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‘Martyr killings’ of Christians on the rise across the world

According to The Pew Research Center, nearly 75 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions. But what is Christian persecution?

The United States-based group considers persecution of Christians any denying protection of religious freedom, preventing someone from converting to Christianity because of legal or social threats, physically attacking or killing because of the victim’s faith, forcing one to leave a job or home under threat of violence because of the victim’s faith, or imprisonment, interrogation or torture for refusing to deny one’s faith.

“Overwhelmingly, the main engine driving persecution of Christians in 36 of the top 50 countries is Islamic extremism, with the most violent region being the states of the African Sahel belt where a fifth of the world’s Christians meet one-seventh of the world’s Muslims in perilous proximity,” the Open Doors report stated.

War On Christians, Those Martyred Doubled in 2013

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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!

The Amazing Way People Are Coming to Christ in the Middle East

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Daniel 12:1-4 “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.  Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.  Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.  But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”

 

I saw this study last week and was absolutely mesmerized. Not only was this a beautifully crafted report (with very interesting infographics), but it had fascinating information about media use in the Middle East.

What stands out the most is how many individuals in these countries are using multiple media devices, and how frequently they are using them (even in countries where there are human rights violations). These statistics bring great hope.

For the past few years, Open Doors has been working to help spread the gospel in the Middle East through satellite television and other multimedia means. And the great news is that the audience is not a small one… these programs are capable of reaching a large number of people!

In Algeria, ‘Ordinance 06-03’ was introduced in 2006, and it restricts the exercise of any religion other than Islam. The law hinders or stops Christian evangelism.

Initially, this law was devastating for Christians in Algeria… they would now be facing a whole new realm of persecution if they shared their faith with a friend or a neighbor. Despite this law, God has made a way for the gospel to spread in this country.

“Today, satellite TV is the medium we use, because it allows us to reach a multitude of people,” shares one Algerian Christian. “ At the end of the program, people see local phone numbers displayed on the screen, so it isn’t expensive for them to call. When a program has spoken to someone, they phone us for information or to ask questions about the Christian faith. We tell them where they can find a church, or we send them CDs or Christian books.”

As the report indicates, the impact of the media is changing worldwide… especially in the Middle East. It is proving to be a very effective way to evangelize, even in areas where it is illegal.

Would you join us in praying for our brothers and sisters working on these programs, and for the people they are reaching? Please pray for their safety, courage and wisdom as they continue with this new wave of evangelism.

Open Doors

Muslim World Ministry 
Accross the Muslim world, converting to Christianity from Islam requires real courage

Isolated, shunned and sometimes killed for abandoning their Muslim faith, Christians live with a great need for the support of Bibles, training in leadership, and lasting community development.
You can send light to dark places in the Muslim World here

Dr. David Curry Named New President, CEO of Open Doors USA

SANTA ANA, Calif. (July 8, 2013) – Dr. David Curry has been appointed the new president/CEO of Open Doors USA, according to the Open Doors USA Board of Directors. Open Doors, which will celebrate 60 years of ministry in 2015, is an international ministry which supports and strengthens persecuted Christians in some of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Curry has previously served as CEO of The Rescue Mission in Tacoma, WA. He will begin his new duties at Open Doors USA on Aug. 1.

“After an extensive search involving an impressive group of highly qualified candidates, the Open Doors USA Board of Directors is delighted that Dr. David Curry will be our new president/CEO,” says board chairperson Roger Spoelman. “During interviews board members were impressed with his spiritual maturity and leadership capability which he demonstrated in previous roles. He clearly has a passion for persecuted Christians around the world. The board is excited about the future of the ministry under the leadership of Dr. Curry.”

david-curryCurry says: “It’s an honor to serve along side those who stand for their faith against great opposition.Open Doors is doing incredibly important work to support and advocate for those persecuted for their faith.

“For many years I have been troubled and concerned about the increasing persecution Christians have faced for their faith, and the neglect by some governments to take a stand. While I’ve always been an advocate for the persecuted church, it’s my belief that the next generation will see even greater persecution. As a result, we need a deeper awareness to support and advocate for those who face prison or even death for their faith in Jesus Christ.”

According to Curry, his vision includes “continuing to increase Open Doors’ effectiveness in serving persecuted believers. In addition, Open Doors USA will be striving to communicate to people in the United States the challenges Christians face around the world in order to live their faith in freedom.”

Curry adds that his eight years as CEO at The Rescue Mission and his position as president of the Foundation for Grace, an organization which provided leadership and management training to non-profit groups in South America, will serve him well in his Open Doors presidency.

“My whole life and calling have been about serving those who are suffering, living in despair and who are placed in really challenging circumstances,” he states. “Serving with the Foundation for Grace placed me in the position of service to impoverished pastors in the Third World; assisting, training and supporting them in their important work. Serving the homeless and hurting further deepened my resolve that God’s love extends to everyone, and that everyone should have the ability to experience and grow in their spiritual journey regardless of socio-economic strata, ethnicity or nationality. These are all parts of my experiences that I will bring to my ministry at Open Doors in assisting those who desire to serve Jesus in freedom.”

