Thursday, August 2, 2012

Egypt scolded over religous freedom issues

(Story photo courtesy SAT-7)

USA (MNN) ― This year's International Religious Freedom Report notes that sectarian violence had increased in Egypt, despite efforts by the government to ease tensions.

The report denounced "both the Egyptian government's failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and its involvement in violent attacks."

Despite promises from Egypt's new leader, President Mohamed Morsi, "to be the president of all Egyptians," Christians are unsure.

Still, there are steps in the right direction, notes Rex Rogers, President of SAT-7 USA. "The new president in Egypt has extended an opportunity for two Christian leaders we know at SAT-7, to work with the new constitutional committee whenever that group finally begins its work."

That's a unprecedented move. It spurs hope. "It seems like he's followed through with his pledges of diversity and pledges to recognize Christians and other minorities in the government as it's being formed. That's quite positive, but you need to wait and see what happens."

Egypt's recent history can be hard to understand unless there's perspective. Rogers says, "When you watch something like the Middle East every day, and with things revolving so rapidly, it's like going on a diet and checking your weight every day: it goes up and down, and it fluctuates. You can be encouraged one day and discouraged the next. You need to do it once a week, and really you need a bigger perspective on what's happening in the Middle East and what's happening with politics."

At least one in ten Egyptians is a Christian. With the government leaning toward a greater reliance on Islamic principles, it's no wonder a significant part of the country has post-election jitters. There are those who are wondering about what the Christians believe, too. It's a good place for SAT-7's programming.  They're a Christian satellite television agency to the Middle East and North Africa.

Rogers explains that their teams in Cairo adjusted programming to create a public forum to handle the nervousness. "We've done live panels on issues. In particular, how Christians can turn the other cheek, as the Scripture indicates, but at the same time, stand up for their rights. How do you do that in a Christian way, and how do you balance those seemingly contradictory ideas of how to live out your Christian faith?"

Farid Garas, the Executive Director of the SAT-7 studio in Egypt, has said, "SAT-7 has played the role that it should... presenting hope through faith, encouraging people to trust God, who is in control."

As an organization that does not take political positions, SAT-7 supports viewers by teaching how they can apply Christian principles to everyday life. Says Rogers,"We simply talk about 'Who is Christ?' 'What does He mean in your life?' [We] have testimonials of people whose lives have been changed and again, we get great response. We get people contacting us in a variety of ways, talking about their new-found faith and new commitment to Jesus Christ."

Keeping Christians involved is helping to shape SAT-7 programming. It emphasizes the need for an attitude of reconciliation, as well as a readiness for participating in writing a new constitution. Interestingly, it is that approach that has kept them safe in a time of turmoil. "SAT-7 has not been directly threatened, harassed, or pressured in any way has there been any suggestion that we need to curtail what we are doing, in terms of operating as a Christian ministry."

In essence, Egypt is a country searching for hope. Wishing for change fueled the uprisings, but investing the Truth is what makes the difference. Rogers says, "Life is just difficult. You come along with Christianity in a way that they've never heard before, you come along in terms of how Christianity can make a practical Christian worldview difference in their everyday lives in addition to salvation. It's a blessing of living the Christian life. People perk up and respond to that. It is hope."

Pray that God will bring peace and justice to Egypt through those who govern this country. Pray for the church as it disciples and supports Muslim-background believers in secret. Thank God for the prayers of Christians and the increased unity between denominations.

Christians tormented with music, then attacked

Three injured; court tells ministry to halt home meetings

ROMAGONADANAHALLI, Karnataka state, India, Aug. 1 — For months, a group of Hindu extremists in southern India had been blasting high-volume movie music at the prayer meetings of a local Christian ministry.

In early July, the harassment crossed the line to assault when the Hindus burst into the prayer meeting of End Time Ministries, knocked three worshippers unconscious and ripped the clothes off a widow, ministry officials say.

As a result, End Time Ministries has moved to a new location to achieve a measure of safety, its leaders say, and a magistrate has warned the ministry to stop holding it meetings in homes.

End Time Pastor Mounesh, who identifies himself by the single name, told Open Doors News that for three months, a man he identified as Kumar Nagappa had been disrupting the ministry’s prayer meetings in Romagonadanahalli, a tiny village in central Karnataka, a fast-growing, comparatively wealthy state in southwest India. Mounesh said Nagappa would point a loudspeaker at the meeting place and play Hindi movie music.

Mounesh complained to police in Basavapatna, more than 150 kilometers to the south. The police issued a warning to Nagappa, according to Moses Muragavel, a lawyer who takes up many Christian persecution cases in Karnataka.

“Nagappa has been disturbing the Christians’ prayer meetings since three months back,” Muragavel said. “The police reached a compromise between the two parties and warned Nagappa to stop disturbing the Christians.” Another extremist, identified by Muragavel by the name Hanumanthappa, was taken into custody, he said.

