OPEN DOORS: IRAQ

Wave of violence forces families to evacuate Iraqi city

“Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you. ”

– Jeremiah 10:7 [NIV]

Fresh waves of violence are sweeping through the northern Iraqi city of Mosul causing thousands of families to flee the city. Sources report that over 15 Christians have been killed in Mosul in the last few weeks. Much of the killing seems to be at random. One victim was a 15-year-old boy who was shot while playing in the streets with his Muslim friends while another was a man in a wheelchair. Open Doors contacts estimate that 1,600 Christian families have now left the city to escape the violence.

Christian families report that varied measures are being used to make Christians flee the city such as warnings or threatening letters thrown into Christian’s houses. Checkpoints, some official some bogus, have been installed around the city, stopping cars and instructing Christians to leave within 24 hours.

A family, temporarily living in a local church told how fifteen young masked men stormed their house. They collected the mobile phones first, and then they asked if there were men in the house. Fortunately the husband was not in the living room at that moment and could flee to neighbors via the backdoor. The family was instructed to leave their three story house. They were not allowed to take anything with them. Finally the house was destroyed with explosives.

“Many of the people fleeing now are those who virtually are too poor to have fled earlier”, Yassr says. “There are even people who want to flee Mosul, but just cannot. Last week I asked an anxious father why he didn’t flee the city with his family. He responded that they did not have a car or any money, so simply had no choice than to stay.”

Open Doors has this week launched an immediate response by providing food packages, blankets and cookers for around 200 families  but with winter approaching additional help will be needed. Aid is also coming from the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration and other relief organisations operating in the region.

Source: Open Doors

Prayer points:

1. Prayer for ongoing peace in the region and wisdom for government officials as they seek to address outbreaks of violence and the issues behind it.

2. Please lift up before the Lord the families who have lost beloved ones in the last few weeks and those going through traumatic experiences. Pray for those who lost all their property and personal belongings dear to them.

3. Please pray that relief campaigns will be bring aid to those most in need and that there will be enough support for the Iraqi Christians.

For more information please click here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7671609.stm

Thank you for praying with us.

John

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Open Doors

British appeal court recognises threat to Christian converts

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. ”

– 1 Peter 1:22 [NIV]

Syria

A UK immigration court of appeal has for the first time recognised the threat to the lives of Muslim converts to Christianity by granting asylum to a Syrian evangelical Christian couple. In an unprecedented victory, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) helped a young couple (whose identity is being withheld for security reasons) gain refugee status in the UK.

The court recognised that the couple would face real physical threats, including death, if they returned to Syria, the husband’s country of origin. Their appeal was granted on both asylum and human rights grounds.

“This is a significant and groundbreaking decision that clearly puts the focus on the fact that many converts to Christianity from Islam face real danger including the ultimate penalty of death,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the ECLJ.

The couple had converted to evangelical Christianity a few years ago and thereafter witnessed openly to Muslims using internet chat rooms. After their conversion, which in Syria is considered apostasy under Shariah law and therefore punishable by death, the couple began receiving death threats, including a video of a beheading. The husband’s family told him that if he refused to return to Islam then they would “wash their shame”, or put him to death.

Organisers helped to gather the signatures of six US Congressmen for a letter to the UK appeals court in August. American lawmakers also recognised that the couple faced a “credible threat” and that their lives were in danger.

Source: Christian Today

Prayer points:

1. Pray that God would protect this young couple from members of their own family and the wider Muslim community who would wish to harm them

2. Pray that the plight of Muslim-background believers living in the UK would be recognised by British believers and the UK courts

3. Pray for courage for believers in Syria, who are seeking to share their faith with others via the internet and through personal contacts.

Thank you for praying with us.

John
Communications Team

Open Doors: Eritrean

Evangelist fears for his life inside Eritrean prison

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

– 1 Peter 1:8-9 [NIV]

Eritrea

An evangelist imprisoned since 2006 for his Christian activities is reported to be undergoing especially harsh treatment because of his ministry to inmates. Sources said Teame Weldegebriel is on the brink of despair while he languishes at the Mai Sirwa Maximum Security Confinement prison.

