Wednesday, March 26, 2014

RLPB 253. March Update, Incl. Syria, Burma, Kenya, Laos, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, UK

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 253 | Wed 26 Mar 2014

By Elizabeth Kendal

Jesus said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.' (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

MARCH 2014 UPDATE -- During March we prayed concerning . .  

* SYRIA (RLPB 250), where the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham/Syria (ISIS) controls large tracts of territory from eastern Aleppo through Raqqa and along the Euphrates all the way to Fallujah in Iraq. Thousands of Christians are being forced to submit to Islam and pay jizya (protection money) as demanded in the Qur'an (Sura 9:29). Their lives are gravely imperilled.

UPDATE: JIHADISTS DRIVE ARMENIANS FROM KESSAB

Armenian Evangelical Church, Kessab
 Kessab, in Syria's far north-west, is a historic Armenian (Christian) city in Alawite-dominated Latakia province. In recent years its population has grown as Armenians from Aleppo and other war zones have fled to Kessab seeking sanctuary. In the early hours of Friday 21 March jihadists from al-Nusra Front, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham entered Syria from Turkey via the Kassab border crossing. As the jihadists advanced, most of the 3500 Armenians living in Kessab (some 670 families) either fled into the hills or were evacuated to the port city of Latakia. [Photo of Armenian refugees in Latakia.] Only those too frail and infirm to flee remained. By the end of the day, Kessab city, the border crossing and the strategic hill known as Observatory 45 were under rebel control.

On Saturday 22 March the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launched a counter-offensive with SAA jets attacking rebel positions, driving back the jihadists. On Sunday 23 March jihadist reinforcements arrived. The remaining Armenians were taken hostage as homes were looted and churches desecrated. That afternoon, Turkish fighter jets shot down an SAA MIG-23 jet that was assisting SAA ground forces repelling the jihadists. According to Turkey, the MIG-23 was 1.2km inside Turkish airspace but Syria denies this. Interestingly, the SAA pilot ejected and landed safely inside Syria and the plane crashed inside Syria.

Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan -- who is down in the polls ahead of elections scheduled for 30 March -- is now promoting himself as the defender of the motherland. The Armenian National Committee notes that this is the third time in a hundred years that Turkey has been complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Armenians from Kessab. According to Armenian media, some 80 Armenians have been killed in the rebel assault. Amongst the jihadists killed is the head of the Ansar al-Sham faction, a Saudi national known as Sanafi al-Nasr. [UPDATE: Long War Journal reported on 19 April that Sanafi al-Nasr, who had been reported killed in action in Kessab, is in fact alive and is now fighting with the al-Nusra Front.]

* NORTH KOREA (RLPB 251), where 33 North Koreans have been sentenced to death charged with anti-state crimes for having contact with South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook.

* UZBEKISTAN (RLPB 252), where the young but growing Church struggles in the face of repressive legislation, especially in the area of religious literature and training.


MARCH 2014 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .

* BURMA (Myanmar): REGIME DRAFTING AN ANTI-CONVERSION LAW

Burma is drafting laws to protect race and religion. The impetus for the move is a petition presented to Burma's President Thein Sein in July 2013 by the Organisation for Protection of National Race and Religion (OPNRR), headed by Ashin Tilawka Biwuntha, member of the government appointed National Head Monks Committee. The petition, which calls for legislation to protect national race and religion, had 1.3million signatures and has since gathered a further 3 million supporters. On 7 March Thein Sein ordered his twelve-member Presidential Commission to draft a law banning polygamy and conversion to another religion, and the Supreme Court to draft a law to regulate interfaith marriage and restrict Muslims to two children. The Buddhist nationalist OPNRR wants to ban Buddhist women from leaving Buddhism while legislating that a non-Buddhist man wishing to marry a Buddhist woman must first convert to Buddhism. Whilst the law is targeting Muslims and Islam, it will impact also Burman Buddhist converts to Christianity.

