Wednesday, August 28, 2013

RLPB 225. August Update, Incl. Syria, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Iran, Russia, Somalia

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 225 | Wed 28 Aug 2013

By Elizabeth Kendal

'And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.' (Matthew 28:20b ESV)

AUGUST 2013 UPDATE -- During August we prayed concerning . . . 

* SYRIA (RLPB 222), where Christians in the north face siege (in Aleppo) and ethnic-religious cleansing (across the north-east).

SYRIA UPDATES

REFUGEES: In the past couple of weeks, thousands have fled north-eastern Syria as violence escalates between Kurds and al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists backed by Turkey. Christian ethnic Assyrians comprise around 30 percent of the population of north-eastern Syria, which is contiguous with northern Iraq's Nineveh Province. More than 30,000 predominantly Kurdish refugees arrived in northern Iraq from 15 to 20 August, joining the 150,000 refugees already being sheltered there. The exodus continues. The Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq describes what is happening in north-eastern Syria as 'genocide'. The UN High Commission for Refugees has said that the latest 'exodus' is 'among the largest we have so far seen during the conflict'. (report, includes video)

CENTRAL SYRIA: On Saturday 17 August gunmen shot dead 15 people -- mostly Christians, including women and children -- who were dining at a roadside restaurant in Wadi al-Nasarra, a region in central Syria known as the Valley of the Christians. The massacre happened on a road in Homs Province that links the two Christian villages of Ein al-Ajouz and Nasrah. Eleya Dhaher, archbishop of the Wadi al-Nasarra region, laments that the killings have reached the very heart of the Christian homeland. 'It seems . . . no area can enjoy peace,' he said.

ALEPPO:  Rebels have tightened the siege on Aleppo in retaliation of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) retaking territory in the south and centre. Sources report that Christians in Aleppo are growing despondent as they rapidly lose weight, health and hope. Those whose homes have been totally destroyed are now squatting in empty office buildings without amenities or food. Many fear that a rebel invasion is imminent. Last week five bus loads of Armenian Christians left Aleppo for the coast. Subsequently, rebels linked to the Syrian Islamic Front took control of the road to Aleppo, cutting SAA supply lines. Nobody knows what has happened to the Armenians. A Protestant pastor in Aleppo tells how his young son recently asked him when the rebels will come and kill them for being Christians. He says the men of the church are preparing for a rebel invasion and for death. He says Christians are greatly distressed and discouraged by the news that the US is preparing to strike, believing a US strike will advance the cause of jihadists and terrorists and hasten the demise of the Church.

DAMASCUS:  Reports recently emerged of an alleged chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Previously, US president Barak Obama declared that if the Syrian regime was found to have deployed chemical weapons then it would have crossed a 'red line', triggering US intervention. While the US-led West is rushing to blame the Syrian regime of using chemical weapons, several points should be considered. Who stands to gain from this chemical attack? The SAA has been making great gains against rebel forces, so why would the regime risk everything by deploying chemical weapons against civilians? The chemicals used and the means of delivery are primitive rather than the hi-tech product one might expect from the mighty SAA. According to terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky, it was in Ghouta that Syrian rebels recently denounced the jihadists and laid down their arms with around a dozen reportedly defecting to the SAA. Interestingly, al-Monitor reports that the Saudis have some 25,000 fighters in Ghouta fighting with the Liwa' al-Islam armed group. Peace activist Walid Shoebat has released video footage showing rebels deploying chemicals, seized chemicals from Saudi Arabia and rebels discussing the use of Sarin nerve gas. In May a member of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Carla del Ponte, reported that her panel 'had not yet seen any evidence of Syrian government forces using chemical weapons', while there were 'strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof' that the rebels were using nerve gas. [Note that in asymmetric warfare it is normal strategy for the weaker party to use human shields and 'false flag' operations to create propaganda aimed at securing military aid from a stronger force.]
FOR more details see:
SYRIA: Who is deploying chemical weapons?
-- and the tactics of asymmetric warfare.
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 29 Aug 2013

The consequences of a US intervention on the side of the jihadis would be diabolical, catastrophic for Syria and the whole region (especially for the Church) and detrimental to global security. Furthermore, God will not tolerate the West lending its military might to forces whose agenda includes eliminating the Church from the Middle East. Pray that God will intervene.