“It seems that hell has broken loose on me,” Weldegebriel told supporters. “Please tell the brethren to continue praying for me. I am not sure I will see them again.” Prison authorities consider Weldegebriel dangerous because of his boldness in sharing his faith. The Rhema Church evangelist has been proclaiming Christ to other prisoners, and many have converted to Christianity.

Weldegebriel’s family is worried about his health after trying repeatedly, without success, to get permission to visit him. Inmates at the prison often go hungry and are said to be feeding on leaves.

The government views leaders of large unregistered bodies like the Full Gospel Church and Rhema Church as threats, according to Christian sources in the country. Eritrean officials fear church leaders will expose the abuses and conditions in the prisons. It is extremely difficult for relatives to see those in prison, or for inmates to send or receive letters.

A former prisoner described how God is at work in Eritrea, with many people converting to Christ: “For sure Christians are getting imprisoned, but God’s word cannot be imprisoned,” he said.

Source: Compass Direct

Prayer points:

1. Please pray for evangelist Teame Weldegebriel – that through His word, God would give him hope for the future, and that the attacks on him would relent

2. Please pray that the authorities would permit Teame’s family to visit him and that they would be able to encourage him

3. Pray that all the new believers will receive good teaching and discipleship and be able to grow in their new-found faith.

Thank you for praying with us.

John
Communications Team

OPEN DOORS: IRAN

Christians charged with ‘apostasy’

He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.

– Acts 9:4-5 [NIV]

Iran

Two Iranian Christians have officially been charged with “apostasy”, or leaving Islam, as a draft law making the death penalty mandatory for those convicted of the charge is set to be debated in Iran’s Parliament.

Mahmood Matin Azad, 52, and Arash Basirat, 44, have been in prison since May 15, when they were detained while meeting with other Christians in a park in Shiraz.

Charges are based on Article 214 of the penal code and treatise on legal affairs, the Tahrir ol Vassileh. Iran’s legal system is based on shariah (Islamic) law.

With the apostasy bill to be debated in Parliament, some Iranian Christians fear that authorities are seeking to make an example of the two prisoners or give the prospective law a “test run”.

In February this year, the Iranian Parliament proposed a draft penal code that demands a mandatory death sentence for leaving Islam. Under current Iranian law, although apostasy is considered a capital offence, punishment is left to the discretion of the judge.

Arash, who suffers from diabetes, and Matin are expected to appear in court within the next few weeks to begin their defence.

Despite many individual believers being severely oppressed by the authorities, the Church in Iran has experienced substantial growth as increasing numbers of Iranians from a Muslim background come to faith, often through satellite TV and radio broadcasts.

Source: Compass Direct

Prayer points:

1. Please pray for Mahmood and Arash as they begin their defence. Pray for wisdom and understanding for their legal team as they argue quite literally for their lives.

2. Pray that the proposed legislation, which permits Christians to be killed for reaching out to others with the love of Christ, will not be passed.

3. Pray for the impact of Christian communications through satellite TV and the internet.

Thank you for praying with us.

John
Communications Team

Open Doors: Nigeria

Muslim Extremists Burn Church Building in Nigeria

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”

– Psalm 9:9 [NIV]

Nigeria

On Sunday 31 August, Muslim extremists set fire to a Christ Apostolic Church building in the Baboko area of central Nigeria’s Kwara state.

The Rev. Samuel Ogowole said that local Muslims had complained that the church building was located near a mosque.

The church building was 500 metres from the Baboko mosque, but to appease the Muslim community the Kwara state government had offered church leaders 3 million naira (£14,000) and ordered the congregation to relocate. Church leaders rejected the order, saying they had spent nearly seven times that much to construct the church building.

Rev. Ogowole said that Muslims initially applied pressure on town planning authorities in 2005. “This ultimately resulted in a relocation notice asking us to relocate the church out of the area in seven days,” he said. “However, we objected to the relocation order. Our position was that relocating to another place would mean creating hardship for our members here, who would have to travel many kilometres in order to worship.”

Rev. Cornelius Fawenu, secretary of the Kwara state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told reporters he hopes the state government will intervene to prosecute the arsonists.