* KENYA: CHURCH ATTACKED NEAR MOMBASA

On Sunday morning 23 March, two Islamic militants visited the Joy in Jesus Christ Church in Likoni, near the coastal city of Mombasa. They reportedly walked in freely and mingled with the congregation before taking out their weapons and opening fire. They killed two worshippers, wounded dozens and casually walked away. The death toll has since risen to seven, with as many as ten still in a critical condition. (See Morning Star News and Christian Solidarity Worldwide for detailed reports.)

* LAOS: EIGHT CHRISTIAN FAMILIES FACE EXPULSION

On 2 December 2013 Lao authorities sent expulsion orders to five Christian families in Natahall village, Phin District, Savannakhet Province. The Christians were to be expelled for failing to obey a directive to abandon their 'foreign' faith. Village elders believe that Christians anger the ancestral spirits, bringing calamity to the village, while the Communist authorities are always pleased to persecute Christians in the name of advancing 'harmony'. As the Christian families stood firm, unashamed of the Gospel, three more families put their faith in Christ. On 11 March all eight Christian families were mocked and ordered to abandon their faith or face expulsion. They have appealed to the Phin district religious affairs authorities, but to no avail. Please pray.

* NIGERIA: JIHAD AND TERROR IN KADUNA, TARABA and BORNO

Taraba State (eastern Middle Belt). On 8 & 9 March more than 30 Fulani Muslim cattle herders attacked Christians in the Ibi Local Government Area killing ten residents and burning homes.

Kaduna State (central Middle Belt). Starting at 11pm on 14 March and continuing the next day, Fulani Muslim cattle herders descended on many predominantly Christian villages in Bondong district in Kaduna's Christian dominated south. Three churches and 240 homes were set ablaze while more than 150 people were killed. The dead, who were mostly hacked to death, have been buried in three mass graves. Predictably the survivors are highly traumatised and some 2000 are now displaced.

Taraba State, 16 March -- Some 70 Fulani Muslims attacked ten predominantly Christian communities from 2am until 10am, killing around 35 residents.

[What the southward migrating Fulani are doing is classic Islamic jihad: advancing Islam through offensive territorial expansion. The Fulani are receiving support from Boko Haram and rogue Muslims in the Nigerian military.]

Borno State (far north-east). Starting at about 10 pm on 16 March and continuing the next day, Boko Haram militants armed with AK-47 rifles, petrol bombs and improvised explosive devices attacked the village of Pela Birni, a remote Christian enclave in Hawul LGA. Shouting 'AllahuAkbar' (Allah is greater), they burnt homes, razed three churches and killed at least two people.

(See Morning Star News and World Watch Monitor for detailed reports.).

* SAUDI ARABIA: ADVOCATING FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

As US President Barak Obama is in Saudi Arabia this week to 'mend fences', many advocates are hoping he will raise the issue of religious freedom. However, Obama does not want Egypt and Saudi Arabia turning elsewhere for their arms (especially not to Russia!). Consequently he will be striving  desperately to repair the damage done to the US-Saudi alliance through US support for the Muslim Brotherhood and rapprochement with Iran (Saudi Arabia's two greatest enemies). Even if Obama were to speak to the Saudis about justice and righteousness (as he should -- see Proverbs 31:8-9) the Saudi royals cannot advance Christianity without riling the Wahhabi clerics who keep them in power (i.e. it is not going to happen).

In February Fox News reported that at least 53 mostly Ethiopian believers had been arrested while praying together in a private residence in the city of Dammam in Eastern Province; three were allegedly charged with seeking to convert Muslims to Christianity. African believers imprisoned in Saudi Arabia are routinely subjected to appalling treatment. Please pray.

Remember, 'Prayer is the highest form of advocacy.' (Turn Back the Battle. Elizabeth Kendal, p111.)

