Please pray for West Freeway Church of Christ members! A gunman opened fire in a Texas church on Sunday, killing one person and critically injuring another before two parishioners shot and killed him at the scene, police said. The shooting unfolded around 9:57 a.m. at the West Freeway Church of Christ, which is located in the city of White Settlement, just outside Fort Worth.
“It’s all very tragic,” Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman Mike Drivdahl told reporters. White Settlement Police Chief J.P. Bevering told reporters Sunday afternoon the gunman entered the church during a live-streamed service and opened fire. Two parishioners returned fire, striking the suspect who died at the scene. read more
(Voice of the Persecuted) American Pastor Andrew Brunson recently spoke to members of the European Parliament in Brussels. Andrew shared what it was like to live as a pastor in Turkey since 1993. He described those 25 years as “twenty-three by choice, two by force in the prisons”, and as spending those combined years telling people about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Though he and his wife suffered in Turkey, Andrew said they still loved the Turkish people and have no regrets they went there and did the work that made him a target for persecution. Andrew started several churches and had done this openly, with nothing to hide, in front of Turkish authorities. “It wasn’t a job for me. I fully believe in what we did, and I don’t try to hide that my call is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. I believe He is the only way of salvation and I don’t apologize for saying that. We spent 25 years in Turkey not to undermine the system in any way but to bring God’s offer of eternal life.”
Turkey has a large unreached people group who have never heard the Gospel of Christ, which is why Brunson agreed to go when asked all those years ago. It may surprise you that the Turkish people are often forgotten in prayer, but Pastor Brunson’s imprisonment has changed that. During his incarceration, Brunson was told about the unprecedented prayer movement taking place on his behalf. He said he didn’t feel worthy of it, but certainly needed prayer and was very grateful. As basically an unknown, he wondered why millions of people were praying for him. He concluded that God was using this with intentions to pour prayer into Turkey. “I rode a wave of prayer out of Turkey but…there was a tsunami of prayer that crashed into Turkey that is going to bring great blessing to that country…God was using my imprisonment for good in that way.”
Background: In 2016, the Brunson’s had believed they were called into the local police station to receive long term visa’s, but instead told there was an order for their arrest and they would be held for deportation. It was an unusual detainment for a Westerner who would normally be notified weeks in advance about deportation. They spent 13 days in the center under total silence without knowing why they had been detained and no legal or consular services. Andrew said that he remembers seeing the U.S. Consulate being turned away at the gates of the deportation center. They repeatedly asked what was happening and when they would be deported but only told, Ankara will decide. At the end of the 13 days, his wife, Norine was released but Andrew was imprisoned for “terrorism” for more than two years. Not wanting to leave him, Norine remained in Turkey during his imprisonment.
Attempts by Ankara to use Brunson as a political pawn for the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed. The U.S. responded to the imprisonment and false espionage and terror-related charges against Brunson with sanctions. On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on two Turkish government officials who were involved in the detention of Brunson. Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had their assets frozen in the United States, they were prohibited from traveling to the U.S., or engaging in any financial transactions with American citizens. On August 9, the Trump Adminstration raised tariffs on Turkish products. Erdogan followed with tariffs on U.S. products. The U.S. sanctions proved to put a greater pressure on Turkey and on October 12, 2018, Brunson was convicted on the charge of aiding terrorism, but sentenced to time served. He was released from Turkish custody and immediately returned to the United States.
During the European Parliament meeting, Andrew thanked the MEP’s for there concern about religious freedom and using their position to advance it. He also warned of the heightened level of pressure now being experienced by Christians in Turkey. Many lies were often shared about Brunson in the Turkish media supported and controlled by Erdogan’s Islamic government. He some what became the face of Christianity in Turkey. Andrew said there’s been a significant increase of hate speech, tension and distrust since his case.
“I think the environment has been created so when there is increased persecution against Christians, now most Turks are conditioned to say, They deserve it,” he added.
As we at Voice of the Persecuted asked you to pray for Andrew from the beginning of his detention, we now plead with you to keep Christians in Turkey as well as the Turkish people in your prayers.
During the session, Andrew also told the MEP’s about an interesting dream he had in prison about Turkey, Iran and Russia. Andrew said he believed it was God inspired. Voice of the Persecuted highly recommends that you watch the video below of Brunson’s full speech in the European Parliament.