Curry is an expert on the subject of ethical leadership and life transformation and has addressed such diverse groups as Fortune 500 company AT&T, the Congress of Peru, drug-recovery programs and social workers in the Amazon jungle. He is the author of four books, including his new book First Aid for Enablers. His other books are:  It’s Not How Far You Fall It’s How High You Bounce, God Plays Golf and Change Your World!

Curry has a B.A. from Northwest University (Seattle) and an honorary doctorate of humane letters from     Faith Evangelical College and Seminary (Tacoma).

His family includes his wife Kate and sons Jack, 17, and Cole, 15.

For almost 60 years Open Doors has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ’s light in these places. Open Doors empowers persecuted Christians by supplying Bibles and Christian literature, training Christian leaders, facilitating social/economic projects and uniting believers in the West in prayer for Christians, who are the most persecuted religious group in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.

Please join VOP in congratulating and praying for Dr. Curry in his new position with Open Doors. We pray that God will guide his path as he is given this opportunity to work for and serve the persecuted Church that so desperately need our help!

Persecuted Christians in Iraq

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IRAQ- Number 3 on the World Watch List

Iraq In the past 10 years since Saddam Hussein was removed from power in Iraq in 2003, the Christian population has been decimated from approximately 1.3 million to less than 300,000, as believers have been killed or fled the country.

The United Nations have stated that May 2013 saw the worst devastation in the last six years, as Sunni and Shiite groups target one another and Christians, as well. Due to the constant violence and bombings, the capital of Baghdad was recently put into lockdown for an entire week, say church leaders there.

“It was impossible for us to get out and check on our congregation members and for them to get to church,” explained one.

While much of the violence is general, it is clear some attacks are aimed at individual Christians. A Christian in Mosul was the target of two attacks in one week in March – after the first bomb exploded in his house on a Wednesday, a second one was thrown over his fence the following Sunday. Fortunately, the second bomb, wrapped in a black bag and a women’s t-shirt, was deactivated by a military engineering team.

Louis Raphael Sako, the newly elected Chaldean Catholic patriarch of Iraq and Syria, says he is fearful what the future will hold for believers in the region.

“We must stay,” he affirms. “This is our history. This is our patrimony. When we leave everything will leave with us.”

Please Pray:

Pray for the Church as it tries to ‘regroup’ after having seen so many Christian leaders and Christians leave for the West.

Pray that the Church will show the way forward and communities will be changed by their loving example.

Please pray for the safety of church leaders and their congregations as they travel to and from church activities and go about their daily lives.

Pray for positive change and peace in the nation of Iraq

Christians in Iraq are are caught in the middle of the Islamic sunni – shia war. They have been abandoned by the west and President Obama has totally neglected their plight after withdrawing troops from the Iraqi War.

We need to stand with them in prayer. The needs of our brothers and sisters in Iraq are great and ongoing. Take a stand on any Sunday this June as we continue to support them!

Iraq has a long Christian heritage dating back to the first century AD, making it one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. But today, Christianity in Iraq is under serious threat.

While the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 may have been a victory for coalition forces, ongoing changes in leadership have been a disaster for Iraqi Christians. Constant threats, terrorist attacks, families being forced to leave their homes and communities with no protection, and a recent spate of kidnappings have all been aimed at demoralizing the already dwindling Christian population. Life has become unbearable.

In 2003, there were more than one million Christians in Iraq. A decade later, only a third of this number remain. This situation is an absolute tragedy for the international Christian community. But the saddest part of all is that most western Christians have no idea this issue exists.

Take action today to Stand Up for Iraqi Christians.

Open Doors invites you to choose any Sunday in June and say ‘enough is enough’. You can support our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq by:
1. PRAYING- specifically for what is happening in Iraq, trusting that God would strengthen the believers there.

2. GIVING- to support placement of Christians who have had to flee their homes and livelihoods because of threats to their lives and families.

3. WRITING- to the Iraqi Ambassador in Australia who gives millions of dollars in aid to Iraq to encourage them to act. We want them to ensure there are better safeguards in place for Christians who want to stay and be a witness in Iraq.
1 Corinthians tells us:

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” We as Christians have a moral responsibility to speak out against injustice.”

SUDAN: Accusations could carry serious consequences for believers

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Sudan (MNN) ―  An Islamic leader is telling Sudan’s government to take action against Christians. Ammar Saleh, the chairman of the Islamic Centre for Preaching and Comparative Studies, slammed his government last week for not taking decisive action against Christian missionaries, who he claims were operating “boldly” in Sudan. According to independent media agency The Sudan Tribune, Saleh appealed to local authorities and the community to take a stand against “Christianisation” and find a long-term solution to what he views as a massive problem.

He says his government’s efforts in this regard are timid compared to missionaries’ efforts and claims 109 people have converted from Islam to Christianity in Khartoum. Saleh says these figures are growing in a “continuous” and “scary” fashion.