* UNITED KINGDOM: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE LEGAL FROM 29 MARCH

The UK's Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 will come into force on Saturday 29 March. Procedures for people who are in civil partnerships to 'upgrade' to marriage are expected to be in place by the end of the year, as are procedures for same-sex marriage ceremonies in Scotland. Same sex marriages conducted overseas have been legally recognised since 13 March and the first same sex-marriages will take place in England and Wales on the 29th. From this point, new curriculum will be introduced to schools to normalise same-sex relationships via the mandatory sex education classes. Officials at the Education Department conceded in 2012 that teachers may be under a legal obligation to teach children about same-sex unions once the Act has passed into law. Doubts have been expressed about the rights of teachers and parents to conscientiously object. A survey taken in February 2013 revealed that more than 74,000 teachers would teach the course though actually opposed to it and a further 40,000 teachers will refuse to teach the material, even at the risk of losing their jobs. [See Religious Liberty Monitoring, 5 July 2012]

Whilst the Church of England (CofE) and Church of Wales are legally safe-guarded from marrying same-sex couples, this will be challenged. Father Andrew Cain is a CofE priest at St Mary's with All Souls in Kilburn. He has announced his engagement to an atheist man and has vowed to be the first to challenge the CofE's right to refuse to marry same-sex couples. The battle intensifies!

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

RLPB 252. Uzbekistan: church is restricted and repressed

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 252 | Wed 19 Mar 2014

Uzbekistan: Church leader outlines history and vast needs of the registered and ethnic churches

By 'AV', a religious liberty advocate with a particular concern for and involvement in the former USSR. 'AV' based this RLPB on a recent interview with one of the key Uzbek Church leaders.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s there was a large influx of missionaries from Western countries and South Korea to Uzbekistan. From then until approximately 1998, missionaries planted many new churches, organised discipleship seminars and social charity projects, and held youth and children's camps.

Following several terrorist acts in 1998 organised by Islamic extremists, the Law on freedom of conscience and religious organisations was tightened. As a result many religious organisations lost registration. The number of members needed for registration of a church or any other religious organisation was increased to 100. The Law prohibits proselytism, missionary activities and printing, storing or distributing religious literature. The changes in the Law mainly targeted Islamic extremist groups but Christian and other religious groups were affected also.

For some time after the changes were made, the Law was not enforced. However, in 2003 the government started applying a policy of getting missionaries to leave Uzbekistan. They were asked to leave voluntarily, but no visa extensions were granted. Many missionaries who left the country temporarily were not able to get back into Uzbekistan. Later the amendments to the Law were published, disclosing  harsher punishment for violating the Law, including heavy fines and in some cases imprisonment.

After the political protests and massacre in the city of Andijan in 2005, the government started escalating severe measures against religious organisations, continuing until 2013. Believers experienced oppression and persecution that targeted especially evangelism, group meetings and religious education. Their homes were searched, literature, DVDs and other educational resources were confiscated. Believers were detained, interrogated, sentenced to pay very large fines and sometimes were imprisoned. During that period Christian churches and other religious organisations and groups faced sustained oppression on a massive scale.

The case of Pastor Dmitry (David) Shestakov, who was imprisoned for 'religious extremism' in 2007-11, became well-known globally and many Christians participated in a prayer campaign for Dmitry and publicised his situation. Many Christians, especially ethnic believers, left the country or moved elsewhere during that period because of persecution. Other factors were financial hardship and unemployment. However, the Church continued to do God's work despite the oppression.

The situation for religious organisations began to improve in 2013 and the authorities started to dialogue with Christian organisations. They no longer searched or watched homes at random but only in response to specific allegations. Because the authorities clearly defined what is and is not permitted, the churches came to understand their boundaries better. To meet in homes is prohibited. There are few registered ethnic churches so the majority of ethnic believers have to meet secretly. Religious freedom is especially restricted in Karakalpakastan because there are still no registered churches.

The situation with Christian literature is very critical. It is practically impossible to get an official permit to publish or import Christian literature. Any unauthorised printing, storage and distribution of literature is punished by huge fines, which can have a devastating effect on individual believers who are struggling with financial hardship.

The restrictions on religious freedom also affect the education of  Church leaders and members. There is only one registered seminary in Uzbekistan which is allowed to take only seven to ten students each year. The department of religious affairs controls the process and no ethnic believers are allowed to study there.

Despite all the difficulties and pressure from the State, the churches in Uzbekistan faithfully continue to worship God and fulfil the great commission of the Lord Jesus Christ to make disciples in their country and beyond. They need daily prayer support from the global Christian community while they go through a long, difficult period of severe restriction of religious freedom.

