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By Dan Wooding (Assist News) The Roman Colosseum will be illuminated by red lights later this month to draw attention to the persecution of Christians around the world, and especially in Syria and Iraq.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. the Colosseum will be spotlighted in red, to represent the blood of Christians who have been wounded or lost their lives due to religious persecution, according to Crux.
Simultaneously, in Syria and Iraq, prominent churches will be illuminated with red lights. In Aleppo, the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral will be lit, and in Mosul, the Church of St. Paul, where this past Dec. 24, the first Mass was celebrated after the city’s liberation from ISIS.
The event, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) — follows a similar initiative last year, which lit-up London’s Parliament building in red, as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris and the cathedral in Manila, Philippines. In 2016, the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome was lit.
Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN, told journalists on Feb. 7 that the “illumination [of the Colosseum] will have two symbolic figures: Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third.”
“One of the children was killed,” he said, “she lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”
Once she was freed and reunited with her husband, she decided she “could not hate those who caused her so much pain,” Monteduro said. [Read Voice of the Persecuted’s (VOP) report: Held Captive For 2 Years By Boko Haram: Rebecca’s Story and the relief sent to them through VOP’s aid mission, Project 133 Nigeria here.]
Aid to the Church in Need released a biennial report on anti-Christian persecution Oct. 12, 2017, detailing how Christianity is “the world’s most oppressed faith community,” and how anti-Christian persecution in the worst regions has reached “a new peak.”
The report reviewed 13 countries, and concluded that in all but one, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms for the period 2015-2017 than during the prior two years.
“The one exception is Saudi Arabia, where the situation was already so bad it could scarcely get any worse,” the report said.
China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria were ranked “extreme” in the scale of anti-Christian persecution. Egypt, India, and Iran were rated “high to extreme,” while Turkey was rated “moderate to high.”
The Middle East was a major focus for the report.
“Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”
The exodus of Christians from Iraq has been “very severe.” Christians in the country now may number as few as 150,000, a decline from 275,000 in mid-2015. By spring 2017 there were some signs of hope, with the defeat of the Islamic State group and the return of some Christians to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.
The departure of Christians from Syria has also threatened the survival of their communities in the country, including historic Christian centers like Aleppo, ACN said. Syrian Christians there suffer threats of forced conversion and extortion. One Chaldean bishop in the country estimates the Christian population to be at 500,000, down from 1.2 million before the war.
Many Christians in the region fear going to official refugee camps, due to concerns about rape and other violence, according to the report.
ACN also discussed the genocide committed in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State and other militants. While ISIS and other groups have lost their major strongholds, ACN said that many Christian groups are threatened with extinction and would likely not survive another attack.
A spokesperson for Aid to the Church in Need, said, “We invite everyone to attend, either in person or in spirit, on February 24, 2018 at around 6 p.m. in Largo Gaetana Agnesi, Rome.”
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 77, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 55 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan has written numerous books, and his most recent reporting trip for ANS was to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq.
HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED
VOP is on the ground helping persecuted Christian refugees from Nigeria and Pakistan. 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. 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!
(Voice of the Persecuted) Yesterday, Ethiopians began three days of national mourning for more than 20 Ethiopian Christians killed by Islamic State militants in Libya. ISIS once again singled out Christians and documented their savagery in a video where they brutally beheaded and shot the believers in Christ.
The Islamic State – aka ISIL/ISIS/IS/Daesh – has taken over parts of Iraq and Syria in recent months. The militant terror group has established a caliphate and carried out mass persecutions of minority populations, primarily Christians and Yazidis. They have also published videos as a warning to countries that have militarily intervened and a way to control civilians through fear.
The discriminate murders have horrified Ethiopians and spurred international calls for condemnation.
The leader of the Catholic Church shared his anguish of the mass execution and offered his condolences to patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Abuna Matthias.
Pope Francis lamented,
“With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya. I know that Your Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind at the sight of your faithful children being killed for the sole reason that they are followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
He also stated,
“It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant,” Pope Francis said in his message. “Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ!”
