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Three Christians from Azerbaijan who spent months in Iran’s Evin prison, one of the worst prisons in the world, are now free.
(World Watch Monitor) Life hasn’t been easy for 28-year-old Syrian mother Kristina, a Christian of Armenian descent, who lived with her husband in Aleppo long before the civil war started in 2011.
It was in that besieged city that Kristina gave birth to her firstborn daughter, 18 months ago. She’s brought the little girl to the house where a World Watch Monitor contact meets her. While her mother talks, the toddler explores the room.
“Please close the door, I’d like to keep an eye on her,” Kristina asks, not letting her child out of her sight.
With the pain still visible in her eyes, Kristina recalls her first days of being a mother in the spring of 2015 – the war raging outside, electricity, gas and water cut off most of the time and her family unable to visit and help her.
“The first two weeks after my daughter was born were the hardest in my life,” Kristina says. “It was so cold that we put our mattresses on the living room floor, the warmest room in the house. There we lived for two weeks on the ground, wrapped in blankets.”
As soon as it was safe, Kristina, her husband and her baby daughter travelled to neighbouring Lebanon to safety. At first it was intended to be a short trip, but when the violence increased and also the Christian part of Aleppo was being bombed, the young family decided to wait for the end of the war before returning to Syria.
“I can’t let my baby girl grow up amidst all those dangers,” Kristina says.
With the violence continuing and worsening, gradually more Christians left Aleppo. In Kristina’s church, now only 10 per cent of the regular church-goers are left, she hears from friends.
“But you know what’s surprising? The church is still full; displaced people take their place. Especially Muslims are coming to the church now,” she says.
In Syria, the Christian children’s activities draw the most attention, Kristina says. A lot of Syrians from other parts of Aleppo – the fighting is heaviest in Muslim areas – have fled to the Christian areas to seek refuge. For many Muslims, it is the first time they have mixed with Christians.
“Many Muslims were genuinely surprised when they met Christian women in our churches willing to serve them. Their image was that all Christian women spend most of their days dancing in night clubs and drinking alcohol! Meeting each other was a shock, both for them and for us,” says Kristina.
Kristina also says the Muslim women were surprised to see that churches offered support and programmes for all Syrians, not just for Christians.
“Their mosques don’t do that,” Kristina says. “Many are re-thinking the faith they grew up in and have dropped their hostility towards Christians.”
A growing number of Muslim children have been attending the children’s activities, where the Bible is opened daily.
“The mothers are okay with that,” says Kristina. “They see it as positive if their children learn about God. It’s the husbands who are stricter, usually.”
But, gradually, also the mothers and, in some cases, whole Muslim families have found their way to the church activities, including the services.
“That absolutely did not happen before the war,” Kristina says. “Still the Muslims are afraid – especially when entering and leaving the building – but they are there. The children have opened the church’s doors, then the women followed, and finally the men.”
Kristina says Muslim women “feel liberated when they notice the church doesn’t see them as merely machines only fit for cleaning, giving birth to children, and raising them, like many Muslim men do”.
“In Islam, many women don’t have any rights. When they feel how Christians really care for them, it feels like heaven for those women. They see it’s possible to live as independent women, to dream,” Kristina says.
Despite the war, Kristina speaks of a “golden age” for the Church in the Middle East.
“For the first time in history, Muslims are coming to us. The only thing we have to do is tell them the good news; they are waiting for it,” she says. “They realise that, when living in a Christian environment, the [Christian message] will be shared. They may even see it as a sign of weakness if it isn’t.”
VOP Note: Pray for the church in Syria. Pray that many Muslims to come to faith as they see the Lord’s light in our brothers and sisters. Oh Lord, how great are your ways! Thank you for taking this horrific situation to bring many into your flock. All for Your glory, we bless your name. In Jesus Holy name, we pray. Amen
(World Watch Monitor) There were tears, soldiers praying, priests singing. This was the moment thousands of Iraqi Christians had been waiting for: the Cross, symbol of Christ’s victory over evil, deemed illegal by IS, had returned to the Christian villages in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain.
This came as news continues to emerge of more villages reclaimed from the Islamic State (IS), and more signs of destruction become apparent.