Praise God for the growing unity and good co-operation among Christian churches in Uzbekistan.

Please pray specifically --

* for the registered organisations and that God will use them to help the unregistered churches.

* that the ethnic churches will continue to grow and get freedom to worship.

* that Christians can have Christian literature without fear of fines.

* that the applications for entry of religious experts will be successful and be granted quickly; for God's protection from demands for bribes.

* that Christians can get good quality theological education within the country and that ethnic believers will be allowed to study.

* that the authorities will not consider Christians a threat to national security.

* for the safety and God's protection of all Christians in Uzbekistan.

'They have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me. Ploughmen have ploughed my back and made their furrows long. But the LORD is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.' (Psalm 129:1-4 NIV)

SUMMARY
UZBEKISTAN CHURCH IS RESTRICTED AND OPPRESSED

After the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, Uzbekistan experienced an   influx of missionaries from Western countries and South Korea who initiated considerable Church growth. However, following Islamic extremist terrorism in 1998, religious restrictions were imposed. Whilst targeted at the extremists, Christian groups were affected also. The regime oppressed believers severely. Missionaries were expelled and producing or possessing religious material incurs massive fines. Access to resources is a vast need. Meeting in homes is prohibited. Many churches meet secretly, unable to register. There is just one registered seminary which is allowed an annual intake of ten, thus restricting the education of Church leaders and members. Despite all the State oppression, the churches continue to worship and fulfil Christ's great commission to make disciples. Please pray for Uzbekistan and its Church.

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Elizabeth Kendal
thanks 'AV' for authoring this week's RLPB while she is absent, speaking at conferences in Sydney and Canberra, Australia.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

RLPB 251. North Korea: dozens detained, 33 to be executed

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 251 | Wed 12 March 2014

NORTH KOREA: DOZENS DETAINED, 33 TO BE EXECUTED
By Elizabeth Kendal

On 27 February South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook (50) fronted a North Korean press conference in Pyongyang to 'confess' to his crimes and plead for mercy. For seven years, Kim Jung-wook had been providing food, clothing and sanctuary to North Korean refugees and job-seekers in the Chinese border city of Dandong. Kim was arrested in North Korea on 8 October 2013, a day after crossing into the state, although a source in China told South Korea's Chosun Ilbo that Kim was kidnapped by North Korean agents in Dandong. In the press conference, Kim confessed to conducting 'anti-State' crimes with funding and assistance from South Korea's intelligence agency. When arrested, Kim reportedly had Christian literature and DVDs that allegedly he was going to use to set up 500 underground churches to spy on and overthrow the regime (link include photos).

When Hong Kong-based Australian missionary, John Short (75), was arrested in North Korea in mid-February, he confessed to his 'crimes', apologised and was expelled. As an Australian, Short was of little value to the regime in Pyongyang. The situation is more serious for Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae. Arrested in late 2012 while leading a tour, Bae gave a similar press conference confession in April 2013 before being sentenced to 15 years' hard labour. In August 2013 Bae was transferred to a hospital due to his deteriorating health. However, on 20 January the regime returned Bae to the labour camp to protest American B-52 bomber flight drills around the Korean Peninsula. As an American, Bae is a pawn of great value.

There is no word yet as to what punishment Kim Jung-wook will face. According to Radio Free Asia, 'dozens' of people have been detained, accused of assisting Kim. Border guards who let Kim slip through security, North Korean believers, new converts and the families of the accused are amongst those banished to labour camps upon Kim's 'confession'. Now South Korean news agencies report that 33 of the accused have been sentenced to death, charged with conspiring with Kim to overthrow the regime. It is reported they will be executed in a secret cell at the State Security Department. Doubtless these 33 are predominantly Christians, probably significant Christians who may or may not ever have been in contact with Kim but whose ministry is deemed an existential threat to the regime. This will be a terrible and traumatising blow to North Korea's remnant Church. 