* KAZAKHSTAN (RLPB 223), where a Protestant pastor has been arrested on a charge of 'harming health' (by praying with the sick) and has been sent to the Almaty City Psychological-Psychiatric Assessment Centre. Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbaev of Astana's Grace Church (Presbyterian) has expressed concern that the authorities, who are shamed by negative international attention, might seek to whitewash the case by having him declared insane, when he knows he is 'psychologically healthy'. 

UPDATE: Forum 18 reported on 22 August that Pastor Kashkumbayev is still in Almaty Psychiatric Clinic undergoing 'tests'. His detention has been extended until 17 September. Please pray that God will protect and deliver Pastor Kashkumbayev and preserve his church in Kazakhstan.

* EGYPT (RLPB 224), where violence against the Church is escalating.

UPDATE: Terrorism analyst Yossef Bodnasky reports (Defense & Foreign Affairs, 7,2013): 'The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood has] dispatched several leaders -- both religious and former military -- to Arab countries with strong jihadist traditions in order to recruit jihadist volunteers for the Ikhwan's "Free Egyptian Army" to fight the Egyptian military, reverse Morsi's ouster, and unleash a jihad against Israel and for the liberation of al-Aqsa. Algerian security officials warned that the Egyptian recruiters had already signed up a few thousand Algerian volunteers. Among the recruited Algerians are dozens of street leaders and commanders from the Algerian civil war.'

AUGUST 2013 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* IRAN: CONVERT SENTENCED TO TEN YEARS (updating RLPB 220

Mostafa Bordbar, a 27-year-old convert from Rasht, was arrested along with 50 believers on 27 December 2012 at a Christmas celebration in a private home in Tehran. He was detained in Evin Prison and Judge Pir-Abbas (the 'hanging judge') heard his case on 9 June. The judgment and sentence were released on 31 July. Bordbar has been found guilty of being part of an 'anti-security organisation' and of 'gathering with intent to commit crimes against Iranian national security'. He has been sentenced to ten years in prison. Pray for the Church in Iran.

* RUSSIA: FAITHFUL PRIEST FOUND MURDERED

Russian Orthodox Priest Fr Pavel Adelgeim (75), a gulag survivor who ministered in Russia's north-western Pskov region, died on 5 August from blood loss after being stabbed. His death was doubtless hastened by the reluctance of medical services to come to his aid. Fr Pavel was known as a 'dissident priest' because of his fearless criticism of the systemic corruption plaguing the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). Recently he outraged ROC elite by pointing out that what Pussy Riot had said about church corruption was actually correct; consequently, the church should reflect, humble itself and show grace rather than unleashing mechanisms of state power against them.  Upon hearing of Fr Pavel's death, Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev lamented: 'The last free priest of the Moscow patriarchate has been killed. Which one of the priests, who are married and employed, can now say publicly and not anonymously, "Master, you are wrong"'? Fr Pavel was stabbed to death by a young man from Moscow who had come to him seeking help. Over a thousand attended his funeral at the Church of the Myrrh Bearers, where he served for the last decades of his life. Whilst the incident is being written off officially as the random act of a mentally ill person [article includes photo], circumstances around the killing are mysterious, arousing suspicion. If (as some suspect) corrupt church officials are complicit in the assassination of a faithful dissident, then ROC corruption will become a religious liberty issue.
(translated articles can be found here)

SOMALIA: CHRISTIAN MOTHER OF TWO KIDNAPPED

Morning Star News reports that on 5 August Islamic militants (suspected to be al-Shabaab) abducted Shamsa Enow Hussein (28) and threatened her husband, Mohamed Isse Osman (31), because of their Christian faith. Osman, who has gone into hiding with their daughters aged three and five, has not heard anything from his wife since she was taken. Leaders in Somalia's underground Church confirm that Osman and his daughters are safe, but the family is greatly distressed and girls are constantly crying. Please pray that Shamsa will be freed and reunited with her family and that they will be safe. Pray for the gravely imperilled Church in Somalia.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