Tensions quickly escalated from there.

“Instigated by the extremists, the whole villagers thereafter turned against pastor Mounesh and filed a counter police complaint against him,” Muragavel said.

He said Basavapatna Police Sub Inspector Shankariahvadi then instructed Mounesh to sign a statement that he would stop the prayer meetings, warning that dire consequences would follow if he did not. Mounesh signed.

Nonetheless, End Time Ministries held a prayer meeting the next day, July 6, led by Mounesh and two guest pastors.

That’s when about 100 Hindu villagers burst into the house church and beat up the three pastors, as well as church members.

“Two Christian men, Hosuramma and Gurumoorthy, were mercilessly beat up, repeatedly punched slapped and kicked on their chests,” Muragavel said, identifying the men by single names. They also set upon a widow, whom Muragavel identified by the single name Bhagyamma.

“The extremists chased her around and tore up her clothes,” he said.

The three Christians lost consciousness and were taken to the hospital in Davangere, a city about 50 kilometers to the north. They were discharged after three days. Even so, Muragavel said, “the police refused to register a separate case on the incident.” According to the medical report, there were no serious injuries, a finding disputed by the Christian leaders.

Area Christians appealed to H.T. Sangliana, vice chairman of the National Minority Commission of India, who began a series of phone calls to police officials, who ultimately prevailed upon the police sub inspector of Basavapatna to file a First Information Report.

The Christians lodged a police complaint against the Hindu extremists, who filed a counter-complaint against Pastor Mounesh. The police registered both the complaints.

 Davangere Superintendent of Police (Rural) Kavalappa told Open doors News that an investigation is ongoing. Both sides appeared in court July 27, where the magistrate told Pastor Mounesh he should not conduct worship services in homes. End Time Ministries has no building of its own; meetings and worship services typically are held in the pastor’s house.

In the meantime, Pastor Paul Praveen, area deputy superintendent of End Time Ministries, told Open Doors News that Mounesh has stopped all Christian activities in the area.

“He has relocated to another area for safety measure.” Praveen said.

With 49 cases of violence and hostility against Christians in 2011, Karnataka is the state with the highest incidence of persecution, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India.



Copyright 2012 Open Doors News

Become One With Them: Support Suffering Christians Worldwide

Open Doors Offering Special Wristbands Reminding Christians to Stand in Solidarity with Persecuted

Jerry Dykstra
Director of Media Relations
Open Doors USA

SANTA ANA, CA (ANS) -- For over three years, Christians around the world have been praying for Aasiya Noreen, also known as Aasiya Bibi. As the first woman ever to be given the death penalty under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, the mother of five highlights the injustice of Pakistan’s legal system and marginalizing of the Christian minority.

For her own safety, Open Doors partners in Pakistan have been able to give out little information to those who ask questions and want to help her. Aasiya’s family has been forced into hiding due to security concerns. It still can only be confirmed that she is in prison and has little or no contact with others. Any lawyer who wants to take up her case puts his life at risk. Also, he might put Aasiya’s life further at risk as well as her family members.

Aasiya is one of more than 100 million Christians who face persecution in more than 60 countries around the world simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ. 

Seventy percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with high or some restrictions on religion, according to a study by the Pew Research Forum on Religion & Public Life. The persecution and lack of religious freedom often leave believers feeling like they suffer alone.

For this reason, Open Doors is asking free Christians to be One With Them.

One With Them is a call to action to unite with persecuted believers, not just on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), but during the months leading up to the special day Sunday, Nov. 11. Through prayer and advocacy, Christians in the United States are urged to join millions who share their faith but not their freedom.

One way Christians in the United States can show their support for the persecuted is through One With Them wristbands. Wearing the black, flexible silicone wristband that looks like barbed wire is a great conversation starter. The wristbands provide an opportunity to explain to others the plight of persecuted believers.

“The story of Aasiya Bibi has come to represent the needs of Christians caught in conflict, in search of both justice and healing.” says Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller. “Her story continues to show the local church that the global church will not forget to pray and believe for one woman named Aasiya, and millions of other Christians who are suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ.

“We are praying that more Christians will order the wristbands as important reminders to pray for the persecuted and to share their message to be One With Them.”

To order the wristbands, visit The wristbands cost $2 each and will provide support to Open Doors programs which strengthen persecuted Christians. The wristbands will come in two sizes this year – regular (20 cm/7.8 in) and large (22 cm/8.6 in).

For more inspiring stories and information about One With Them, go to the Open Doors Facebook page and Twitter!/OpenDoors.

An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our Website at

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Syria: "Is al-Qaeda gaining a foothold?" ABC interview with Prof. Vali Nasr.