As soon as it was remotely safe, the priests got into a car and were escorted back to their villages. In Christian villages like Karamles and Qaraqosh – half an hour’s drive east of Mosul – they were among the first non-combatants to return now the villages have been liberated from IS occupation.
Father Thabet, who lives with his congregation in a complex for internally displaced people in Erbil, brought a Cross, the size of a man, covered with flowers, with him when he returned to his home village of Karamles.
“I am so happy I can do this. I’m smiling from cheek to cheek and I weep tears of joy at the same time. This is the trip I have been praying for, for two years now,” he said.
He climbed Barbara Hill, next to his village, and planted the Cross firmly in the ground overlooking Karamles.
“My dream is to bring all the Christians back to this village. Then we will worship outside on Barbara Hill; we will have the Eucharist in the open air. Everybody will see that this is the Church; this is the Body of Christ; this is Christian land. That is my dream – to give a testimony to the world,” he said.
When he arrived in Karamles, Fr. Thabet found his church had been heavily damaged by IS but was still standing. The Cross has been taken off and thrown to the ground. The inside of the church was a mess, but it’s not beyond repair. Fears that the Christian village would be completely uninhabitable have proven to be unfounded.
‘What counts is that we can pray here again’
The same goes for the village of Qaraqosh, visited by Father Ammar. He reinstated the Cross on his church, helped by Christian soldiers guarding the village after it had been liberated.
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Iranian pastor Behnam Irani has been released from prison after serving some six years behind bars for charges linked to his Christian activities, friends with close knowledge about the situation told BosNewsLife Tuesday, October 18.
“Irani has been released from prison and is now free,” confirmed advocacy group Present Truth Ministries (PTM), which closely followed the case. “We thank you all for your prayers. The Lord has preserved him in a mighty way!”, added PTM in a statement.
The 43-year-old Irani of Karaj city began a one-year prison term in 2011 but was later told he would also have to serve a five-year, previously suspended, sentence for “crimes against national security”.___________
Pastor Irani has had serious health issues, his family feared he would not survive. Today, Voice of the Persecuted rejoices with him, his wife, Christina and their children. Thank you to all who faithfully prayed with us for his release. May God protect and heal this family.
Paul and Silas were beaten, and thrown in prison for teaching Christ. Look at what they did. They praised God and prayed. A soul was saved because of their persecution. We never know what our trials will produce if we Praise God even in the darkness. The persecuted will tell you the same thing. Stand up for them, praise God and pray like your life depends on it…. BECAUSE THEIRS DOES!
And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
(Voice of the Persecuted) NIGERIA: Boko Haram are not the only culprits abducting young girls. While visiting her relatives at their family compound in Siri village, thirteen -year-old Alheri Bawa went with one of her cousins to stay the weekend with another cousin in Bauchi city.
When she didn’t return, her father, Bawa Buba is an ordained Elder of Seventh-day Adventist Church contacted his family but was told she was visiting with his nephew, Mal Dauda Bawa in Bauchi city. He called Dauda Buba to see if his daughter was still with him. He was told that Alheri was converted to Islam and he would not be seeing her anytime soon. The father was shocked and thought it was a joke. He asked his nephew why he didn’t discuss it with him and that his daughter never mentioned the intent to convert. The nephew told him that he should understand and allow his daughter to remain with him. Bawa Buba along with his pastor and another Elder from the church traveled and met his nephew at the gate of his home. He was told that the issue was no longer family, but religious. That he should put family aside and accept the fact, or go to the Sharia Commission as only they had the power to release his daughter.
While they were talking, his daughter came out excited to seeing her father and wanted to go home with him. He held her hands and asked her to enter the pastor’s car. As she was going, Mal Dauda Buba rushed and held onto her hijab and told her that she is irresponsible and would not leave with father unless the sharia commission was there, since they were aware of her decision. Bawa Buba said his daughter shouted “Na FASA, Na FASA”which translates to “I’m no longer interested.” Both her father and cousin held onto the girl. Bawa said the place was instantly filled with hoodlums who wanted to turn the issue into a religious crisis. They threatened to burn the pastor’s car. Mal Dauda was shouting, “this religious issue, not family. He brought his church people.”
