198 posts categorized “Inside VOM”

November 1, 2013

New Web Site encourages prayer for persecuted Christians

A new web site is live this week in conjunction with the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), which churches around the world will commemorate this Sunday, November 3.

The site, www.iCommitToPray.com, invites Christians around the world to commit to pray for those persecuted because of their faith in Christ and to share their prayers with other believers.

“The first request of our persecuted family, when we go and visit them, is that we pray for them,” said Todd Nettleton, spokesperson for The Voice of the Martyrs, which developed and launched the new site. “iCommitToPray.com grew out of our desire to fulfill their request.”

The site will be updated with current prayer needs from hostile and restricted nations weekly so that Christians can remember to pray for the persecuted every week, not just one week in November.

“The idea for this site really grew out of activity we already saw on the VOM Facebook page,” Nettleton said. “We often post prayer requests, and we began to see people comment on the post and type in their prayers for those currently being persecuted. And others would be encouraged by that, and add their own prayer in the next comment, and so on. At times we could even print out those prayers and show them to the Christians in hostile and restricted nations, and they were incredibly blessed to see very tangibly that Christians around the world hadn’t forgotten them and were lifting them up in prayer. We want iCommitToPray.com to be a site dedicated to that kind of prayer and encouragement.”

Users who register on the site can post their written prayers, then invite friends to join with them in prayer through social media.

“What we envision for iCommitToPray.com is a great prayer meeting for persecuted Christians. But instead of gathering in a church, or someone’s living room, Christians will gather online to pray for the persecuted church,” said Nettleton.


October 24, 2013

Weng Walking (video)

Weng Goodluck Tshua was three weeks old in March 2010 when Fulani Muslims attacked his village of Dogo Nahawa and slaughtered 501 Christians. All nine members of his family, including his father and mother, were killed. He was rescued from his burning house, but not before the fire had consumed his feet. As Weng has grown over the past few years, he has been unable to run around or even walk. But a VOM prosthetics team is helping change that.

After studying his feet, the prosthetics team fashioned special shoes for both of his misshapen limbs. They returned several months later with specially fitted shoes that can be adjusted as three-year-old Weng continues to grow. Each shoe is made of three layers. As Weng grows, the inner layers can be removed as needed, to allow more room in the shoes. The team plans to provide new shoes for Weng before he grows out of the final layer of these shoes.

Recently VOM received new video of Weng, proudly walking around in is new, custom-made shoes. May it bless all who see it and encourage more prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Northern Nigeria.

 

You can give online to support blessings like this one to Weng and help provide for other Christians in need of medical care due to persecution by giving to support VOMedical.

October 18, 2013

ISLAM: A Hidden Agenda

Last night we had dinner with a Syrian pastor. This man lives and serves full-time in Syria. He hasn’t left the country because of the war, and he’s experienced the full effects of the war, personally and through his congregation.

MosqueOne of the effects of the war that he’s lamenting deeply is the destruction of historic Christian churches and other sites. He told me that one mosque is host to an ancient New Testament manuscript. They’ve preserved it for years, but with the rebels’ animosity toward all things Christian, he’s afraid that manuscript will soon be lost. UNESCO has also expressed concern over the state of various World Heritage Sites throughout Syria, including many historic churches.

Christianity has a more-than-2,000-year history in Syria, going back to the time of Christ. But as this pastor expressed, the Islamist fighters, and Islam in general, seem to have an agenda to erase that history from memory. They want Syria to be remembered only as a Muslim nation, and they intend to drive out all Christians from Syria.

After the rebels destroyed a Christian village recently, they ransacked homes and then posted a sign at the entrance of the village. Beneath the sign, they placed one of the Bibles discovered in the village. The sign read, “The Bible is the biggest threat to our cause.”

This strategy of ridding the region of Christians isn’t limited to Syria. Muslim extremists in Egypt are pursuing a similar approach. Egypt also has a long tradition of Christianity – something the world seems to have forgotten. Alexandria was once one of the great centers of Christian teaching and culture which produced one of Christianity’s great thinkers, St. Augustine. But today in Egypt, Muslims are systematically driving the ancient Christian population out – attacking Christian villages, Christian homes and churches.

According to my Syrian friend and many of The Voice of the Martyrs contacts living in these countries, this agenda is at the core of Islam.

In a method of applying this agenda that hits closer to home, another worker in one of the hostile nations where VOM works told us she sees Muslims literally trying to change history—online. Muslims are logging on to Wikipedia, the user-edited web encyclopedia, and rewriting entries for basic historical concepts, such as who developed the first hospitals and which thinkers came up with the scientific method.