In his most difficult time as a prisoner in Turkey, Andrew wrote a song in Buca Maximum Security Prison only two weeks after the Turkish government falsely accused him of being a spy and helping to lead a coup attempt. These new charges carried an automatic three life sentences in solitary confinement with no parole. Andrew sang this song every day for the remainder of his two years in prison. Listen as Andrew’s explains the story behind the song.
With the help of Fady Gergis, Andrew’s song titled, Worthy Of My All – is now available as a free download. He recorded it at International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOPKC). Gergis said, “This song carries such a powerful testimony of continuing to believe that Jesus is worthy while almost having no hope of getting out of prison.” You can download it for free at this link. Fill in your email address, and you will receive a link for the download.
Andrew recently published book. You can preview and purchase God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance here.
Some of the most vicious incitement against Christians in Egypt originates from a petite Egyptian woman sitting at a computer in her home in a quiet suburb of New Jersey, reports Coptic Solidarity.
It is not as though Egypt’s Muslim community needs any encouragement to go after Coptic Christians, but Arat (Ayat) Oraby does her part, calling the Copts a “gang” that needs to be boycotted and subjugated.
“The problem of the Christians in Egypt is that they follow the church gang,” she wrote. “They believe that (Coptic Pope) Tawadoros the criminal, or any other criminal who will replace him, was selected by the Lord and speaks on His behalf. The church gang deceives its followers in this despicable way, just like a thief or a swindler from the Middle Ages.”
She often refers to Christians as “Nazarenes,” as they are called in the Quran and by ISIS, and tells Egyptians to boycott Coptic businesses and buy only from fellow Muslims.
A Coptic priest was murdered on the streets of Cairo last week by a young Muslim, the latest in a string of murders and church bombings that began more than a year ago.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism Thursday naming Oraby as the head of the spear when it comes to inciting violence against Egypt’s Christian community. Read More
A global prayer vigil will take place on October 26, 2019 for Leah Sharibu. For those unable to attend the D.C. vigil, information is provided on the Pray For Leah website to help you find or host a prayer vigil for Leah in your area.
Leah was abducted by the Boko Haram on February 19, 2018 with more than 100 of her classmates in Nigeria. She was the only Christian who was abducted and the only one who was not released because she refused to deny Christ. It is time to bring her home. Go to http://www.pray4leah.org to find a vigil near you. #Itstime #FreeLeah
Voice of the Persecuted is asking you to pray and to be a voice by spreading the word on social media, at your church, and in your community. Voice of the Persecuted will be at the vigil in Washington D.C.. If you’re attending, we hope to see you there!
We encourage you to also sign the petition urging the president of Nigeria to secure the release of Leah. SIGN HERE
See video: Jacqueline Furnari, daughter of Andrew Brunson, testifies to the U.S. State Department’s inaugural Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., on July 24, 2018. Brunson has been imprisoned in Turkey since October 7, 2016, and is being tried on charges of terrorism, espionage, and attempting to convert Turks to Christianity.
Advocates for a group of nearly 90 Christian and other religious-minority refugees from Iran are praising a ruling by a federal judge in California earlier this week that forces the Trump administration to reconsider their asylum requests after issuing a blanket denial of all of them earlier this year.
(Mohabat News) The refugees and U.S. human rights activists representing their interests say the decision is a break-through in a troubling case that has left the group of Iranians marooned in Vienna and has earned the sympathy and attention of a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress, as well as high-level Trump administration officials.
Since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) denied their asylum applications en masse in February, the group has been left in limbo in Vienna, unable either to return to Iran out of fear of further persecution and possible death or to reunite with family members or other sponsors in the U.S.
“It’s a step in the right direction, and we’re happy that the court recognizes that the government can’t just use whatever terms it wants [to deny these applicants]. It has to follow what Congress intended this program to be—to give heightened protections to these Iranian Christians and Mandaeans and other religious minorities,” Mariko Hirose, who serves as the litigation director for International Refugee Assistance Project in New York, told the Washington Free Beacon.
The Iranian individuals and their family members applied for refugee resettlement in the United States under the Lautenberg Amendment, a law Congress first passed in 1989 to facilitate refugee admission of Jews fleeing the former Soviet Union. Lawmakers expanded the program in 2004 to include religious minorities in Iran.
The Iranians had traveled to Vienna from Tehran at the invitation of the U.S. government to complete their applications as part of this unique Lautenberg refugee program.