Some Muslim leaders in the area came and expressed their disapproval towards Mal Dauda’s action as unIslamic, but he insisted that he would not let her go. Bawa Buba said they told his pastor to take him out of the place. “I was no longer in my right mind because of the pains and trauma I have been through and my daughter’s willingness to follow me. I was ready to die with my daughter in my hand,” he said.
The crowd was increasing in number and tensions were high. Her father explained, “The Muslim elders begged my pastor to take me away and that I should not worry. They said police would return Alheri, because my nephew’s actions and the and the others gathering were not Islam.” His pastor dragged Bawa Buba by force and drove away from the scene.
Buba relayed, “We went to GRA Division Police station and laid our complaints. The police were quick in action at the beginning. They attached a policeman to us who later arrested Mal Dauda and brought him to the station.
His nephew was asked to explain his side. Mal Dauda then made a call to the Sharia Commission and they requested to speak with the police. After they spoke, his nephew was called to the counter by Inspector in charge. Bawa said his nephew spoke boldly. Afterward, the police disregarded the case, treating it as a civil dispute. Bawa Buba was told to go to court and request for the custody of his daughter.
The father shared in a letter, “My 13-year old daughter is abducted, Islamized and forced to stay with a criminal and the police called it a civil case. We were [told] by the DCO to hire a lawyer and go to court over my daughter.”
“Were is the money to file a case? Which court should I go to? Sharia Court? I’m in trauma and pain. All I want is the custody of my daughter, Alheri Grace Bawa. Pls sir, use your office to return my daughter back to me. I’m home in the village back to my wife and remaining 5 children as we weep and wait for justice for me and my family.”
He had no choice but to go to the media for help. He shared an open letter on news forums and in comment sections of news articles on various news agency websites. It gained much attention and aided in his daughter’s rescue. The letter can be still be found on many sites.
After much pressure from the media and international community, the Inspector-General of Police, and the Bauchi State Commissioner of Police intervened and secured his daughter’s release. She is now reunited with her family. Her abductor, Mal Dauda Bawa is allegedly in police custody and would reportedly be charged to court soon.
Elder Bawa Buba with his wife and Pastor Rikwense Muri were at the State Command of the Nigeria Police Force to receive her.
Voice of the Persecuted is on the ground in Nigeria to care for our Christian brothers and sisters experiencing brutal persecution.
We are committed to being a VOICE for persecuted Nigerian Christians and bring them comfort, relief, and encouragement. We have committed to a long-term mission in Nigeria. When they are able to return home, we will be there to encourage and help rebuild villages and their lives. They will not be forgotten!
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 prayer and your support.
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
Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to 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
If the Lord is placing it on your heart and you are able, please help us to continue the mission in Nigeria. It will be a long term project. Donations always desperately needed
Expressing the sense of Congress that those who commit or support atrocities against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities, including Yezidis, Turkmen, Sabea-Mandeans, Kaka‘e, and Kurds, and who target them specifically for ethnic or religious reasons, are committing, and are hereby declared to be committing, ‘‘war crimes’’, ‘‘crimes against humanity’’, and ‘‘genocide’’.
(Voice of the Persecuted) On Monday night, the House voted to pass a resolution declaring the Islamic State to be committing genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. The resolution passed 383-0, which many are calling a miracle! To all who have prayed, Thank you.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued the following statement on House passage of H. Con. Res. 121 and H. Con. Res. 75, which condemn the atrocities committed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ISIS:
“What is happening in Iraq and Syria is a deliberate, systematic targeting of religious and ethnic minorities. Today, the House unanimously voted to call ISIS’s atrocities what they are: a genocide. We also will continue to offer our prayers for the persecuted.”