RLPB 224. Egypt: a time to weep, mourn and pray

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 224 | Wed 21 Aug 2013

EGYPT: A TIME TO WEEP, MOURN AND PRAY

By Elizabeth Kendal

The present crisis in Egypt is the culmination of several strategic trends, particularly the arrival of 'democracy' after decades of Saudi-sponsored Islamic radicalisation in a State that is hurtling towards collapse. Egypt's population has exploded, doubling in one generation to more than 92 million. With a massive youth demographic, high unemployment (40 percent), high illiteracy (45 percent), critical food and fuel shortages and looming bankruptcy, Egypt is on the brink of becoming a failed State. Saudi money keeps Egypt afloat and the Saudis want their nemesis, the Muslim Brotherhood (which advocates republicanism), not just out of power, but crushed. In this, the interests of the Saudis, the Egyptian military and the Salafis converge.

As noted in RLPB 218 (10 July), the military staged their coup under the cover of anti-Morsi protests, ensuring that anti-Morsi elements would bear the blame and the brunt of reprisals. And 'no soft target so clearly represents opposition to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as the Coptic Church'. The military's actions may have halted the Muslim Brotherhood's consolidation of power and guaranteed the flow of Saudi aid, but their actions are making the situation worse. Violence against Christians has exploded. The military may even exploit this, rather than prevent it, to legitimise military violence, military rule and requests for military aid. As the guardians of the Suez Canal and the Sinai, the Egyptian military is essentially a law unto itself, something Morsi and the MB have failed to appreciate.

Meanwhile, the MB will do what it has always done best: play the victim. In late July terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky reported: 'The Ikhwan's [MB's] spiritual guides are now calling for a violent intifada against the military: a confrontation where the military's superior firepower would create numerous martyrs, thus reinforcing and affirming the Ikhwan's own claim of victimhood.' This provides the context for the recent MB 'sit-ins'. According to Amnesty International, these protest sites were dangerous, violent places, where those who voiced objections were beaten, raped, tortured and killed. The sit-ins comprised bands of violent, armed MB supporters who provoked the military from behind a screen of human shields -- thousands of women and children. What occurred on Wednesday 14 August, when the military went in as promised to disperse the sit-ins and clear the streets, was a massacre, a bloodbath. With some 900 dead it was doubtless much worse than the MB leadership imagined it would be, but a massacre was exactly what they sought, for propaganda purposes. [This is the very essence of Islamic asymmetric warfare.]

MB rage again fell on the Church. Over the next few days, churches, monasteries and other Christian properties, including schools and businesses, were torched and looted by rampaging MB supporters in Sohag, Minya, Beni Suef, Fayium, Asyut, Alexandria, Suez and Cairo. Bible Society bookshops in Assiut and Minia were destroyed. Three nuns taken out of the Franciscan school in Bani Suef were paraded 'like prisoners of war' through mob-filled streets, until a courageous Muslim woman rescued them and took them into her home. Two other Christian women who fled from the school were observed being hit, groped and spat on as they fought their way through the mob.

Emergency Law has been established for one month, military officers have been installed as governors and 14 governorates now have 7pm-6am curfews. A low intensity but extremely violent insurgency will doubtless ensue. There are no good options. Remember, this is the same military that drove tanks into Copts at Maspero in October 2011, killing 28, when the Copts led protests against sectarian violence (see RLM Oct 2011). This is the same military that bulldozed the security walls of Coptic monasteries in the wake of the fall of Mubarak, removing their security so Arab raiders and jihadis could attack and plunder them. General al-Sisi is a Morsi-appointed, pro-Salafi Islamist. To use the language of Isaiah, the convergence of trends has culminated in a 'mighty flood' of trouble. These are days to weep and mourn for Egypt (Ecclesiastes 3:4) but above all -- to pray!


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* God will pour his gracious love into the hearts of all Egypt's Christians (Romans 5:3-5), that they will respond in a supernatural way, following the teaching and example of Jesus Christ: loving their enemies, doing good to those who hate them, blessing those who curse them and praying for those who abuse them (Luke 6:27-36). [Never underestimate the miracle of this.]