Do we notice? Do we as Christians have the necessary understanding of the details of history to prevent this from happening? The VOM worker I spoke with spent four days of intense research in order to rewrite one of the critical entries. She believes this is important because Wikipedia will influence a new generation. But she cautioned that it had to be done in a thoughtful, intelligent and unbiased way.

I write about this hidden plan not to make us fear, but to make us aware. The only real solution to this creeping Islamic agenda is to bring Christ into the heart of each person who subscribes to this philosophy. Our greatest calling is to share the gospel, but in the meantime we also need to speak up against the destruction of Christianity in Syria and Egypt and be wise enough to share the facts of history in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2).

Dory P. has worked with VOM for six years. She grew up in Ecuador, met her husband while working with another mission organization, and now lives in Oklahoma. Between Dory, her husband and two-year-old son, they share five passports. Dory helps tell the stories of the persecuted through VOM's newsletter, and her husband serves with VOM's international department.


October 10, 2013

Syria: God is at Work

Syria_refugeeThe war in Syria is one of the greatest crises seen in the Middle East in the last 20 years. It has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people, both Muslim and Christian. More than 2 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries. In the midst of this crisis, our persecuted family is boldly reaching out. And the reactions of Muslims have been astonishing.

“When you hear about one Muslim coming to Christ, it’s a great thing, and everybody rejoices,” said a VOM Syrian contact. “Today in Syria I’m not talking about one person. We’re talking about hundreds and even thousands of Muslims coming to know Christ.”

Teams of believers are working in the refugee camps, providing Christ’s love while sharing material aid, such as medical supplies and Bibles, as well as spiritual aid. Christians, widely considered “infidels” in Syria, are now often and affectionately referred to as “the Bible People.”

“This war is like a knife in the heart of the church. No human can stand that suffering. But there is God’s presence. I can see Christ in the midst of darkness.” —  VOM National Contact

Please pray for Christians who face not only the horrific effects of war but also continued persecution. Please also pray for those who are bravely using this opportunity to advance the kingdom.

God is doing miracles inside the country,” a Christian worker told VOM. “But even if he allows us to die, it will be an honor for us to die for his name, to glorify his name.”

TSyria_helpdeliveredhe opportunities for ministry in Syria today exceed what we thought possible. Working with the Syrian church and local workers, VOM continues to distribute material aid, Bibles and Christian literature, and support for pastors and evangelistic teams. VOM will continually seek ways to increase our efforts.

During this time of crisis and opportunity, VOM invites you to make a special contribution to support this ministry in Syria.

Make a contribution for Syria today.

If you are a US resident and not currently receiving The Voice of the Martyrs’ monthly newsletter, please also request your copy of our November 2013 newsletter highlighting Syria.


October 7, 2013

#WhyWePray video contest: Third Place

Earlier this year, VOM launched the Why We Pray video contest, inviting readers and friends to create a video to invite and inspire American Christians to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters.

It is hoped that these videos will reach many viewers during the season leading up to the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), which occurs on the first Sunday of November. This is a key time of reaching out to American Christians to remind them of our persecuted brothers and sisters, and remind them of the importance of praying for the persecuted church.

To be eligible for entry into the contest, videos had to be no more than two minutes in length, be posted to YouTube and have at least 200 views before being entered into the contest.

VOM's judging panel reviewed all entries to the contest and selected the winners. We will be posting the top three video contest entries this week on the Persecution Blog, starting today with the THIRD PLACE VIDEO:

 

This is the second time VOM has held a video contest. The first time, filmmakers were challenged to create a video sharing the plight of Asia Bibi, a Christian wife and mother in Pakistan who has been sentenced to death. The videos were to present Bibi’s story and then encourage viewers to sign a petition asking for Asia’s release at www.CallForMercy.com. The winning video in that contest has already been viewed more than 39,000 times on YouTube.


October 4, 2013

Kenya: Prayer For A Friend

Late on Sept. 23, I received an unsettling text message from a friend in Kenya. He wrote: “The al-Shabaab have attacked at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall and they are killing innocent people. I request you to pray for Kenya and me.”

I had read about the hostage situation unfolding the day before in Nairobi, so I was already concerned for his safety, and I wondered how the beautiful city mall I had been to the year before could have been the place of such chaos and terror.

In March 2012, I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, with a group of others interested in a missions outreach to Kenyan children and adolescents. The group of thirty was from all over the United States, and we sat down just outside the Westgate Mall to enjoy a meal at a restaurant that caters to American tastes. The aroma of hamburgers wafted through the air along with Kenyan specialties such as Kenyan stew and masala chips, which are similar to French fries. Laughter bubbled up from conversations being held in a variety of languages, and the sounds of engines running and car horns beeping in congested traffic lines punctuated the sunny afternoon.