Vali Nasr (Getty Images)
On Sunday 29 July, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Jim Middleton spoke to Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at Johns Hopkins University, concerning the situation in Syria. 

Nasr insists that the fall of the regime will not lead to democracy as the rebels are not democrats. 

Furthermore, "this is an uprising," he says, "that is becoming increasingly bloody, it's now essentially a sectarian war between a minority Alawite regime and its Christian and Kurdish allies and the majority Sunnis. This is no longer really about democracy. And liberal democracy does not emerge in these kinds of circumstances of violence and fratricide."

Nasr also gives voice to the concern widely held by Christian advocates that should the Assad regime fall, there will be no way to "prevent a massacre of the Alawites and the Christians and those Sunnis who supported Assad".

As Nasr notes, what is happening in Syria is what has happened in Iraq. "The very jihadists who used to go from Syria to Iraq have started to come back from Iraq into Syria. . .  It's not clear as to who will prevent al-Qaeda from setting up shop in various little emirates across Syria the way in it did in western Iraq after the collapse of the Saddam regime."

He warns that if Syria "collapses in a bad way," the whole region will be impacted. "None of the countries around it will be immune from impact. And some like Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq would be vulnerable to much more than a minor impact; the reverberation and the aftershocks could completely destabilise those countries. . .  The fight in Syria will not stay in Syria. It will go to Lebanon, to Iraq, to Jordan."

Nasr notes that Iran's influence "has diminished and it will diminish further," while adding, "but the change of government in Syria is not going to be clean. It's not going to be that a pro-Iranian government steps down and a pro-Saudi one takes over. Syria is going in a direction that probably there will be no winners and everybody will lose."

I highly recommend this eleven minute interview to anyone interested in formulating a clearer picture of the Syrian tragedy.

Is al Qaeda gaining a foothold in Syria? (Video and transcript)
ABC Asia Pacific Focus, 29 July 2012

For more on this subject see also: 

Is Syria Falling into the Hands of Al-Qaeda?
by Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute
July 27, 2012

Syria: foreign jihadists could join battle for Aleppo
Jihadists, many with al-Qaida sympathies, are said to be planning to join a decisive battle against regime troops.
By Martin Chulov in Beirut
The Guardian, Monday 30 July 2012 

"Scores of foreign jihadists have crossed into Syria from Turkey in the past two weeks, some of them telling Syrians that they are planning to travel to Aleppo to join a decisive battle against regime troops. . .

"Syrian residents and a Turkish smuggler interviewed by the Guardian say many of the men have come from the Caucasus, while others had arrived from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Gulf Arab states.

"'There have been Tunisians, men from Uzbekistan too and from Pakistan,' said the smuggler. 'They say the Syrians are brothers and that they are going to help them'."

This (allegedly) is "to the annoyance of many rebel leaders who say that they will fight the new arrivals if they try to impose themselves."


Free Syrian Army rebel leaders who think they can advance with Islamist aid and then fight them off later when they no longer need them, shouldtake a look at Mali

Iraqi Christian Children Narrowly Escape Death in Double Bomb Blasts in Baghdad

They had been at St. George‘s Church practicing for their First Communion in August

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

BAGHDAD, IRAQ (ANS) -- At least 19 people were killed today (Tuesday, July 31) in two car bomb explosions in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, according to officials, as reported by the BBC, and windows in a church bus carrying children were blown out in one of the explosions, according to a church official.

At least five policemen were killed in the Baghdad bomb blasts, which narrowly missed killing a busload of children (Photo via BBC website).

The blasts happened within minutes of each other in the central Shia district of Karrada in the middle of the afternoon rush hour, the BBC said on its website.

The first bomb exploded outside a restaurant and a bakery in al-Andalus Square, and the second outside a court opposite a major police headquarters the BBC reported.

More than 240 people have been killed this month in militant attacks in Iraq.

The BBC report states that many of the cars at the scene of the blast were almost completely burned out. A small Iranian-made yellow taxi burned so intensely that the seats, dashboard and steering wheel had all melted, and its interior was reduced to a thin metal skeleton.

The BBC said: “In-between the heaps of mangled steel on the floor lay a dust-coated teddy bear, probably from the building that was hit by the blast. A fragile, horizontal structure at the intersection of al-Andalus Square, it now seemed on the verge of collapse. All the glass was shattered, and the restaurant and bakery on the ground floor were badly damaged.”

Higher up, residents stood on their balconies sweeping away the broken glass, and staring down at the destruction with peculiar apathy, the BBC said.

The report went on to say that Sunni insurgents linked to al-Qaeda appear to have been behind most of the violence, including a wave of bombings and shootings in Baghdad and towns to the north on July 23 which left at least 107 dead.

Clouds of black smoke rose above the center of the capital on Tuesday after the latest bombings, which also injured more than 50 people, the BBC said.