* the Holy Spirit will give Egypt's Christians the grace and courage essential for witness to a confused, desperate, lost yet hope-seeking people, and the faith and hope essential for prayer to a faithful, loving, Sovereign yet prayer-responsive God. (Lamentations 3:55-66)

* by the grace of God, hope-energising righteousness and truth  will shine from the churches (even those reduced to ashes) and from believers (even those reduced to poverty), that there will be a true awakening in Egypt.

* this nation -- which once enslaved God's people, but which then received the Christ-child and the Gospel message of the Apostles, only to be ultimately invaded, conquered and enslaved to Islam -- will be spiritually liberated to receive Christ and his Gospel yet again. (Isaiah 19:16-25)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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EGYPT -- A TIME TO WEEP, MOURN AND PRAY


The crisis in Egypt arises from the arrival of 'democracy' after decades of Saudi-sponsored Islamic radicalisation in a State hurtling towards collapse. Egypt is kept afloat by Saudi money and Saudi Arabia wants the crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which advocates republicanism.  In this, the interests of the Saudis, the Egyptian military and the Salafis converge. Fighting back, MB leaders have called for violent intifada against the military, which will create MB victims and 'martyrs' for propaganda purposes. But as the guardians of the Suez Canal and the Sinai, the Egyptian military -- definitely no friend of Christians -- will doubtless be able to do whatever it wants. There are no good options. Christian security is tenuous. These are days to weep and mourn, but above all, to pray!

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

RLPB 223. Kazakhstan: pastor victim of Soviet methods

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 223 | Wed 14 Aug 2013

KAZAKHSTAN: PASTOR VICTIM OF SOVIET METHODS

By Elizabeth Kendal

The population of Kazakhstan is 63 percent Turkic (mostly ethnic Kazakhs) and 31 percent Slavic (mostly ethnic Russians). It is 54 percent Muslim, 34 percent non-religious and 12 percent Christian (who are overwhelmingly Orthodox). Protestant fellowships are viewed with suspicion, derided in the media and targeted in policy as 'new religious movements' (cults) and 'foreign'. Religious liberty has been in decline for several years, in line with the loss of US influence. The treatment being suffered by several dissidents (including a Protestant pastor) indicates Kazakhstan is returning to Soviet-era methods of social control. The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was appointed Prime Minister of the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan in April 1990. He has continued on as President since the break-up of the USSR.

Lyazzat Almenova (34) is a member of Grace Church in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. In July 2011 her mother alleged that her daughter had developed paranoid schizophrenia as a result of Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev's religious services, an assessment confirmed in September 2012 by a state 'expert'. In October 2012 authorities launched a criminal investigation into Pastor Kashkumbayev (66) 'for causing considerable harm to the psychological health' of a church member. On 17 May 2013 Pastor Kashkumbayev was arrested, accused of violating Criminal Code Article 103, Part 1: 'Intentional inflicting of serious harm to health'.  In court, the prosecutor alleged that 'the crime was carried out by Kashkumbayev under the guise of carrying out charitable and religious activity by means of exerting psychological influence on church members, including using  stupefying substances with the aim of collecting gifts for the use of the association'.

Lyazzat Almenova, who has been subjected to forced psychiatric treatment by the state, told Forum 18 that Pastor Kashkumbayev is 'totally innocent and has not harmed my health at all'. In a letter to the Astana Prosecutor's Office, Almenova claims she is psychiatrically healthy and the psychiatric assessment conducted on her in September 2012 was conducted illegally; she appealed for the case against Pastor Kashkumbayev to be dropped. Likewise, other church members are adamant that Pastor Kashkumbayev has not done anything wrong nor has he harmed anyone. The 'stupefying substances' alleged to have been administered have turned out to be nothing other than the readily available red tea used by Grace Church as a non-alcoholic communion wine. With the case against Kashkumbayev falling apart, the authorities appear to be making moves to save face.