He offered hope amidst the darkness, noting the Easter season of joy in the knowledge that “Christ has risen from the dead.”
“This year, that joy – which never fades – is tinged with profound sorrow. Yet we know that the life we live in God’s merciful love is stronger than the pain all Christians feel, a pain shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions.”
The Pope offered “heartfelt spiritual solidarity” and assurances of “closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.”
Voice of the Persecuted is praying that more Christian leaders across denominations, will inform their congregations of the modern-day persecution taking place against Christians, encourage them to pray and care for the persecuted, and use their voices to advocate for and stand with our suffering brothers and sisters, worldwide. #WeAreOne
If you are a church leader raising awareness and praying for the persecuted, we would be very encouraged to hear from you! If you are a leader who would like to begin sharing with your congregation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with Pastor for the Persecuted in the subject line. We’d be happy to help you in the process.
An annual survey reported cases of Christians killed for their faith around the world doubled in 2013 from the previous year. Syria had the highest number of deaths, more than the entire global total in 2012. In the list of killings, Syria was followed by Nigeria with 612 cases last year after 791 in 2012. Pakistan was third with 88, up from 15 in 2012. Egypt ranked fourth with 83 deaths after 19 the previous year.
“This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm,” said Frans Veerman, head of research for Open Doors. Estimates by other groups put the figure as high as 8,000.
Christianity is the largest religion in the world with 2.2 billion followers, or 32 percent of the world population, according to a survey by the U.S.-based Pew Forum on religion and Public Life. But they are also the most persecuted.
Open Doors published the 2014 World Watch List of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution. You can view the list here. Woefully, persecution is increasing in many of the countries on the list.
For the twelfth consecutive time, North Korea retained they’re spot as the most difficult country in the world to be a Christian. Christians found with Bibles or Christian related material are at risk of execution or life in the prison camps. Many have been separated from their loved ones never to be heard from again. Solely for their faith in Jesus Christ, up to 70,000 Christians have been imprisoned.
Somalia ranks behind North Korea and is now #2 on the list. Converts are policed and for fear of persecution, must secretly worship ‘undergound’ keeping their faith hidden. They are also under attack by extremists of al-Shabaab, a terrorists group trying to force Sharia law in the country.
Violence against Christians in Syria has seriously increased moving them from #36 in 2012 to #3 on this year’s list. The report claims more Christians have been martyred(at least 1213) in Syria than any other country.
The cause of persecution against Christians in 36 of the 50 countries on the list, is said to be from Islamic extremism.
This year, Central African Republic #16, Sri Lanka #29 and Bangladesh #48 have all been added to the list. Violence in these nations surged against Christians. Extremism and the advancement of Sharia law again relating to the increase.
Open Doors says,
Though these facts and figures are absolutely devestating, we know that our hope is in Christ and that He his faithful to hear the prayers of His people, says.
Islamist extremism is the worst persecutor of the worldwide church.
Your prayers and VOICE for persecuted Christians are needed more than ever. Inform others, ask you pastor to pray weekly with the church for our Christian family suffering for their faith in Christ.
Thank you for your prayers and interest in those being persecuted!
While it is no secret that the so-called mainstream media habitually fails to report on the international phenomenon of Christian persecution, few are aware that they sometimes actively work to undermine the efforts of those who do expose it.
Consider a new report by the BBC titled “Are there really 100,000 new Christian martyrs every year?” by Ruth Alexander, who asks:
So how widespread is anti-Christian violence?
“Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that every year an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are killed because of some relation to their faith,” Vatican spokesman Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi announced in a radio address to the United Nations Human Rights Council in May.
On the internet, the statistic has taken on a life of its own, popping up all over the place, sometimes with an additional detail-that these 100,000 lives are taken by Muslims.
The number comes originally from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the US state of Massachusetts, which publishes such a figure each year in its Status of Global Mission (see line 28).