"We were in a patrol when we heard the first explosion. The second explosion hit another square, and we went to help," Ahmed Hassan, a policeman, told the Reuters news agency.
"There was a minibus with six dead passengers inside it," he said.

At least five policemen were also among those killed, officials said.

An interior ministry official told the AFP news agency that the first attack had been carried out by a suicide bomber, while the local TV news channel al-Sharqiya said they had both been suicide bombings.

Canon Andrew White, the popular ‘Vicar of Baghdad,’ who serves at St. George’s Church in Baghdad, told how the explosions affected kids from the church’s children’s ministry who were in transit from the church after practicing for their first Holy Communion service.

“We are used to bad days, but today it has been in a different league. Central to our work and ministry here are our children. One of the biggest services of the year is when some of our children have their First Communion. This service is held at the end of August. The children prepare everyday with about two hours of sessions. They all come to church in our bus and are then taken home,” Canon White wrote on his Facebook page.

“As they were on their way home today they were caught up in a major bomb. The bus was not too badly damaged, and it continued it journey. All of children started singing the Lord’s Prayer.

As they were in the midst of their prayer, a huge bomb exploded. All the glass of the windows shattered, people fell to the floor injured, and one of the teachers was in a very bad way. They were all taken to hospital, but were all discharged as none of them had life threatening illnesses,” he wrote.

“In a normal country there is no way that some of the teachers would have been discharged. One person was hardly breathing and in profound shock. She was brought to the church and I looked after her until she was more stable. Only then could I leave to visit all the children.

“It was wonderful seeing all the children. Despite their injuries they were all smiling, their parents were not -- some were in floods of tears on learning what happened. The fact is that today was miraculous. When you see the state of the bus it is simply a major miracle that nobody died or was more seriously injured. The children knew quite clearly why, they just kept telling me that they were alright because they were praying and G-d was with them, and He was.”

Canon White said: “Many tears were shed, and there are huge things still to do and there are people who still need treatment.

“Please pray for us as we try and recover from another trauma.”

Why Christians are dying in Nigeria: understanding Boko Haram

Assessing the damage of a bombing in Nigeria.
(Photo by Compass Direct)

Nigeria (MNN) ― They're responsible for murdering 32 people on Christmas Day. They set off 10 car bombs in 24 hours to kill over 250 people. They've owned up to bombings, drive-by shootings, anti-Christian and anti-government warfare. For the last several months, they've aimed deathly explosives at churches on an almost weekly basis.

Hundreds have died at the hands of this terror group, but who exactly are they?

After all the talk on Mission Network News about Boko Haram targeting Nigerian Christians, we wanted to give our readers and listeners a profile of this terror sect. With Ramadan still in its beginning days, this is a crucial time to understand and pray.

Findings vary about when the Boko Haram (translated "Western education is a sin") was started, but dates vary between the mid 1990s and 2002. In a special report on the threats of Boko Haram to the United States, the U.S. House of Representatives noted that Boko Haram began as a religious study group. But when Nigerian civil service worker Mohammad Yusef took over, the group made a radical shift. In no time, they were calling themselves the Nigerian Taliban.

From 2002 to 2009, Boko Haram laid moderately low, engaging in only small scale run-ins with local police. But in July 2009, Boko Haram members launched an attack against a police station, resulting in a five-day stand-off and over 700 deaths.

Although the group was forced underground after that pestilent encounter, in 2010 they re-emerged more radical and violent than ever before. Most agree the group has gained a great deal of outside funding, and violence has been escalating ever since.

But the "why" questions still loom.

Why, for instance, does this group exist at all? And why target Christians? How do they benefit from killing Christians, government officials, and innocent by-standers?

Rae Burnett with Christian Aid Mission says the motivation for all of these things is, unsurprisingly, religious.

"Their agenda is Sharia. It is to establish Islamic rule in Nigeria," says Burnett. "If you look at the Quran, what you see is that there are two ways Muslims are instructed to deal with non-Muslims: that is to convert them, or to kill them."

Burnett says it's not so much that Boko Haram is against Christians, specifically, as they are against anyone who is not Muslim. In a nation like Nigeria with a 50-50 Muslim-Christian split, those who aren't Muslim happen to almost inevitably be at least nominal Christians.

So some attacks are geared at ridding Nigeria of non-Muslims. But Burnett says others are merely scare tactics. She likens some of their behavior to that of Rwandan rebels in the 90s.

"They were trying to take over, to intimidate, to make everyone afraid. So they didn't care if out of the blue they would blow up a school bus. They weren't targeting the school bus, but the school bus was available; and they knew if they blew up the school bus, everyone would be afraid of them," says Burnett.

Paul Filidis with -- the group responsible for the30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World Ramadan prayer guide -- says another reason for attacks is the threat that evangelical Christians pose to Islam.

