Tuesday, October 13, 2015

RLPB 331. Syria: Plight of Assyrian Captives

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 331 | Wed 14 Oct 2015

Supporting International Day of Prayer (IDOP)
   for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2015: Sunday 1 or 8 November
   See Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)

plus: Egypt and Bangladesh 
By Elizabeth Kendal

HASAKAH: On 23 February 2015 Islamic State (IS) jihadists conducted a pre-dawn raid on 35 Assyrian Christian villages along a 40km stretch of the Khabour River in Syria's north-eastern Hasakah Province. As some 3000 Assyrian Christians fled into the darkness, 253 were taken captive. [See RLPB 298 (25 Feb 2015)] Around 40 elderly and frail captives were subsequently released but the remainder, including women and children, have been in IS captivity ever since.

VIDEO 1: On 7 October IS released a video showing the execution of three Assyrian captives from Hasakah. The execution is dated 23 September 2015, Eid al-Adha (the Muslim 'Feast of Sacrifice').

source: AINA
The video shows three Assyrian men dressed in orange jumpsuits, kneeling before the camera. One by one the Assyrians introduce themselves: 'I am Christian Assyrian ...' followed by their name, date of birth and home village. Three jihadists then assume their positions, draw their handguns and shoot the Christian men through the back of the head. As the Assyrians fall forward dead, three more Assyrian men dressed in orange jumpsuits come into the frame. Kneeling between their dead Assyrian brothers and their executioners, these men introduce themselves in the same way: 'I am Christian Assyrian ...' followed by name, date of birth and home village. 'We are here and there are dozens of us,' says the third Assyrian. 'Our fate is the same as these,' he says as he points to the dead. 'If you do not take proper procedure for our release [pay the ransom estimated at $10 million] we realise the inevitable fate.'

HOMS: On 21 May 2015, soon after capturing UNESCO world heritage-listed Palmyra in Syria's central Homs Province, IS forces made an incursion into nearby Qaryatayn, kidnapping Jesuit priest Father Jacques Mourad and his companion, a deacon named Boutros. The men had been caring for hundreds of refugees in Qaryatayn's Mar Elian Monastery. [See RLPB 311 (27 May)] On Thursday 6 August 2015 IS captured Qaryatayn, taking some 230 residents captive, including around 150 Syrian Christians whose names were on an IS list of 'wanted' government supporters. [RLPB 322 (12 Aug)] IS has since demolished the fifth century Mar Elian Monastery. [RLPB 324 (26 Aug)]

VIDEO 2: IS has now released a video of its conquest of Qaryatayn. Entitled 'Fight until they pay the jizya pledging subservience to Muslim rule' ( a reference to Qur'an, Sura 9:29), the video shows the destruction of crosses and a meeting in which a group of Christians sign a dhimma contract.

Video - in Arabic
The contract stipulates that the Muslims are not to harm the Christians who secure right to life as second-class citizens, provided they submit to Islamic rule. The Christians must also comply with a list of classic Islamic demands including: they must pay jizya (protection money); refrain from public expressions of Christianity; respect all Muslims and never criticise Islam. The alternatives are conversion to Islam or death. Sources told Middle East Concern that Assyrian Christian Fahid Khazaal was martyred for his refusal to convert or submit. Visible among the Christians signing the dhimma contract is Father Jacques Mourad, although he was subsequently released in good health on 10 October. The circumstances of his release are unclear. The Christians seen signing the contract are doubtless the 'wanted' government supporters taken captive in May. Consequently, it is possible that IS already has plans to make examples of them. Lord have mercy!


* the Assyrian captives -- some 200 from Hasakah and around 150 in Qaryatayn; may they fix their eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of their faith (Hebrews 12:2 ESV). May they know the powerful and glorious presence (Hebrew: miqdas, 'sanctuary') of the Lord as they walk by faith, think spiritually and fear only him [Isaiah 8:11-14; see chapter 3 in Turn Back the Battle].

'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.' (Lamentations 3:24 ESV)

* the Lord of Hosts to rise up and burst through his enemies (2 Samuel 5:17-25), intervening for his people's deliverance. 

* the imperilled Assyrian remnant scattered throughout Syria and Iraq, displaced Assyrians in Iraqi Kurdistan and the refugees in southern Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and the migrant centres of Europe; may the Lord protect and preserve them ahead of that promised day when he restores them to their land: 'Assyria the work of my hands.' (Isaiah 19:25).

~ ~ ~ ~


Islamic State (IS) has released two new videos. The first shows three Assyrian Christian men from  more than 200 taken captive in north-eastern Hasakah Province in February. After these three are executed, three more appear and kneel behind the dead. They confirm IS is holding 'dozens of us' who will be killed if ransom (estimated at $10 million) is not paid. The second video shows Assyrian Christians taken captive during the August conquest of Qaryatayn in central Homs Province. They are signing a dhimma contract guaranteeing the Christians' right to life as second-class citizens, provided they pay jizya (protection money) and submit to Islam -- refraining from public Christianity, respecting Muslims and Islam. Fahid Khazaal was martyred for refusing to convert or submit. Please pray for Assyrian Christians and for Syria.

Also --

EGYPT: Officials raided the Egypt office of Christian satellite TV broadcaster SAT-7 on 10 October, seizing cameras, computers and other equipment. Office Director Mr Farid Samir was questioned in the police station for over six hours. The charges against the office are baseless as all SAT-7's registration and licences are in good order. The Prosecutor must now determine whether the case should proceed to trial. This could take up to two weeks. Please pray for this vital ministry. 

BANGLADESH UPDATE: Just hours after last week's Prayer Bulletin on Bangladesh was posted, news emerged that a Bangladeshi pastor had just survived an attempted beheading thanks to courageous family members and neighbours who fought off the attackers. Though the injuries to Rev Luke Sarker's neck required stitching, they are not life-threatening. The Lord is merciful. Please cover Bangladesh in prayer.


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

Her second book, ‘After Saturday Comes Sunday’: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, will be published by Wipf and Stock (Eugene, OR, USA) in early 2016.