Its researchers started by estimating the number of Christians who died as martyrs between 2000 and 2010-about one million by their reckoning-and divided that number by 10 to get an annual number, 100,000.
But how do they reach that figure of one million?
When you dig down, you see that the majority died in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo….
If you were to take away the 90,000 deaths in DR Congo from the CSGC’s figure of 100,000, that would leave 10,000 martyrs per year.
Later, after arguing that “while violence continues in DR Congo, it’s less extreme today than it was at its height,” Alexander quotes approximately 7,000-8,000 Christians worldwide dying for their faith (the CSGC projects 150,000 dead by 2025).
Regarding the statement “How do they [CSGC] reach that figure of one million? When you dig down, you see that the majority died in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” it is unclear where Alexander got this information. She does provide a link to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity’s Status of Global Mission, telling readers to “see line 28,” which indeed confirms the average number of 100,000 Christians martyred per year. However, nowhere in this CSGC report does the word “Congo” even appear, prompting one to ask where Alexander went to “dig down” for information.
If it is true that the number 100,000 is primarily based on the Congo, and that the real number is 7,000-8,000, the total number of Christians killed specifically because of their faith would seem to be reduced by a whopping 93%.
Of course, many human rights activists do indicate that Christians are specifically targeted in the Congo. Moreover, regarding the question of how many Christians are killed, Alexander herself later quotes another source saying, “[T]here is no scientific number at the moment. It has not been researched and all experts in this area are very hesitant to give a figure.”
And this seems to be the real point. Of all the questions and aspects of Christian persecution that objective researchers and reporters can explore and expose, why did the BBC pick the very one that 1) cannot be answered and 2) is ultimately irrelevant — at best academic, at worst cold and callous? (The issue is less whether 100,000 Christians around the world are killed for their faith, but rather that any Christian, any human — even Alexander’s “paltry” 7,000 — is being killed for his or her faith.)
The BBC naturally picked this “numbers” question because it best serves to minimize the specter of Christian persecution, specifically by prompting the casual reader to conclude,
“Oh, well, things are certainly nowhere near as bad as I thought for Christian minorities outside the West.”
More importantly — and here we reach BBC policy — it serves to exonerate the chief persecutor of Christians: the Islamic world. As Alexander is quick to conclude, “[t]his means we can say right away that the internet rumours of Muslims being behind the killing of 100,000 Christian martyrs are nonsense.”
Incidentally, since when do numbers matter to the supposedly “humanitarian-conscious” BBC and other “liberal” media? Would the BBC ever write a report dedicated to trying to show that the number of Palestinians killed in the conflict with Israel is actually 93% lower than widely believed?
Of course not. When it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, far from minimizing anything, the BBC regularly exaggerates to demonize Israel.
And therein lies the main lesson. The BBC is in the business not of reporting facts, but rather of creating smokescreens, building and knocking down straw men, and chasing red herrings. All this to further its narratives — in this case, that “only” 7,000-8,000 Christians are killed annually for their faith, and the Islamic world is largely innocent. So what’s all the fuss about?
Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians.
Voice of the Persecuted wonders:
How Ms. Alexander would feel after receiving countless messages (from the large majority) afraid to ever go to the press or authorities for fear of further violence and oppression? Would she count these unreported incidents as persecution?
What would she think after reading message after message from Christians begging for help to get asylum, because they no longer believe they can ever be safe in their nation?
Would she in turn become of VOICE for those who sent her horrific pictures and stories of the severe persecution against them?
Would she beg others to pray with her when she realized this problem is growing rapidly with no end in sight?
Would she diminish their plight by claiming the issue is not as bad as we thought???
Earlier this year Candida Moss claimed the traditional idea of the “Age of Martyrdom” when early Christians suffered persecution from the Roman authorities and lived in fear of being thrown to the lions, is largely fictional. Though she agrees modern-day persecution is happening, we find it interesting at a time of increasing Christian persecution, stories like this are being written and published. The dismissals do more harm than good.