"I think the fact that so many Muslims are becoming Christians fuels some of these radical elements as well. [Radicals] are afraid to lose out to Christianity," Filidis explains.

Jihad. Power. Fear. Whatever the combination of reasons each Boko Haram member acts, their violence must be met with prayer. During Ramadan in particular, even the hearts of radicals are searching. Pray that Jesus would reveal Himself in any way possible to Boko Haram members and those who are tempted to join. Pray that their hearts and minds would be transformed.

Prayer for Christians is also crucial. Burnett says Christians are desperate for wisdom on how to respond to the numerous attacks on their congregations. Dozens have died in bombings, and many Christians, especially those more nominal than evangelical, are ready for revenge. Pray for discernment on how believers should respond to attacks by Muslims as well by Christians.

As the saying goes, "knowledge is power." So may this knowledge about Boko Haram provide you with the power to pray more pointedly for our suffering brothers and sisters in Nigeria and for those who have yet to be added to the Kingdom. 

Censorship tightened on religious materials

(Photo courtesy of Sefer Ibrahim)

Azerbaijan (MNN) ― The reins are tightening on what is and isn’t allowed to be sold in Azerbaijan—including religious materials.
Christians in Azerbaijan face more restrictions with the amendment passed by parliament last month censoring all religious materials.

According to The Voice of the Martyrs, USA's source Forum 18 News Service, all religious materials in Azerbaijan must have a state-issued verification mark in the form of a sticker before they can be sold.

Religious materials subject to censorship include electronic and hard copy literature, audio, and video.

The amendment created a new Article in the Code of Administrative offenses. It says anyone found selling religious products without state verification can face fines and the materials confiscated.

Several religious committee members told Forum 18 that they rarely bring religious literature into Azerbaijan through customs for fear of having them confiscated.

A Tax Ministry spokesperson stated that the amendment was created to make sure all commercial religious literature is getting taxed. Censorship is not required for religious materials and books produced non-commercially.

This amendment adds to the compulsory censorship that religious materials are already subject to by the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations. Shops selling religious literature have been subject to compulsory licenses since 2009.

The State Committee has the ability to restrict the number of copies which are printed or imported, check shop contents selling religious literature, and keep a list of banned religious materials.
The Expertise Department responsible for that list refuses to make it public.

A member of the Baku-based religious community told Forum 18, “This is just the latest measure to restrict religious activity.”

Pray for Azerbaijani Christians to persevere in their faith and in distributing God’s Word despite added difficulties.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Good news in missionary abduction case

(Images courtesy of Gospel For Asia.
 Cover photo of church, Story photo of Assam map.)

India (GFA/MNN) ―Kidnapping, threats, terror, and ransom demands: all part of a typical action movie.

In this case, it was only too real for Gospel For Asiamissionary Ponnachan George.

Kidnapped at gunpoint on July 23 from the Bible school campus operated by Gospel for Asia, the terrorists released him on Sunday, July 29. GFA founder and president K.P. Yohannan says in Assam, India, "The chance of him coming out alive was actually a very small percentage. It's a real miracle. The local police, the state government, all authorities, and even the Central Government...everyone got involved."

GFA also broke with its usual low-profile policy for the protection of the victim in such cases as the Indian news media begins to report on George's abduction. With concerns that the attention from national press may further endanger his life, believers prayed more urgently. Yohannan explains, "When you go public with it, then they will say, 'If anybody talks about it, then for sure, without the ransom we're looking for,  we'll just kill him."

God answered in a big way, says Yohanna. "Finally, after almost a week, [George] was released. Of course, blindfolded, his hands tied back, left on the roadside" -- and without the huge ransom they demanded!  

There's only one reason this situation ended well. Initially, when word of the kidnapping occurred, GFA sent out an emergency e-mail to its supporters urgently soliciting prayer for the safe release of George. The mission agency maintains a policy of non-negotiation with terrorists for money. Although this was the riskiest case, in other instances GFA has relied solely on prayer and fasting, and God has answered through miraculous releases before.

Interestingly, Yohannan says the entire local police force, army personnel, and high-level officials--both from the state and federal governments and even the Prime Minister--got involved in the case. Not only that, but the main extremist groups, known for employing this method of operation, distanced themselves from the action, too. "Most of these leaders came forward to the media and said, 'None of these groups have done it. It's some splinter group that lives in the deep of the forests that is doing this.' That kind of support, even from the ex-terrorists, was quite a surprise."

Shortly after the release, Yohannan spoke with Pastor Ponnachan and asked him to share his thoughts during captivity. Overcome, he wept for a long time, unable to say much. "Finally he said, 'I thought about Christ suffering on the Cross, and I said to myself, 'I came here as Jesus came from Heaven to suffer and give His life. It's a one-way ticket my leaders gave me to be here to serve God."

