ-
John W. Rappleyea

B Pinero – Texas, USA

Dear Rev. Abedini,
You’re in our thoughts and prayers every day, and most especially on this glorious day of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  May the Emmanuel be particularly “God with Saeed” today and the joy and light of Bethlehem fill your heart as we continue to pray for you and your dear family!  We are one in Christ. We love you and admire your faithfulness and perseverance.  It builds up the faith of countless people.  We entrust you to the infinite mercy of God knowing our destiny rests in the living hands of our Almighty Father.

Toni Dupree – NC, USA

Pastor Saeed: My church and family continue to pray for you. We hope you are next to be released. I pray for continued joy and strength for your family. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Donna Wozny – OH, USA

Blessings of Peace Brother Saeed,
Although we are separated by a great distance, Your brothers and sisters are keeping you surrounded by prayer and embracing your dear family in your absence. Be encouraged knowing that you have not been forgotten but that we are continually sharing your story and petitioning for your release.
Our Father in Heaven has a plan and a purpose in this we cannot fully realize and we trust Him in all things as wait upon Him and watch it unfold before us.  Jeremiah 29:11

What a glorious day it will be when you come home and we can see you face to face!! There will be singing in the streets and a grand chorus of Praise being lifted.

We love you Dear Brother, we pray for you and your family.

Nela Bianco – Ontario, Canada

Brother Saeed, you are on many peoples hearts who continue to pray for you.  You are a blessing to us, even though, I`m sure it does not feel like it many times from where you are.  God is using you as a sign and a wonder to your brothers and sisters in Christ as well as to the enemies of the gospel of Christ.  Your reward is great in heaven.  I pray you will have supernatural encounters with our Messiah in the place where you are.  God bless you my dear brother.

Kathryn Serio – MD. USA

Pastor Saeed,  Praying that the Lord will pour out His grace to you each and every day.

In His love, Kathryn

Jeanne Merkel – Arizona, USA

Hi Pastor Saeed,  I’m praying for you. I hope your free for Christmas, Jesus can protect you. I really really hope you’re free for Christmas. I hope you have a good Christmas if you’re home. I hope the president and Jesus can free you.
Love Charlotte (age 7)

Jennifer Cottrell – Mississippi, USA

Dear Pastor Saeed,
We have not forgotten you. We are still praying for God to deliver you. I pray that His peace would guard your heart and mind.
God bless you and Merry Christmas,
Jennifer Cottrell

Sam Waddell – Alabama, USA

Pastor Saeed: You are not alone. I pray that in your time of trouble that JESUS will comfort you and that you will rejoice and have a Merry Christmas!

Marie – CA, USA

Dear Brother Saeed,
Praise God for your faithful witness to those who are in prison with you and to the world as well. You and your family are in my prayers daily. I pray that God would heal your body and continue to bless you with a persevering spirit to see you through this time of persecution. I pray for God’s will to be done and for your freedom to come. You have not been forgot dear brother. You have been an awesome testimony to faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Please be encouraged to know that the Lord Our God is your strength and stronghold in times of trouble, He is your hiding place. Remain forever abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. Keep your eyes fixed on Christ and know that He is standing for you as He was standing for Stephen when he was being stoned. Take comfort in the loving, never ending embrace of our Abba Father! You remain in my thoughts and prayers dear brother. Your sister in Christ, Marie

Peggy Hartman – NC, USA

Pastor Saeed,
May the Lord strengthen you and grant you freedom from prison and be reunited with your family!!!   Praying for you!
Be strong in the Lord and in the Power of His might.
I am sending your family a gift.

Christine – Washington, USA

I can’t imagine what you and your family have been through, but SO appreciate your love for the Lord and His gospel and your true commitment to serve the Lord at any cost and love the lost unto salvation. He is truly glorifed in you! I pray for His continued will to be done in you and for His strenghten, peace and love be magnified even
more!

Charmaine Hoo, USA

Dear Pastor Saeed, my brother,
I send you greetings in the name of the Lord to let you know that you are not forgotten, but that you are being prayed for by a host of other believers that care deeply for you! If at your weakest moments you’re tempted to think that Your God has not abandoned you, perish the thought because though it may not seem so now, one day you will, with great joy, proclaim, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works” (Ps 145:17). May His peace reign in your heart moment by moment.

Sandy – Canada

Dear Pastor Saeed,
You are in our thoughts and prayers now and always. Praying the Lord will continue to uphold and sustain you and praying that you will soon be reunited with your family.  The Light has overcome the darkness. Amen and Amen.

Erlande, France

Joyeux Noël!

Luanne – Idaho, USA

Dear Saeed,
Sharing one of my favorite writtings by Frances J. Roberts, from his book; ” Come Away My Beloved”.
May these words bless and encourage you.
“In the midst of difficulties, I will be your comfort. In the darkness, I am your Light; there is no darkness that can hide My face from the eye of faith.
My beauty and My radiance are all the lovelier by the contrast.
In grief, My comfort is more poignant. In loneliness, the touch of My presence more tender. You are hidden in Me; and I will multiply both the wisdom and strength in due proportion to meet the demands of every occasion.
I am the Lord thy God. I have planned ahead for you.
I am your strong tower and support. I am your guide and your shield. Rejoice in Me and  occupy thy heart with praise!”

My prayers are always before the Lord for your healing and freedom Saeed.
Blessings to you and your  beautiful family.♡

D. Young – USA

Dear Saeed, I pray for you and your family.  May you be upheld and sustained by knowledge that you are loved and in the arms of your Heavenly Father. We love you!

Lorraine ♡ Joe Simon – California, USA

We pray and Think of you Saeed and your family  each day ,  God Loves you Sooooo Much to have aloud  this Great,  Bend in the Road of Life ! Praying for your Return,  MERRY Christ mas  ♡♡♡

Lois Kanalos – USA

My brother, Saeed,

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5: 11-12

The Lord is blessing you for your refusal to deny Him. You’re a representative of Christ, stay strong and firmly planted on the foundation of faith. I pray you are given peace and wisdom and able to be content in this great trial. The Lord is your portion and ever near to you. He is your reward!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

I pray you will be encouraged as we, along with many others, stand in solidarity with you. We will not remain silent about the wrongful persecution you’re experiencing for choosing Christ. Know you are not forgotten and our efforts to bring awareness and help through advocacy continues in any way possible. When crying out to God in despair, we cry out with you and commit to lift you and your family in prayer with many requests.

When you suffer, we all suffer and we ask healing for your injuries and protection from disease. We pray for the pain of separation and concern for your family. For your emotional and Spiritual needs. We pray for your release and return to your family. That you are filled with hope in the Lord and reassured by His promises.

For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:32–33)

As an ambassador for the Kingdom, I pray you can continue the Lord’s command to share the Good News with the lost and desperate in a very dark place.

May the Lord give you strength to overcome all things. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Merry Christmas! God bless you now and throughout the year. Rejoice! He has overcome the world.

Your sister in Christ.

 Joy Pilarski – NC, USA

Dear Pastor Saeed, you and your dear family are in my thoughts and prayers. I pray Jesus returns very soon but until then I pray you will be returned safely to your family. May Jesus be with you and carry you through this extremely traumatic time.
Your sister in Christ,
Joy

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