The program has quietly admitted an estimated 30,000 persecuted Iranians, mainly Jews and Christians, but also Mandaeans, Zoroastrians, and Baha’is, over the last decade at a near 100 percent acceptance rate without incident, according to U.S. lawmakers familiar with the acceptance record.
However, the Obama administration first started imposing a new vetting process for all asylum applicants in 2016, the first roadblocks for the group of nearly 90 Iranians.
Then in February, after the individuals had already spent nearly a year waiting at an intermediary vetting facility in Vienna—the same facility used for years for the Lautenberg program without incident—the DHS flatly denied the group without providing the reasons behind the decision.
The DHS denials said only that the applicants were being barred from resettling in the U.S. as “a matter of discretion.”
A State Department spokeswoman earlier this year did not elaborate on why DHS had denied the group of Iranians, saying only the “safety and security of the American people are paramount,” and that “Iranian refugee applicants under this program are subject to the same security vetting processes that apply to refugee applicants of other nationalities considered for admission to the United States of America.”
U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman on Tuesday ordered DHS to disclose individual reasons for the denials within 14 days of her ruling, which allows the claimants to appeal. The refugees have 90 days to file their appeals, which could reopen their cases.
If they are once again denied, DHS would have to follow their own regulations and provide a substantive reason for the denials, according to Hirose.
In addressing the unique aspects of the Lautenberg Amendment, which governs this group’s applications, Freeman wrote that DHS “retains an enormous amount of authority and discretion to adjudicate refugee applications, but they do not have the discretion to violate the law.”
The vague DHS denial notices, the judge said, leaves the applicants in an untenable position.
“Without a reason for the denial, the applicants are left to guess at which factors and circumstances DHS considered,” she said. “Any meaningful review of the denials becomes impossible because plaintiffs are effectively shadowboxing against themselves.”
Evidence that applications of at least 38 of the individuals denied admission in February received “identical notices of ineligibility raises the inference that the denials were not, in fact, individualized,” she continued.
Hirose says Congress was very clear when it passed the Lautenberg Amendment that if the U.S. government denies an asylum claim, it must provide a reason “to the maximum extent feasible.”
The mass denials were such a devastating blow because the group of Iranians had already uprooted from their home country, leaving jobs and selling possessions and expected a smooth transition to the United States.
After previous asylum seekers left Iran, they were able to travel onward to the United States in just a few months, Hirose said.
“That’s how this program used to be, and it was really a surprise and completely unprecedented when these mass denials happened in February,” she said.
The group’s plight has attracted the attention and support of key lawmakers in Congress who called on Vice President Pence to intervene on their behalf in late January.
Reps. Randy Hultgren (R., Ill.) and James McGovern (D., Mass.), co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Congress, sent a letter to Pence arguing that the Lautenberg Amendment requires DHS to presume that all Iranian religious minorities are eligible for refugee status in the United States.
“DHS and State must make every effort to continue to accept thousands of Iranian religious minorities currently waiting in Iran and take steps to prioritize and expedite any relevant security checks,” they added.
They also highlighted Pence’s and other Trump administration officials’ repeated promises to come to the defense of persecuted Christians in Iran and throughout the Middle East.
“You have made clear that the Trump administration will take the lead in helping to end these persecutions,” they wrote. “In Vienna, Austria, there are 100 victims of persecution waiting for the United States to act. Thank you for doing what you can to move DHS and State to accept these refugees.”
A White House official told the Free Beacon in January that the administration is paying “careful attention to the issue” and was working to find a solution.
“High-level administration officials are monitoring the progress,” the official said. “Certain complexities exist that the administration has to work through, including human-rights concerns and national security. But the administration is certainly engaged.”/The Washington free beacon
The American Bible Society has been distributing Bibles for over 200 years. The organization’s mission is to share the Gospel with a goal to translate the Bible in every language by 2025. ABS has recently asked their employees to sign a statement of faith by January 2019. Those who don’t will be asked to hand in their resignation.
The new policy asks employees to conduct themselves according to biblical principles, and includes the affirmation of traditional marriage. read document below.
Some employees resigned when they disagreed with the organizations views about biblical marriage. Others are said to be looking for new employment. American Bible Society President and CEO Roy Peterson believes the organization did the right thing.
According to the Religious News Service, nine of the company’s 200 employees have resigned.