 

Ann_In_Kenya
Ann With Her Friend in Kenya
After our meal, our group shopped at the Nukumatt store located in the mall. While there, we passed through a security check and bigger bags were left in the front of the store. For the most part, I felt safe visiting this stable and friendly country. Kenyans are a beautiful people that have great resilience. The Christians I spoke with during my trip stressed vast improvements that were being made; “hope” was one of the key words used amongst almost everyone I spoke with.

 

Christians in Kenya do face persecution, especially in villages located near the border with Somalia. In recent years, the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab, which has ties to al-Qaeda, has attacked several churches and killed pastors in villages near the Somali border.

In the attack on the Westgate Mall, it is reported that the militant group released those who could prove that they were Muslim by reciting a verse from the Quran or giving the name of the Prophet Mohammad’s mother. Non-Muslims were killed. News reports indicate that more than 67 were killed and around 175 people injured in the attack. Two of those who were killed were employees at the Nukumatt store, the store I had walked through to buy tea.

As my friend reminded me, Kenya does need prayer. While he appears to be safe for now, many Christians near the Somali border face extreme danger from al-Shabaab. Christians throughout Kenya need continued prayer for protection as well as boldness in their faith and hope of a bright future.

Ann Kay is a writer for VOM. She learned about VOM five years ago when she read Tortured for Christ and began receiving the newsletter. She is passionate about reaching the world for Christ and sharing stories of the persecuted church.


October 3, 2013

IDOP: One month to go

One month from today—November 3—marks the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). On this special Sunday thousands of churches, literally from around the world, take time to “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also” (Hebrews 13:3).

Some churches will commit the entire day to our persecuted brothers and sisters. And many will have a special time of prayer for persecuted Christians around the world. VOM has prepared a special video to be shown in churches to remind viewers of the importance of praying for our persecuted family.

In conjunction with IDOP Sunday VOM is launching www.ICommitToPray.com, a new website that will be updated weekly with a prayer request from among our persecuted brothers and sisters. After reading the prayer request each week, you will be able to post prayers specifically for that need, as well as encouraging your friends to join you in praying for the persecuted church.

ICommit_Home
Our hope is that http://www.ICommitToPray.com will develop into a global community of Christian believers who choose to take a public stand alongside our persecuted brothers and sisters through prayer!

Go to www.ICommitToPray.com and sign up for the weekly prayer alerts. The first alert will be sent November 3, IDOP Sunday. Commit yourself to join with other believers around the world in praying for those who suffer for the name of Christ.


September 23, 2013

Somalia: Islamic Scholars Denounce Al-Shabaab

Al-Shabaab has publicly said that they are responsible for the attack on a shopping mall in Kenya. But the group has now had a fatwa issued against it in Somali, the country in which it was founded and in which it has the largest presence. Mission Network News interviewed  VOM's Todd Nettleton last week (before the mall attack) about the Fatwa and what it means.

Here's the Mission Network News story that resulted from the interview:

Somalia (MNN) ―  Al-Shabaab is known as a Muslim militant group fighting for the soul of Somalia.

Loosely translated as "The Youth," it's the cell of al-Qaeda in the small African nation.  A failed state, the weak government grapples with lawlessness and piracy with few resources to answer the economic power of the terror group. So-map

Todd Nettleton is a spokesman with The Voice of the Martyrs USA.   He says Somalia's government is trying desperately to throw off the label of "failed state."  They recently organized a conference that drew 160 Islamic scholars, elders, and imams from in the country and abroad.   Its purpose: to try to come up with security and stability solutions for Somalia.

Nettleton says, "The end result of the conference was: they issued a fatwa against al-Shabaab. Basically, they said, ‘They're not following Islam properly. What they do is not a true representation of Islam. People should not help them. People should not support them.'"

It is the first time Somali religious leaders have come up with a fatwa against the group, which controls vast rural areas.  The edict is likely not one that will be received quietly.   Nettleton explains, "Al-Shabaab would say, ‘We're the true Muslims, and we're conducting jihad because we're the true Muslims and those who are not living up to the edicts of the religion should be punished."

A fatwa is often associated with death threats or sentences. However, this fatwa may not have the teeth to hurt. For the average Somali, it's more a question of survival.  "If al-Shabaab is in charge of my village, and they have guns, am I going to stand up and say, ‘Hey! You know, there's a fatwa against you, and I can't support you.'  When it comes down to it, they  are the authority because they're the guys that have the guns."