Astana Police Investigator Vyacheslav Glazkov has ordered that Kashkumbayev's detention be extended until 17 August so he can undergo further psychiatric assessments. On 19 July Pastor Kashkumbayev was transferred to Almaty City Detention Centre No. 2, from where he would be transferred to the Almaty City Psychological-Psychiatric Assessment Centre. Pastor Kashkumbayev protested, writing in a letter that, even though he does suffer many physical ailments, he knows he is 'psychologically healthy'.

Kazakhstan's use of forced psychiatric treatment on dissidents has drawn international condemnation. Kashkumbayev now fears that the authorities may move to whitewash his case by having him committed as insane. 'In order to make me mad they will inject me with special substances,' he writes. 'Because of this I announce [a] hunger strike and refuse to leave for the psychiatric ward.' Kashkumbayev's lawyer warned his client that this could be really dangerous but Kashkumbayev was unmoved. He has expressed the fear that 'it will not take much for the authorities to make me a vegetable', pleading, 'I am begging you to protect me.' Since he was forcibly moved to the Almaty Psychiatric Centre, Kashkumbayev's family and lawyer have not heard anything.

Prosecutor Alen Tlenchiyev confirmed to Forum 18, 'Kashkumbayev is charged with the serious crime of inflicting serious harm on the health of citizens. [He] prayed for the sick, and psychologically influenced [Church members] . . . [and] 'people's health was harmed as a total result of his actions.' Pastor Kashkumbayev's son, Askar, believes the police investigator is trying to find evidence that does not exist. 'He may also hope that my father will be diagnosed as mentally ill so he can close the case now that there is so much international attention to it.' As Forum 18 notes, this would allow the Pastor to be confined in a psychiatric hospital. 'Our only hope,' said Askar, 'is the support we can get from wider public and international community. The local news media publish materials against my father. It looks like the authorities are intent on punishing my father.'

(RFE/RL Photo)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* the ever-present Lord of Hosts will shield, protect and deliver Pastor Kashkumbayev.

'Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me. Arise, O Lord! Confront him [the enemy], subdue him! Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, from men by your hand, O Lord, from men of the world whose portion is in this life.' (Psalm 17:7-8,13-14 ESV)

* the Lord, who does not approve of abuse and injustice (Lamentations 3:34-36), will intervene in Kazakhstan to reverse its slide into darkness. May Kazakhstan's citizens be awakened to reject and protest this shameful and dangerous regression.

* God will give Kazakhstan's Protestant and independent Christian fellowships great wisdom, courage and grace in these delicate and difficult days. May the Holy Spirit bless their gospel witness with effectual transforming power.

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PASTOR IN KAZAKHSTAN VICTIM OF SOVIET METHODS


Lyazzat Almenova (34) is a member of Grace Church in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. In 2011 her mother made allegations against the church, claiming the pastor had caused her daughter to become 'schizophrenic'. After a state 'expert' confirmed the diagnosis, the police started investigating Pastor Kashkumbayev (66). He was arrested, accused of 'praying for the sick' and thereby 'psychologically influencing' church members so that their health is harmed. He is also accused of using 'stupefying substances' (which turned out to be the non-alcoholic red tea used in communion) to 'collect gifts' (church offerings) from members. With the prosecution's case collapsing, Pastor Kashkumbayev has been sent to the Almaty City Psychological-Psychiatric Assessment Centre. There are great fears for his well being there. Please pray for him, Kazakhstan and its Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

RLPB 222. Syria: terror and siege in the north

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 222 | Wed 07 Aug 2013

SYRIA: TERROR AND SIEGE IN THE NORTH

By Elizabeth Kendal

The Syrian Arab Army is based in Damascus (in the south), Syria's political capital. The north is logistically difficult to defend as heavy military hardware needs to travel long distances along exposed, open roads and a long supply-line needs to be maintained. Just months ago the regime won a strategic victory in liberating Qusair (south). Now it is ascendant in the 'rebel capital' of Homs (central) in the north-south, Aleppo-Damascus corridor. However, it is still a long way to Aleppo, meaning the stalemate and siege are set to go on for some time yet. Meanwhile, the regime essentially has abandoned the remote north-east. (MAP)