Christians are also severely persecuted by ISIS and other Islamic radicals globally. They have been on a religious cleansing mission to eradicate Christianity in their quest for a purely Islamic Empire, ‘Caliphate’. In June 2014, The city of Mosul had fallen under the control of the jihadists. Then, the call for Christians to leave rang out through loudspeakers in the city. The reason, the bishops rejected conditions being forced by ISIS to dictate terms to the Christians. The jihadists gave them an ultimatum, ‘Convert to Islam, pay an expensive religious tax (jizyah) or die’. The Arabic letter “N” for Nasrani (Christians) was marked on the doors of their houses to show they had seized the property belonging to the Islamic state. The Christians were told, “There is no place for Christians in the Islamic state”. An exodus began and in 24 hours 100,000 Christians fled from Mosul. Almost two months later, the jihadi militias conquered many cities and villages in the Nineveh Plain, causing the flight of tens of thousands of Christians.
Last year, the Obama administration considered a declaration accusing ISIS of genocide against the Yazidis, Iraqi religious minorities who have faced extreme persecution at the hands of ISIS. Stories of the Yazidis being slaughtered went viral when they were trapped by ISIS on Mount Sinjar in August 2014.
It was mind boggling that Christians were being excluded from its potential designation of ISIS genocide victims, and only including the Iraqi religious minority Yazidis. U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees global human rights issues, was “shocked and dismayed“ at their exclusion.
“ISIS has also committed genocide against Christians,” Smith said. “They have been systematically targeted for murder, torture, rape, displacement – extermination – the President should acknowledge this. I am shocked and dismayed that President would even think to exclude the present day genocide of Christians.”
Pope Francis had stated “Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. This too needs to be denounced: in this third world war, waged peacemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide – I insist on the word – is taking place, and it must end.”
“Ignoring Christians, and the full range of religious and ethnic groups who have been victims of the ISIS genocide, would continue the President’s policy of silence and weak response,” Smith said. “When will the President actually implement his own Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities and National Security Strategy?”
Christians have lived in Iraq for two millennia but are feared to become extinct in the near future. Report after horrifying report has surfaced of Christians who were beheaded, kidnapped and raped, even crucified or burned alive solely for their faith in Christ.
Many religious leaders also warned of the dangers of ignoring religious persecution, even Rabbi Adlerstein said,
“Too many of us thought that forced conversions and expulsions of entire religious communities were part of a distant, medieval past,” he said. “There was little that we could do to stop this horrible episode.
“It is not too late to realize that many others – Christians today, but certainly Jews, Baha’i, Hindus, Muslims and others – are mortally endangered by a potent religious fanaticism that threatens tens of millions, and which still can be resisted.”
The Obama Administration have long been pressured to recognize genocide against Christians, but the State Department has dragged out their so-called study as if there isn’t already enough proof.
Secretary of State John Kerry recently told Congress that the department was studying the situation to be sure it met legal requirements for declaring actions to be genocidal. Congress set a deadline for the Obama administration to make the determination on genocide by tomorrow, March 17.
Co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry said, “this trans-partisan resolution will further compel the State Department to join the building international consensus in calling the horrific ISIS violence against Christians, Yezidis, and others by its proper name: ‘GENOCIDE’.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins commented:
“I commend the House for unanimously voting to declare ISIS’ atrocities against Christians and others as genocide. While condemning and stopping ISIS’ bloody rampage against Christians and other religious minorities is a priority for the House of Representatives and most of the Western world, including the European Parliament, it has unfortunately not been a priority for the Obama administration.
“President Obama keeps talking about ‘rising above ideology and partisanship.’ Maybe it’s time he took his own advice. More than 200 Democrats and Republicans cosponsored this House resolution addressing an issue it shouldn’t have to: the genocide in the Middle East. If the Obama administration were as ‘appalled,’ ‘horrified,’ and ‘concerned’ about the annihilation of Christians as the White House says it is, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebr.) wouldn’t have had to take the unusual step of addressing the crisis before the president does so.
“America has lost its chance to take the lead against ISIS. But regardless of the timing, our national security, vital interests, and essential values demand that we act. While the word ‘genocide’ alone won’t stop the suffering, it will certainly go a long way to sparking a series of mostly non-military actions that can bring help and hope to our Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering for nothing more than being identified as followers of Jesus Christ.
“Every day that goes by without America’s help is a lost opportunity.
“Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in ISIS territory. And pray for our nation, which should always be leading on religious liberty — not following.”