Source: Compass Direct

Prayer points:

  • Please pray for peace to prevail in Kwara state. Ask God to strengthen and protect his people there.
  • Pray that the church members would respond with love and forgiveness, not retaliation.
  • Pray that the perpetrators of this crime will be brought to justice and that the church will be adequately compensated.

Update:

Yesterday Open Doors was told that the health of Shi Weihan, the Christian bookstore owner and house church leader imprisoned in Beijing for the past few months, continues to deteriorate. Apparently he is now hardly recognisable to his closest friends. Please pray for him and his family. You can speak up on his behalf by going to www.opendoorsuk.org/advocacy

Thank you for praying with us.

John
Communications Team

Please feel free to forward this email to members of your church, friends and family,
because it is your prayer cover which supports and strengthens our work!

Open Doors: Indian

Violence in Orissa claims many lives

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

– Matthew 5:9 [NIV]

India

A tide of anti-Christian violence has erupted in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, after suspected Maoists murdered Hindu leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, and four of his disciples on Saturday 23 August.

Over 3,000 police have been deployed but attacks on churches continue. Hundreds of Christians have fled their homes. The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the violence as a “national disgrace”.

The number of suspected deaths has risen to 21 after a week of ongoing violence in Kandhamal district and other parts of Orissa. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that more than 114 anti-Christian attacks have taken place in various parts of the state.

GCIC President, Dr. Sajan K. George, stated: “The worst hit are the people in Kandhamal district, where more than 400 churches, 500 houses and many Christian institutions have been demolished. The people have fled to jungles for safety.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said Christians in Orissa were living in fear and anxiety. “The law enforcing agencies have not been able to contain the violent elements that are still at large,” he said. “The violent mobs are destroying churches, orphanages, hostels of children, convents of religious women and houses of Christian families. There appears a sense of helplessness among the Christian community that has borne the brunt of the communal frenzy created by some fundamentalist organizations.”

Christians account for less than a million of Orissa’s 37 million population.

Source: Compass Direct / BBC

Prayer points:

  • Please pray for peace to prevail in Orissa. Pray that God would raise up ‘peacemakers’, men and women who are able to positively influence the deteriorating relationship between the Christian and Hindu communities
  • Please pray for our Open Doors local coordinator, who was only able to escape Baliguda fractionally before the colony he lived in was torched by a Hindu mob
  • Pray that Open Doors’ ministry in the region will be able to continue.

Thank you for praying with us.

John
Communications Team

Please feel free to forward this email to members of your church, friends and family,
because it is your prayer cover which supports and strengthens our work!

Open Doors: Yemen

Nine detained for converting from Islam to Christianity

“Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “I will protect them from those who malign them.”

– Psalm 12:5 [NIV]

Yemen

Yemeni police have detained at least nine people for converting from Islam to Christianity, a security official has admitted. The nine were arrested between May and early August and remain in police custody, said the official.

Converting from Islam to any other religion is illegal in Yemen and can be punishable by death. But in previous cases, those arrested are usually released after they revoke their new faith and pledge to return to Islam.

Three of the nine were detained in the capital, San’a, said the official, but he declined to provide details about the others. A family member of one of the detainees said he fears those arrested could face torture or abuse in prison. He said that Hani el-Dahayni, 30, was detained in May after police stormed his office and confiscated computers and compact discs.

Mansour Hayel, vice president of the Omar al-Gawi Political Forum that advocates for human rights and civil liberties in Yemen, blamed the arrests on the growing influence of extremist Muslim groups in Yemen.

Source: Assist News / International Christian Concern

Prayer points:

  • Ask God to give strength and endurance to the nine prisoners and their families
  • Pray for their protection and swift release
  • Pray that God would prosper the work of those working for religious freedom in Yemen

Update on Christian girls kidnapped in Pakistan
The custody battle over Saba and Aneela Younis, who were allegedly forced to convert to Islam, remained inconclusive after a hearing on 20 August, with rights advocates for the family suspecting Muslim fundamentalists of pressuring the minors and a medical board. The next hearing has been set for 9 September. For the latest information see www.opendoorsuk.org/news.

Thank you for praying with us