As noted in RLPB 248 (18 Feb 2014), the regime's main concern is managing the state monopoly on information in the face of severe challenges posed by new communication technologies, while endeavouring to raise living standards so as to ward off revolt. In response to pressure, the regime is ramping up repression, spreading darkness and stoking fear (as has been done before). Security on roads has reportedly doubled, making it more difficult for North Koreans to travel around the country. Furthermore, North Korean security agents now have new signal detectors, enabling them to intercept mobile phone signals in real time. Now people using cellphones smuggled in from China can be arrested within minutes. The recent wave of arrests will ensure that people stop using their cellphones.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* 'lift up his hand' to 'break the arm [instrument] of the wicked' and 'call his wickedness to account'. Pray Psalm 10 for North Korea.

* spare the lives of the 33 who are to be executed. However, if that is not to be, then sustain and comfort them so that instead of being overwhelmed with fear, they will know 'the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding' (Philippians 4:7 ESV) as God himself encompasses them. 'And he will become a sanctuary [Hebrew: miqdas, the place where God dwells] . . .' (from Isaiah 8:11-14a ESV). [For more on this subject see: The Promised Presence, by Elizabeth Kendal]

* comfort and encourage the North Korean remnant Church; may they know 'the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding' (Philippians 4:7 ESV). 'When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."' (See 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 ESV.)

* take this evil event of the executions and use it for his glory to effect the exact opposite of the regime's intent. May the news of these executions spread through all the country, establishing not terror, but the link between Christianity and freedom. May interest in the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ and in God's power and grace spring up all across the nation. 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.' (John 12:24 ESV)

'Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.' (Psalm 24:7 & 9 ESV)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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DOZENS DETAINED IN NORTH KOREA, 33 TO BE EXECUTED


On 27 February captured South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook (50) fronted a North Korean press conference in Pyongyang to 'confess' to 'anti-State' crimes and plead for mercy. Dozens of people accused of assisting Kim were immediately arrested and banished with their families to labour camps. It now emerges that 33 of the accused have been sentenced to death and will be executed in a secret cell at the State Security Department. This will be a horrific and traumatising blow to North Korea's remnant Church. Furthermore, security agents now have new signal detectors that enable them to intercept mobile phone signals in real time and arrest mobile phone users within minutes, further isolating the State. Please pray that God will intervene in North Korea and pray for the remnant Church.

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

RLPB 250. Raqqa, Syria: Christians in the lions' den

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 250 | Wed 05 Mar 2014

RAQQA, SYRIA: CHRISTIANS IN THE LIONS' DEN
By Elizabeth Kendal

Raqqa is a province in northern Syria, east of Aleppo. Its capital, Al Raqqa City is situated on the Euphrates River and is home to some 300,000 Syrians of whom around 3000 are Christian. In March 2013 Al Raqqa fell to rebel forces. During the latter part of 2013, tensions escalated in northern Syria between the Al-Nusra Front (loyal to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri) and the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham/Syria (ISIS; loyal to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi). In January this year the ISIS ousted the Al-Nusra Front from Al Raqqa to take full control of the city. In February al-Nusra ordered ISIS out of Aleppo. Rather than fight, the ISIS opted to retreat from Aleppo and consolidate in Raqqa, which is, as one ISIS jihadist boasts,'a larger area than the state of Kuwait'.

Al-Raqqa is the only provincial capital under rebel control. There, ISIS is enforcing Sharia Law and dhimmitude just as in the Middle Ages. Everyone must adhere to strict Islamic codes. Women must wear the niqab (a full black covering, with just a slit for eyes) and men and women must not mingle. Separate bakeries have been set up for males and females. 'Al-Khansa' and 'Um Riyan' brigades comprised of young female Islamists have been established to search women. Horrifically, young girls are being forcibly wed to ISIS fighters in marriages which are mostly temporary and routinely violent. One young girl recently suicided just to escape the perpetual sexual violence.