Dykstra says there are two sides to this coin. “The bad news is that he wants to put more pressure on the government and the army to crack down on the Christians there,” he explains. “But the good news is that many there are coming to Christ.” Despite persecution, Open Doors is seeing the Body of Christ in Sudan grow. “It’s been difficult for them obviously, but they are growing in numbers,” states Dykstra. In addition, a member of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Adam Mudawi, claims the NCP has information indicating that the Orthodox Church in Ombadda is hiding a large cache of weapons. Mudawi also accuses the church of exploiting poor people by giving them financial support and assistance if they convert to Christianity. According to Open Doors, Sudanese Christians have seen a dramatic increase in pressure over the past few months. Churches are being forced to close, and foreign workers are being kicked out of the country. Given this tense atmosphere, Mudawi’s accusations may have serious consequences for Christians in Sudan.

“We need to pray for Christians, especially those that are being marginalized around Khartoum,” says Dykstra. “We also need to pray that there will be peace.”

To help Sudanese Christians cope with growing persecution, Open Doors recently held two Standing Strong Through the Storm seminars. These seminars teach Christians how to relate to persecution and how to pray for one another.  A total of 13 different denominations were represented at the two seminars. “The focus was to advance church unity, and many of the people who attended really appreciated the seminars,” Dykstra says. “It was a blessing that nobody was targeted or they weren’t broken up.”  Persecution in Sudan has moved the country from #16 on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List to #12 in 2013.

Keep praying for Christ-followers in Sudan. Pray that their faith will remain strong. Pray that the Gospel goes forth no matter what.

New Devotional: Standing Strong Through the Storm

“After a whirlwind passes by, the wicked are no more, but the righteous stand firm forever.”Proverbs 10:25 (CEB) Do you know what it means to “stand strong” amidst life’s trials? Have you experienced Christ’s life-changing power in the midst of trouble? Standing Strong Through the Storm is a new free email devotional at Bible Gateway that will inspire, challenge, and equip you. Through stories and testimonies—many of them from believers around the world who face persecution and harassment because of their faith—you’ll explore what it means to stand firm as a follower of Jesus Christ. Each daily devotional includes a short inspirational story or reflection followed by a prayer and a suggestion for how you can put what you’ve read into practice in your life. Each is written by storyteller Paul Estabrooks, whose heart for the suffering church is evident in each day’s reading. Standing Strong Through the Storm begins on Monday, April 23. Sign up today! We’re grateful to Open Doors—an organization dedicated to serving the persecuted church worldwide—for making Standing Strong Through the Storm available on Bible Gateway.

Open Doors Project Reaches Out to Displaced Christians in Syria and Beyond

A Syrian girl living in Greece, with her face painted with the colors of the Syrian flag, attends a protest in Athens
“The focus of this project is to embrace uprooted Believers, not only in Syria, but also around the world.”

Santa Ana, CA)—In the midst of the horrible Syrian civil war, Open Doors and its church partners are putting warm clothes on needy children. For three long months this winter, children of a church in Aleppo have had to stay at home with the sounds of war going on around their houses. Many schools are closed and going to church is dangerous. Christians in Aleppo are sometimes the target of deliberate attacks, but more often they suffer from the general chaos and violence in the city because of the bloody war.

With the help of Open Doors, the church organized a special day for the children. Behind the chairs, big piles of clothes were waiting for new owners. Parents sorted through the sweaters and jackets, holding them up to find a suitable size for each of their children. Open Doors made sure all the 200 children went home with a new set of clothes. And while the parents were busy, the kids enjoyed singing Christian songs and a puppet show. The organizers feel blessed to see so many families coming out of their houses for one afternoon and thinking a little less about the worries of the conflict—which has reportedly claimed 70,000 lives. “We really felt the presence of God today,” said one leader.

Four years ago Open Doors started working inside Syria with an outreach to Iraqi Christian refugees, which included Biblical training, distribution of relief supplies and trauma counseling. The outreach provided Open Doors with a unique network of church contacts as the Syrian civil war broke out two years later and Christians were specifically targeted in midst of the general horrors of war. As of last December, Open Doors estimated 20,000-25,000 Christian families had left their homes for other places either inside Syria or for countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. An Open Doors contact in Syria says “bold attacks on Christians are increasing. And there are more kidnappings, too.”

Open Doors is hoping to enhance its outreach during 2013 by helping hundreds of families cope physically and spiritually with their uncertain situation. The Open Doors aid includes blankets, stoves, heating fuel, medicines and hygiene kits as well as Bibles and spiritual training.

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The campaign, called “Displaced Peoples Project,” has also targeted countries such as Egypt, South Sudan, Nigeria, Mali, Laos and Iraq, as displacement of Christians is a worldwide problem. Thousands of Christians are being forced to leave their original family homes and villages due to persecution and ravages of war.

“The focus of this project is to embrace uprooted Believers, not only in Syria, but also around the world,” says Open Doors USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra. “Thousands of Christians are being forced from their homes, churches, schools and places of work. They find themselves completely destitute and face an uncertain future.

“Your . . . prayers will equip and strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ and at the same time enable those being dislocated to remain salt and light in their regions or in refugee camps in other countries.” READ MORE

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