George thanked God and the Body of Christ for the massive fasting and prayer that took place on his behalf. Yohannan added that George had surrendered his life to the Lord. "'This is the end of the journey. Fine, Lord.' This kind of statement makes me weep and say, 'Lord, thank You. This is a real life and a real call.'"

The pastor knew his life on hanging on a slender thread. The terrorists blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back. They forced him to walk for hours deep into the forest to their hideout. Throughout Ponnachan's entire ordeal, his captors repeatedly told him they were going to shoot him and would not spare him.

In the end, God's direct intervention through the collective voices calling for his safe return held sway.  Pastor Ponnachan's work with GFA has done a lot of good for a lot of people: schools, literacy programs, training, water wells, and many other community development projects. 

Yohannan says, "This leader provides us 300 missionaries, 200 parishes or churches, some 4,000 children at our Bridge of Hope centers, and three radio broadcasts."

Could there be another attack coming? It's possible, because the area is volatile. However, Yohannan says, that won't deter their team. The strength behind their team's faith in Christ and love for the needy was stronger than ever on Sunday. "When they released him, all our workers, all our leaders, continued to stay there--they didn't run away. [They spent the night] there and regrouped and declared, 'We are here for life. We're not going anywhere.'"

Gospel for Asia ( is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to serving the needy in word and deed to demonstrate the love of Jesus in developing countries in Asia. 

GFA-supported national missionaries are seeing incredible fruit in the lives of people to whom they are proclaiming the Love of Jesus Christ. Although they often risk persecution, these missionaries boldly carry on, counting it a privilege to suffer for Christ.

Gospel for Asia has 67 Bible colleges throughout South Asia, where thousands of men and women are studying God's Word and undergoing intensive training in preparation for ministry. 

Most of the Bible college graduates will go on to minister in areas where the love of Christ has never been proclaimed.

Prominent Syrian Christians killed

Syria (MNN) ― In the midst of deadly clashes between Syrian military and rebel forces, Syrian Christians are dying.

Thousands of Syrians, including large numbers of Christians, have fled from their homes in Homs, Damascus, and most recently, Aleppo. There have been reports of the targeting of Christians by both government and opposition sides, although most church leaders point out that targeting is politically motivated or is criminal activity for economic gain. Seldom are attacks religiously motivated.

Whatever the motivation, several prominent Syrian Christians have been killed recently, reports EFCA TouchGlobal. For security reasons, their names cannot be released, but at least two prominent men have been killed, one along with his family.

Many Christians still fear that radical Islamist groups are becoming more influential and that this may lead to increased hostility toward Christians and other minorities. They fear that they may become more vulnerable to criminal activity, including kidnapping-for-ransom incidents, says TouchGlobal.

TouchGlobal has released a special list of prayer requests in repose to these recent and tragic deaths. Please pray that:

- Christians will know the protection of the Father, the inner peace of Jesus, and the daily guidance of the Spirit.

- Church leaders will know the Spirit's guidance concerning public worship and private pastoral support of their congregations.

- The bereaved, wounded, and traumatized will know the comfort, presence, and healing touch of Jesus.

- There will be an end to violence by all parties, and that a just resolution and constructive reform will follow

- Many will know the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

- In the long term, there will be greater religious freedom for all citizens.

Christians plead for prayer in a violent Iraq

Iraq (MNN) ― Last week, a string of bombings killed over 100 people in Iraq. Sunday, July 29, seven Iraqi policemen were killed in two bombings and a drive-by shooting, according to the Associated Press.

Violence has spiked all over Iraq this year, and Christians have also been targeted. Believers continue to leave the deathly nation because many who remain are being killed.

Open Doors USA recently received this e-mail from one of their contacts in Baghdad:
"The terror in Iraq recently was the worst for several years. Each hour the news of what happened gets worse. There have also been major al-Qaeda threats to everyone, especially the Christians. After last week's violence, communication is terrible.

"It is not really possible to describe the devastation here in Baghdad. Over 100 have been killed. Security has been a target. We have none. I came back early because things were getting worse, and they sure are! We are all okay, though.

"We are used to bad problems here in Baghdad, but the violence is just quite unbelievable. 12 car bombs, 2 suicide bombers on motor bikes. Scores of police and soldiers killed. We no longer have any security. It was all Iraqi police and soldiers. Whilst our people have not been killed, the injuries are so severe to so many.

"There have also been new serious threats from Abu Baker Al Hussani, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Despite all of this, we do not give up and do not fear. We keep praising the Holy One who never leaves us.

"Well, today has been good and exhausting. In the church we have been looking at Psalm 23. When people ask me what they should pray for us here in Iraq, I say it should be the 3 P's: Protection, Provision and Perseverance. It is these three things that Psalm 23 deals with. Have a look and see what is what."