SEE: The Guardian, 19 Feb 2014
Smuggled video testimony documents harsh rule of Syrian Islamist group
Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has imposed strict interpretation of sharia law since taking control in Raqqa

 In late February ISIS took 20 Christian leaders captive and gave them three options: convert to Islam, submit to Islam as dhimmis, or 'face the sword'. Faced with this choice, the Christian leaders signed an agreement committing the Christian community to  dhimmitude, a state of humiliation and subjugation under Islam. According to the agreement, while the Christians of Al Raqqa may remain Christian, they must always demonstrate respect for Islam and Muslims. Furthermore, they must abstain from all public expressions of Christianity and from renovating their churches and monasteries.

collecting jizya in Al-Raqqa (photo FNA)
 The Christians must also pay the 'jizya' (protection money) as mandated by the Qur'an (Sura 9:29). Wealthy Christians must pay four golden dinars (currently worth about $US730), those of average wealth must pay two and the poor must pay one. Jizya will be collected from each adult Christian twice annually.

Armenian Church, Al Raqqa (AFP)
While they abide by the agreement, the Christians will be permitted to live as 'protected' dhimmis, that is as subjugated, second-class citizens. However, the agreement reads, '. . . if they disobey any of the conditions, they are no longer protected and ISIS can treat them in a hostile and warlike fashion.'

ISIS militants have ripped crosses and bells from churches and replaced them with black flags of Islam. ISIS has seized and occupied the Armenian Church (pictured) for use as a base.

enlarge
In reality, the State of Syria (as it has been known) no longer exists. In June 2013 the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) won a highly strategic, pivotal victory when it liberated Al-Qusayr. Since then the SAA has been advancing and consolidating its hold over the Damascus to Aleppo north-west corridor and the coastal Alawite heartland of Latakia. However, the SAA cannot defend all of Syria. So the Kurd-dominated north-east province of Al-Hasekah, home to many Assyrian Christians and contiguous with Nineveh Province, northern Iraq, has been abandoned to the Kurds, who have been fighting the al-Nusra Front there. Meanwhile, the vast, sparsely populated rural Sunni east, contiguous with Anbar Province, Iraq, has been abandoned altogether and this is where ISIS is establishing its base. ISIS controls large tracts of territory east of Aleppo and along the Euphrates River through Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in Syria, all the way to Fallujah in restive Anbar Province, Iraq. (ISIS controls Fallujah with local support and is fighting the Iraqi Army there.)

On Friday 28 February ISIS live-Tweeted the public amputation of a man's hand in Maskanah, on the eastern edge of Aleppo Province, between the provincial capitals of Aleppo and Al-Raqqa. Lashings, beatings and public executions are also being reported in Al-Raqqa. This is a reign of megalomania, blood-lust and sheer terror.

So who will fight for the Christians of Upper Mesopotamia? Not Iran, not Saudi Arabia, not Turkey, not the SAA and not the West (so it seems). Who will save them? Who will help them? Who will care for them? Who will raise their voices for them?

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2 ESV)

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* restrain the jihadis so they do not harm the Lord's faithful ones.

'The king declared to Daniel, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?"  Then Daniel said to the king, "O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me . . . "' (from Daniel 6)

* intervene in Syria's abandoned, rebel-controlled regions: to facilitate the escape of those who must flee; to provide security and supplies for those who must stay; to comfort, encourage and strengthen his loved ones and to confound and shatter his enemies.

* facilitate radical change for the sake of his Church, for the benefit of all peoples, and so everyone might tremble before our amazing God.

'. . . people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.' (The decree of King Darius in Daniel 6.)

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIANS SUBJUGATED IN RAQQA, SYRIA


Since January 2014 the terror group ISIS has ruled the northern city of Al Raqqa. Sharia is enforced and the whole community lives in terror of ISIS's extreme violence. Recently 20 Christian leaders were taken captive and given three options: convert to Islam, submit to Islam as dhimmis (humiliated and subjugated under Islam) or 'face the sword'. The Christian leaders signed an agreement committing the Christian community to submission. Just as in the Middle Ages, Christians must now pay protection money (jizya) as mandated by the Qur'an (Sura 9:29). They must demonstrate respect for Islam and Muslims and abstain from all public expressions of Christianity and from renovating churches and monasteries. If they breach the agreement, ISIS will resume war against them. Please pray for Syria and its Christians.

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