Regardless of what the main stream media agenda is, DON’T STOP PRAYING AND BEING CONCERNED FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS. It is happening—no matter how the ‘world’ tries to conceal and downplay it. The ‘Age of Martyrdom’ is NOW!
As newly elected leaders of their respective Christian faiths, Pope Francis I and Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II face a wide array of internal and external challenges. One presides over a global church of 1.2 billion, the other a smaller Mideast church of 12-18 million. But a primary challenge for both is the fate of Middle East Christianity, which is on the verge of extinction in the region where the religion was born.
Early in their papacies, both Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros have shown a willingness to break from convention and challenge the status quo. But as leaders of ancient churches with two very distinct sets of issues, they also must put aside past doctrinal and theological issues to work together to confront the challenges of preserving their faith and bringing peace and stability to the Middle East.
“The [Catholic] church has had an abiding concern of all people and in particular of people who are persecuted for their faith,” Stephen Colecchi—director of the Office of International Justice and Peace for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), an assembly of all active and retired U.S. Catholic leaders—told JNS.org.
During a historic meeting between the two popes in May, Pope Francis assured Pope Tawadros of his support in the face of persecution of Egypt Christians, citing the New Testament verse, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
“This is a law of the Christian life, and in this sense we can say that there is also an ecumenism of suffering: Just as the blood of the martyrs was a seed of strength and fertility for the Church, so too the sharing of daily sufferings can become an effective instrument of unity,” Pope Francis said.
Despite Christianity being the largest religion in the world with 2.2 billion followers, according to Pew Research Center, it is also one of the most persecuted faiths. According to Open Doors, a non-denominational Christian human rights group, more than 100 million Christians are persecuted worldwide, with eight of the top 10 countries for persecution of Christians being Muslim-majority states.
The Roman Catholic Church considers itself the world’s “one true church” and the only church to which Jesus gave explicit authority through his apostle Peter, who later became the first pope, in a process known as apostolic succession, according to the Catholic doctrine.
The modern Catholic Church is actually composed of the Latin Church, where the vast majority of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics belong, and the Eastern Catholic Church, composed of smaller churches scattered throughout Eastern Europe, the Middle East and even India.
The Eastern Catholic Churches maintain many of their own traditions and hierarchy separate from the larger church, but are in full communion with the Catholic Church, most importantly recognizing the Pope as their leader. Two of the largest Eastern Catholic Churches are the Maronite Church in Lebanon, with about 3.5 million adherents, and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, one of the largest groups of Christians in the Levant with 1.6 million adherents, including in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Like the Catholic Church, the Coptic Church of Egypt goes back to the foundations of Christianity. According to tradition, their church was established by one of Jesus’s apostles, Mark, in 42 CE, from which it derives its apostolic legitimacy.
Coptic Christians constituted a majority of Egypt’s population until the Middle Ages, when Islam, introduced by the Arab invasions in the 7th century, eclipsed their religion. Today, Coptic Christianity comprises nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, making it the largest single Christian community remaining in the Middle East.
Like all religions, the divisions between the different churches in Christianity have had a tense history with various doctrinal and theological schisms. For much of their history, the Catholic and Coptic Churches have had little formal relations. However, today under the dynamic leadership of their respective popes, the two ancient churches are attempting to forge a common message in the face of mutual threats, such as from radical Islam.
During the Egyptian revolution in early 2011, then Coptic Pope Shenouda III was slow to criticize former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Elected to the Coptic Papacy in 1971, Shenouda was a pragmatic and conservative leader who relied on Egypt’s successive secular governments for protection against Islamic fundamentalists.
Despite the arrangement, Coptic Christians faced a number of attacks over the years by Islamic fundamentalists and often accused Egypt’s security forces of not doing enough to protect them. This put Shenouda in a difficult position—between maintaining relations with the secular state and protecting his followers. As a result, he was often reluctant to speak out against the government.
Read more at JNS.org