Pray for Iraq and the remaining Christians. Pray that they would remain bold and might have opportunities to share the peace of Christ with frightened community members around them.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Worrying Situation of Detained Iranian Christian Couple’s Children

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

SHIRAZ, IRAN (ANS) -- Two Iranian Christian children, whose parents are being held in prison for their faith in Christ, are having to work to pay for their living expenses and then send half of their earnings for their parents in prison. The children are experiencing difficult days alone and apart from their parents and family.

According to the Iranian Christian news agency, Mohabat News ( ) , Helma and Nima are the children of Fariba Nazemian and Homayoun Shokouhi who converted to Christianity.

“Their parents were arrested months ago for their faith in Christ and are currently being held in prison. The two kids are left alone with nobody to take care of them and they must pay for their costs of living themselves,” Mohabat News says on its website.

The couple are being held in prison in Shiraz, located in Fars province, 934 KMs south of Tehran, the capital.
Helma, Nina, Fariba Nazemian and Homayoun Shokouhi. (Courtesy: Mohabat News).
The news agency says that Helma, who is only 12-years-old, is the only one who supports 17-year-old her brother Nima. Nima was also present and arrested when his parents were arrested by security authorities in Shiraz on February 8, 2012.

Nima, together with two other Christian converts, was released on a 100 million Toman bail (approximately USD$80,000) after 36 days in custody and uncertainty, the news agency reported.

Mohabat News stated: “After the teenage boy was temporarily released from prison, he was not allowed to continue his schooling simply because he had been imprisoned. He is now suspended from high school and is denied the right to continue his education which plays a critical role in shaping his future.

“Before being arrested, he was in the third grade of high school, but now he has to work to be able to afford the high costs of living in Iran. This is while inflation in Iran is at an all-time high. Nima recently found a job in a shoe shop and works there to financially assist his persecuted family.”

The agency reports The prison expenses for his parents are also another burden on Nima's shoulders. He sends half of his income for them in prison.

In addition, the children's maternal family has rejected them because of their Christian faith. Also, their father's family is not living in Shiraz. So, Nima must take his sister to his workplace to care for her while he is working, Mohabat News said in its report.

Mohabat News stated: “The children's only help must come from other Christian converts in Shiraz and their close family friends. Other Christian converts and their family friends, who are also struggling with financial difficulties, sometimes take care of Helma or occasionally keep her in their own homes. However, Helma prefers to be with her brother.”

Fariba Nazemian, the children's mother, was denied having visitors in recent weeks and even the children were not allowed to visit their mother recently. This has severely weakened their spirit, especially Helma's, the agency reported.

According to reports from Iran, Mrs. Nazemian is being held in the women's ward of the prison, and her health condition is really poor. Moreover, she is being forced to work long hours in the sewing workshop of the prison.

Other reports state the ward is in a pitiful condition. Also, she is being held in the same cell as drug addicts and murderers. This has impacted her sense of security as a Christian in prison.

This situation is discouraging to this Christian couple, especially because of the youthful age of their children, the news agency said.

Mohabat News goes on to say that Mrs. Fariba Nazemian, her husband, Mr. Homayoun Shokouhi and three other Christian converts (Mojtaba Hosseini, Mohammad-Reza Partoei (Koroush) and Vahid Hakkani), all residents of Shiraz, are still being held in Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz since their arrest on February 8, 2012.

It adds: “Although the five Christian converts have not been formally charged, some judicial authorities have said they will be charged with attending house church meetings, evangelizing, propagating against the Islamic regime, and disturbing national security.”

Jailed Iranian Pastor Denied Hospital Treatment

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- Pastor Behnam Irani, currently held in Ghezal Hesar prison in Iran, is being denied hospital treatment for severe bleeding due to stomach ulcers and complications with his colon.
Pastor Behnam Irani

According to a story from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), as a result he temporarily lost consciousness last week.

Sources close to CSW fear that he may have months or only weeks to live. 

Irani is being kept in his cell as his health continues to decline. He has received death threats from fellow prisoners and endured regular beatings from his cell mates and prison authorities. As a result of these injuries, he has difficulty walking. He also has trouble with his vision.

CSW reported that Irani pastors the Church of Iran congregation in Karaj. He was arrested in Dec. 2006, and sentenced to six years imprisonment on charges of "action against the state" and "action against the order."

CSW said the verdict against Irani includes text that describes him as an apostate and reiterates that apostates "can be killed."

CSW said during the first few months of his imprisonment, Irani was held in solitary confinement in a small cell, where guards would repeatedly wake him from sleep as a form of psychological torture. He was moved into a cramped room where inmates could not lie down to sleep, before being transferred to his current cell.

A CSW official said in a news release, "The treatment meted out to Pastor Irani is inhumane and is in violation of article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that prisoners must be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. The Iranian authorities must be urged to ensure that Pastor Irani receives the hospital treatment he so urgently requires and is protected from fellow prisoners who have threatened his life."