During last week’s press breifing with Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked:
Q Okay, and another question. This came up yesterday in regards to the State Department’s pending decision on whether to declare genocide with regard to ISIS. The European parliament has already made its decision, based largely on the same Genocide Convention that the U.N. approved in 1948, and the U.S. is a party to, with 147 nations. I want to ask, if the U.S., if they make a decision not to call it a genocide, it would almost be an outlier in making that decision. Do you think there would be some international outrage if the U.S. decides not to call it a genocide?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Fred, because there’s an ongoing process to take a close look at this, and because State Department attorneys understand how important this issue is, I don’t want to say anything that presupposes an outcome one way or the other. What I can tell you is that this is something that the State Department is continuing to look at, but it certainly has not in any way delayed the administration from taking aggressive action to protect religious minorities that are being targeted by ISIL, including Christians that we know are being targeted by ISIL in that region of the world. So the determination is important, and the process for reaching that determination is ongoing, but it certainly is not going to have any impact on the ability of the United States military or the willingness of the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces to order military action against ISIL to try to protect religious minorities in that region of the world.
Q In that sense of it, do you think it doesn’t matter necessarily, from the U.S. perspective, what it’s called as long as the U.S. is taking the same action either way?
MR. EARNEST: Well, these kinds of issues are quite serious, both from a moral perspective but also from a policy perspective. And that’s why the State Department has been so diligent in doing the necessary work to reach this determination. But when it comes to the kinds of steps that are necessary to try to protect religious minorities and ultimately to degrade and ultimately destroy a terrorist organization that targets religious minorities, I think the President’s willingness to use military force against those terrorists has been unsparing and that will continue.
Last week, the Knights of Columbus (K of C) and In Defense of Christians (IDC) presented a report to the State Department. It is the largest compilation of what has happened to Christians in the path of ISIS and irrefutable evidence of genocide against Christians by ISIS. Read the report here.
Many Christians refugees are running out of safe places to go. They’re even being persecuted at refugee centers in Europe. Where, when and how does this end? As their brothers and sisters, when will we speak out in solidarity with our suffering brethren and do more about it? In a nation with a population of 75% Christians, certainly our leaders will have no choice but to hear our resounding cries. For those paying attention, it is plainly obvious intervention for the protection of persecuted Christians globally is absolutely necessary and cannot be ignored. As the Daesh (ISIS) told the Christians in Mosul, “There is no place for Christians in the Islamic state”.
We at Voice of the Persecuted believe that as a direct result of U.S. involvement in the Middle East and other regions, Christians have now found themselves homeless. Trapped in countries where they will continue to be hunted down, we can either help them to have secure areas within their homeland, or offer them a safe haven within our own. Many persecuted Christians from across the globe are facing worse or similar persecution in nations within which they are again a minority. Despite their effort to escape intolerance, they are simply introduced to nothing more than a geographical change. We highly support the notion of allowing them a special exception for refugee status in the USA. This is not about a religious test, nor a form of discrimination towards Muslims. It’s about saving the lives of those who face extinction in Islamic countries. Our brothers, sisters and their children who are brutally killed and abused for nothing more than their faith in Jesus Christ. The One who came to save the world, our precious Lord and Savior.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Until this country recognizes the modern-day genocide taking place against Christians, serious intervention on their behalf will not take place. We ask that you pray for the softening of our leaders hearts towards the extreme suffering of Christians in the Middle East. That they will do the right thing and call it what it is, GENOCIDE. We ask that you also pray for the leaders of restricted nations and those who persecute our Christian brothers and sisters. May they too have a softening of heart and come to know our Lord, Jesus Christ. Why have we not mentioned persecuted Christians suffering equally in other parts of the world? We’ll start with this vote and ask for their inclusion later. It must begin somewhere.
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Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you 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
(AINA) — ISIS today released 43 Assyrian hostages in Syria who were captured captured on February 23 when ISIS attacked the 35 Assyrian villages on the Khabur river in the Hasaka province. According to the Assyrian Church of the East, there are no more Assyrians from Khabur being held by ISIS. However, ISIS is still holding 179 Assyrians it captured in the town of Qaryatain on August 6, 2015