CHRISTIANS ABANDONED IN THE NORTH-EAST

Adjoining north-western Iraq's Nineveh Province and the Kurdish region of eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria's Deir al-Zour and Hasakah provinces have long been home to sizable Kurdish and Christian populations (Syriacs, Armenians and Assyrians). The region is being fought over by Kurds and jihadists, with Turkey supporting and arming al-Qaeda's al-Nusrah Front to fight the Kurds as it does not want to see an independent Kurdish state established in Syria. Across the north-east, towns and villages are slowly being emptied of Christians, who are totally defenceless. Kidnappings, extortion and forced conversions are endemic. When al-Qaeda's al-Nusrah Front seized control of al-Thawrah on the Euphrates River in Ar-Raqqah province (north central Syria), Christians fled leaving behind everything, which was looted then as war booty by Muslims. Today the roads in Ar-Raqqah are full of jihadists, making travel exceedingly dangerous. Displaced Christians, desperate to return to their own homes and jobs, are being told they will have to convert to Islam -- otherwise they will be killed. For these Christians who have lost everything, the future is bleak indeed.

THE SIEGE OF ALEPPO

Aleppo, in the north-west, has long been Syria's commercial heart. Aleppo's two million residents are predominantly loyalists, most being secular-minded, business-oriented Sunnis, as well as a 10 percent Christian minority. The rebels who have besieged Aleppo are overwhelmingly outsiders, being rural, madrassas-educated fundamentalist Sunnis and foreign jihadis. Having captured large tracts of Aleppo, they despise the locals as loyalists and abuse them, accusing them of being 'Shabiha' (pro-Assad militias). The rebels are also blockading all aid from government-held areas, creating siege conditions.

According to a Protestant pastor in Aleppo, real hunger is driving many Christians to make the dangerous journey on foot into rebel-held territory in search of food. If food is to be found, it will be at exorbitant prices. For example, bread was 15 Lira per kg, now 225 Lira; cheese was 180-200 Lira, now 1200 Lira; powdered milk was 290 Lira, now 2000 Lira; an egg was 3 Lira, now 25 Lira. Meat, fuel, infant formula and medicines are nowhere to be seen. Without work, nobody has income and their money is running out.

On 1 August Christian aid and advocacy group Barnabas Fund (BF) published a harrowing report on the situation in Aleppo. BF's partner in Aleppo, an aid worker facilitating supply of food, water and medical care, describes a humanitarian catastrophe brought about by the rebel blockade and constant kidnappings. He reports that rebel-fired mortars are constantly landing in Christian districts, causing serious, crippling and fatal injuries to believers, young and old. Hundreds have been kidnapped, including minors, usually while trying to flee. Great effort goes into just resisting pessimism and despair. Movingly, he quotes Habakkuk 3:17-18; Psalm 27:1 and Micah 7:7-8.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* our God, who created the heavens and the earth with a word from his mouth, will work multitudes of little miracles every day: to enable safe travel, to shield from shrapnel, to provide food, water and medical aid, to enable secure and efficient money transfers, to bringing comfort, to enable healing and to sustain faith.

The Lord is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

(Psalm 28:8-9 ESV)

* the Lord of Hosts will effect a breakthrough to end the siege of Aleppo.

* Islam will be totally discredited in Syria as being a highway to death and may the God of grace reveal himself to Syrians. 'Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."' (John 8:12 ESV)

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TERROR AND SIEGE IN SYRIA'S NORTH


The Syrian Arab Army is based in Damascus (in the south), Syria's  political capital. Distance makes the north difficult to defend. The north-east effectively has been abandoned to be contested by Kurds and al-Qaeda-linked jihadis. Kidnapping, extortion, forced conversions, looting and killing are endemic, and Christians, who are essentially defenceless, are fleeing. Aleppo, in the north-west, is Syria's commercial capital, having some 2 million mostly loyalist, secular-minded, business-oriented residents, with a 10 percent Christian minority. The city is now divided into rebel-held and government-held territories. The rebels are blockading the government-held districts, creating siege conditions. Hunger is escalating. Because Aleppo is difficult to defend, the stalemate and siege could go on for some time yet. Please pray for Syria, the Aleppo siege and that God will care for his people.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today 
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)