CSW the organization continues to urge Iran to honor its international legal obligations and grant unconditional release to Irani and others currently detained or facing execution on account of their faith.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

For further information, visit

U.S. Aid Worker Faces Death Penalty in Sudan

Worked Closely With Former NBA Legend Manute Bol 

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

KHARTOUM, SUDAN (ANS) -- Rudwan Dawod, an American resident, NGO aid worker, humanitarian and pro-democracy activist, who worked closely with former NBA Legend Manute Bol, continues to be on trial Sunday, July 29 in Khartoum, Sudan. If convicted, Dawod could be sentenced to death.

US Aid Worker Rudwan Dawod in Sudan (Courtesy: Sudan Sunrise).
According to a media release from Freedom Now Communications, on behalf of Sudan Sunrise,  , Dawod, a Darfurian, has worked for three years as a volunteer project coordinator with Bol's charity, the Washington-based NGO Sudan Sunrise.

Dawod worked extensively with Bol on his school in Bol's hometown of Turalei, and in 2011 Dawod led a team of fellow -Muslim peace activists who delivered relief food to refugees in Turalei.

Dawod left his expectant American wife in Oregon in May for South Sudan to lead a Sudan Sunrise initiative of Muslims helping to rebuild a Catholic Cathedral in Torit, South Sudan, as a symbol of reconciliation in the face of recent church burnings in Khartoum.

During a lull in the planning phase, Dawod traveled to Khartoum to see his family, renew his visa, and join in non-violent protests with the Arab Spring youth movement Girifna ("We are fed up" in Arabic).
Former NBA star Manute Bol with Rudwan Dawod and other aid workers for the U.S. NGO Sudan Sunrise (Courtesy: Sudan Sunrise)

After ten days in Khartoum he was abducted, beaten, tortured for days, and charged with terrorism. The media in Sudan has accused Dawod and his wife of working for the CIA and organizing a terrorist cell with plans to bomb Khartoum marketplaces. Girifna activists see this as a campaign to discredit the protest movement that could cost Dawod his life. 

While incarcerated, Dawod was severely beaten by government agents for opposing the burning of churches, and was tortured in an attempt to coerce a confession of working for the CIA.

The Government of Sudan led by Omar Al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur, has responded to demonstrations in the past six weeks by jailing hundreds of protestors (estimates range from 500 to 2,000 protestors currently held by the government).
Rudwan with his wife Nancy. (Courtesy: Sudan Sunrise)

Available for interviews are Girifna members who can report on the Rudwan's trial, the movement and some give first-hand accounts of abduction and torture; Tom Prichard, Director of Sudan Sunrise, who work on closely with Dawod on his reconciliation and humanitarian efforts; and Nancy Dawod, who met husband three  years ago when they both volunteered with Sudan Sunrise to help Manute Bol's school effort. They are expecting their first child in September, a daughter who they have named "Sudan."


Mission team visits church facing closure

(Photo courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders)
Romania (MNN) ― While Romania is no longer a communist country, the government may be dipping their toes back into its history of trying to control the church.

Legislation being considered by the Romanian government specifically targets smaller churches.

Patrick Klein with Vision Beyond Borders says, “The government is clamping down. They’re making it more and more difficult for the churches. There’s talk of even closing down churches that are under the number of 200 people.”

Klein says the threat of government slowly taking control may not be well recognized by the Romanian people. “People are thinking, ‘Well, it wasn’t so bad under communism. At least the government took care of us.’ They forget the oppression they lived under, and especially as Christians, what kind of oppression [they endured].”

Vision Beyond Borders sent a mission team of 10 people to Romania last week to work with a church that is under threat of being closed down if this legislation is passed.

Despite this threat, the church’s ministry is still growing and impacting Romania for Christ.
According to Klein who led the trip, “One of the elders in the church really has a heart for the gypsy people. His wife is actually from a gypsy background, so he’s really encouraged our teams to go out and minster to the gypsies. He said, ‘I really love these people. I want to reach them with the Gospel.’”

The team helped minister to the gypsy community, which experiences a great deal of discrimination. “There’s a minority of them that kind of have a bad reputation in Eastern Europe of being pickpockets and thieves, and so they’re really looked down upon in Europe and especially in Romania.”

Among the gypsy community, team members gave out clothing, vegetable seeds, and provided electricity for one woman’s house. They also shared the message of salvation, and five people accepted Christ as their Lord. The team set up a PA system and sang worship songs.

Pray for the Romanian church to continue impacting the gypsy population for the Gospel of Christ. Pray that the government of Romania will not shut down smaller churches.

Vision Beyond Borders will send out another mission team to Romania in September. They will build a home for the director of Haven of Hope orphanage which shares a compound with the church.