Less than half a percent of the population is Christian.  Somalia ranks 5th on the Open Doors World Watch List, a ranking of the top 50 countries around the world known for persecution of Christians.  With a long history of oppression, does even a toothless fatwa help their cause? Nettleton doesn't think it'll change much. "Our Christian brothers and sisters are going to be under fire in Somalia, regardless of who's in charge. The government is an Islamic government. They're not going to support the church.  They're certainly not going to support Muslim converts. However, in the scheme of things, they're probably less violent and less of a threat than al-Shabaab is."

Most Somali Christians are secret believers who worship in house churches. Islamic radicals, such as the al-Shabaab group, have vowed to eradicate all Somali Christians.  The murder of Christians, specifically Muslim converts to Christianity, is increasingly common, and there is little in the way of justice.   Fear has taken its toll on Gospel work.  Many believers have fled.

However, Nettleton notes that "across the Muslim world, God is moving--sometimes without any people involved at all. He's moving  supernaturally through dreams and visions. We can pray that that will happen in Somalia and that Muslim people there will come face to face with Jesus Christ and commit their lives to Him."

Nettleton acknowledges that not everyone will resonate with the needs of the Christians in Somalia.   However, every great moment of the Church started the same way.  "The first action point--and the most important one--[is] to pray. For most of us, that's all we can do. We're not going to go to Somalia; we're not going to try to go talk to somebody [in Somalia] about the gospel;  but all of us can pray."

Then, consider how you might resource The Voice of the Martyrs to come alongside the national Church in Somalia.  And finally,  while it's a dangerous place to actually visit, you can raise awareness of the needs and the plight facing the body of Christ.


September 9, 2013

Do Americans Care About Persecuted Christians?

VOM’s Todd Nettleton was interviewed last week by Mission Network News about the question of why more attention isn’t paid—in the media and in American churches—to the persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters. Here’s the resulting story from MNN:

International (MNN) — The Church is under fire. At that sentence, half the people who started reading this article just moved on to something more interesting.

However, that response is troublesome. The plight of believers gets little attention on the global stage, leaving many Christians throughout North America unaware, and therefore, indifferent to what’s going on in the body of Christ.

Mention persecution, and eyes glaze over. Silence continues because not enough church leaders are talking about it from the pulpit. Despite Barna Research stating the opposite, there’s a movement in North America where church leaders and pastors say their flocks don’t want to hear such negative and depressing things.

That’s despite the following:

Al Qaeda vows to slaughter Christians after the U.S. ‘liberates’ Syria. Nigeria’s Boko Haram has slaughtered 3,000 Christians since they began waging war. Egypt’s Coptic Church is under fire. A Church official there says after the recent violence that destroyed over 72 churches, there are just 57 Christian churches in the entire country, down from more than 300 as recently as 2003. The Barnabas Fund, a ministry to the persecuted Church, is airlifting Christians out of Sudan. So far, they’ve evacuated more than 5,000 Christians from northern Sudan. In Pakistan, believers are still trying to put their lives back together after 3,000 angry Muslims torched the Joseph Colony six months ago. That’s only part of the Middle East and North Africa. Asia is also on the list. North Korea is trying to erase Christians, and has been atop the Open Doors World Watch List for 11 years as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. There’s ‘religicide’ going on in Burma, and in parts of India.

And still, there’s relative silence from North America. There are a few who have been speaking out as loudly as they can, but the overall impassive response to the worldwide persecuted church begs the question: do we care? Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA says, “I think the question arises because we look around the world. we see more than 60 countries where Christians face some form of harassment or persecution, and you look at the average response of the average American Christian which is basically, ‘Man, that’s too bad.’”

A defensive response is also common. But here too, Nettleton asks, “If we care, how is that being lived out? How are we SHOWING that we care? Not based on clicking the ‘like’ button on a Facebook page, but how are we showing that we care in action that is designed to produce a result or some easing if the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters?” He goes on to explain, “How we show we care is by being involved, by connecting with these Christians who are suffering. The first line of doing that really is knowing them: knowing their names, knowing their situations, knowing the countries that they live in so that we can pray effectively.”

Nettleton is also quick to note that the issue has gotten more traction as awareness of social justice issues has risen. “More people know about the persecuted church now than did 15 or 20 years ago. I think the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, which is coming up in November, has been a significant part of making the American church aware of what’s happening with persecuted Christians.”

But there’s still a long way to go, he concedes. “One of the challenges is Americans are pretty home-focused. Our media covers things that are happening in America. In a 30-minute news program, we might get two minutes of what’s going on around the world.”

Another aspect is understanding the spiritual and biblical component of persecution. “These are not just statistics or people who live 10-thousand miles from here. This is our family. These are our brothers and sisters.” He points out his own two brothers. If they were to be arrested and face the scenarios faced by Christians in Eritrea, for example, he would be making noise about their plight. The same should be true of the body of Christ. “I should be aware of what’s happening with them, and when they’re being persecuted and oppressed, I should be speaking out on their behalf. I should be letting people know that it is happening and doing whatever I can within my power to make it stop happening.”

When believers put real faces, names and places to the stories, the bigger picture becomes clearer. Nettleton explains, “It’s not presented as ‘this is what the Bible said was going to happen. This is what Jesus said ‘if you follow me, the world will hate you’. This is happening all around the world. Followers of Christ are being hated because they’re followers of Jesus Christ.”

Sometimes Americans avoid the discussion of the persecuted church because the news is discouraging. It’s hard to hear and yet feel helpless about changing anything. However, Nettleton breaks response down to its most simple elements. “You start by praying. you educate yourself, an then, whatever God lays on your heart as a response, you keep saying ‘yes’ to that and keep responding to that. You will find that you will enter into the ‘fellowship of suffering’.”

The what? Nettleton explains that when people invest in taking on the troubles facing believers worldwide, they begin to understand the God who provokes such a response. As a result, “The persecuted church is strengthened because we can encourage them, we can stand with them, and we can be a voice for them. But we’re strengthened as well because we see their faithfulness, and we see God’s faithfulness to them. And our faith is encouraged and challenged, and we find that we grow spiritually, as well.”

You can start your journey by clicking here.

YOUR TURN: Do you think the issue of Christian persecution is given adequate attention in American media? What about in American churches? What can Christians do to help make sure the persecution faced by our brothers and sisters in hostile and restricted nations is known? Continue the discussion in the comments below.


August 30, 2013

Talking points: Syria

When I prepare to conduct a radio interview on behalf of VOM I often type up “talking points” of the major information I want to share, to help me speak clearly on behalf of the persecuted church and the Christians that VOM serves around the world.

Yesterday I did a live interview on Moody Radio’s program, “In the Market with Janet Parshall.” The focus of the interview was to share about a recent trip to Turkey I took for VOM. Among those we met with and interviewed on the trip were Christians from Syria. (You can listen to the full interview here; my portion starts at about the 25:00 mark.)

Refugee_Camp_Turkey
A refugee camp for Syrians who have fled into Turkey.

In light of all of the media attention on Syria right now, I thought Persecution Blog readers might be interested to read some of my talking points about what we learned interviewing Syrian Christians during the trip.

Our team met with two Syrian Christians, one still working in Syria and one currently displaced and working among Syrians in Turkey. Some points from what we learned about Syria and the church there:

  1. God is at work. One of our contacts told us about an area in Syria where 18 months ago there were only 12-13 Christians. Today, there are more than 70 Christian FAMILIES! As has happened in other areas (Iran, Egypt), people are seeing the true face of Islam and it is generating a real openness for the things of Christ.
  2. We also heard reports of growth in the church among the Kurds.
  3. God is using miracles to bring people to Christ. This was a repeated theme of stories from Syria. One man was healed of cancer and came to Christ. A woman who’d been paralyzed for 10 YEARS after a stroke was healed and came to Christ.
  4. There is persecution…especially from within families. Right now new converts from Islam are most worried about how their families will respond. That is where the first line of persecution is happening. Many times Syrian Christians will not tell their families—at least for a while—and many don’t meet with other believers because of the risk of their families finding out.
  5. But..it’s also happening from the authorities. One pastor who lives in a government-controlled area said he gets called to the police station EVERY WEEK for a “meeting” where they question him about his activities, about his churches and about Muslim converts.
  6. Syrians are fleeing to the surrounding countries. We visited one Turkish city where we were told that tens of thousands of Syrians had come in the past 6-8 months. We also saw a refugee camp where Syrians are housed in Turkey. Interestingly, they separate Christians from Muslims in the camps, or at least in the one we saw.
  7. The hardship of just living in Syria right now is amazing. One of our contacts said he has electricity only three hours a day…and that is pretty good! There is almost no medicine available. The roads are cluttered with check points…we were told of one 60-KM stretch of road where there were 23 check points…manned by different groups with different priorities and different objectives. So having the permission of one group to travel might not matter at the next check point…and might even get you killed. Just driving from one place to another is a dangerous endeavor.

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Syria, and pray for VOM international staff as they seek to support and bless the church there in spite of the danger and the upheaval.

Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 1900 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books.