134 posts categorized “Mission Network News”

November 23, 2012

Militants Murder Christian Before Crowd in Somalia

Screen Shot 2012-11-23 at 12.48.47 PMSomalia (MNN) ― As if in answer to the capture of 300 Al-Shabaab members last month in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, the attacks on civilians have gotten more extreme and more public.

The latest attack came last Friday when Islamic extremists brutally murdered a Christian in the city of Barawa, in broad daylight. Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton explains, "In this case, it is a 25-year-old man named Farhan Haji Mose. He apparently became a Christian in 2010, out of a Muslim background."

Nettleton goes on to say that Mose "had a business in Somalia which required him to travel to Kenya. It's thought that he met Christians while he was in Kenya, received the Gospel, and received Christ." Muslim extremists then tracked Mose for six months, to confirm his Christian activity before catching him and accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam, Christian and Muslim witnesses said.

Al Shabaab members caught up with Mose in the coastal city of Barawa in Somalia. He was accused, and convicted by the impromptu "court," while a crowd assembled to witness the sentence that comes with an apostasy conviction. Nettleton clarifies that "in the minds of a radical Islamic militant, these people are apostates. They've left to follow another religion. The just punishment is execution."

Mose was summarily beheaded, and then his body was desecrated as a warning for others. "Their goal is to rid Somalia of Christianity," notes Nettleton. The number of Christians who have been tracked down and murdered has been growing over the last couple of years. What's more, he adds, is ominous news that the religicide isn't held to Somalia's borders. "We've heard reports that Al Shabaab literally has a list of people they are looking for who are suspected of having left Islam and being Christians."

Chaos normally creates more chaos. "The goal of Al Shabaab is to create fear, to create control. What better way to do that than to show publicly what happens to somebody who leaves Islam to follow another faith?" Al-Shabaab is enforcing a harsh interpretation of sharia in the territories it controls. This militia was strongly radicalized through the external influence of al-Qaeda in recent years.

In the confusion of a failed state and the presence of uncontrolled militias, the result is anarchy. Christians are extra vulnerable these circumstances. This is where Voice of the Martyrs can help. While they can't reveal everything they're doing, says Nettleton, "One of the things that we are doing is providing safe houses for Christian converts. As we talk about this case, the Muslims who come to faith in Christ know very well the risks they face. So sometimes, having a place to go where they're safe--not only where they can be safe, but where they're discipled--is an incredible blessing."

Safe houses means someone needs them, which means Al Shabaab has not wholly succeeded in stopping the Gospel or ridding the country of Christians. Muslim-background believers (MBBs) do not have organized church groups because of the risk. They exist as individual secret believers and can only know a few others to make an underground group. According to reports from Open Doors, the largest known group in Somalia is composed of five believers.

What can you do? Prayer is the first defense. It's often the only thing a church under fire requests. Ask the Lord to give wisdom to authorities in Somalia. Pray that the Lord will bring an end to Al Shabaab's activities and influence in Somalia and in bordering nations. Pray that Christians will not retaliate in anger, but will show Christ-like love and forgiveness to their persecutors.

Source: Mission Network News


November 20, 2012

Egypt's New Pope Faces Significant Challenges as Head of the Coptic Church

Screen Shot 2012-11-20 at 3.15.45 PMEgypt (MNN) ― 61-year-old Bishop Tawadros is officially enthroned as the 118th Coptic Patriarch. SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, aired the occasion in a special live broadcast.

The Coptic Patriarch is a highly-respected spiritual leader of about 8 million Coptic Christians living in Egypt. His role is significant for Christians seeking to cope with religious and social discrimination as the Islamist-majority parliament drafts a new Egyptian constitution.

The day before Tawadrous was officially installed as patriarch, acting Pope Pachomious officially withdrew the church from the nation's 100-member constituent assembly, which is responsible for drafting the post-revolution constitution.

This has brought fear in the church. They fear it will limit civil rights and deepen the influence of Sharia law.

In March, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, passed away at the age of 88. Dr. Terence Ascott, CEO of SAT-7, said, "His holiness Patriarch Shenouda was elected in 1971. Since then, the Coptic Orthodox Church has become much more international. Because of this and the fast changing political landscape in Egypt, the new Patriarch will face a very different set of challenges than his late predecessor. He needs, and has, our prayers!"

The enthronement comes at very uncertain times for Egypt's Christians. Sectarian attacks against Coptic Christians and churches in Egypt have increased since the fall of Hosni Mubarak last year. Many Christians are concerned about the rise of Islamist political forces.

Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi did not attend Sunday's enthronement. He promised tolerance and respect for all faiths in Egypt after he was elected, but that pledge has been honored in the breach.

Since then it seems pressure on Egypt's Copts has increased. Thousands are fleeing Egypt rather than choosing to live among Muslim extremists who take any opportunity to attack them.

Ask God to give the Pope grace and wisdom in his new position. Pray that the Christians in Egypt will see God's hand working in their lives.

Source: Mission Network News

November 19, 2012

Nigeria: Medical Ministry Provides Physical and Spiritual Restoration

Screen Shot 2012-11-19 at 9.32.00 AMNigeria (MNN) ― A decade ago, Christians in Nigeria worried about persecution on an annual basis, says Voice of the Martyrs USA. But in 2012, they're being attacked nearly every week. Even the simple act of attending church on a Sunday puts a believer at risk.

Terrorist grouop Boko Haram is usually behind it, not hesitating to shoot or severely beat Christians. This summer, the terror sect issued a press release essentially giving believers two choices: convert to Islam, or die. Christians involved in evangelism often face the most danger because they're on the spiritual "front lines."

Take Evangelist Johnson, for example. He was on his way to a preaching crusade in Bauchi, Nigeria, when a group of angry Muslims stopped his bus.

"Chanting, they closed the road," he recounts in a video interview. "The driver stopped because they covered the road.

"Then they started beating us."

Johnson woke up in a hospital the next morning with serious injuries. He could've harbored bitterness, but the Spirit of God worked in his heart.

"When I look at myself [in pictures taken after his beating], these people have crippled me.... I was angry," he said. "But when I remember with the faith I have inside, I say, 'Lord, have mercy on them. Forgive them.'"

In response to the upsurge of persecution in Nigeria, VOM created a medical ministry to provide for both physical and spiritual healing. VOM Medical pays for persecuted believers' medical bills and consults with doctors to make sure believers are receiving the treatment they require. VOM Medical also provides counseling and spiritual encouragement.

"What VOM has done for me has increased the passion in me," says Johnson. VOM Medical staff visited him in the hospital and supplied him with a book called Tortured for Christ. "This book…has changed me."

With persecution persisting in Nigeria, VOM Medical needs your help to continue their work. By clicking here, you can help provide much-needed encouragement to believers as they recover.

Source: Mission Network News

October 30, 2012

Army Shoots 7-year-old boy; Rapes Widow, Mother of 12

Screen shot 2012-10-30 at 4.19.27 PMBurma (MNN) ― In recent days, Burma's army shot a 7-year-old boy before opening fire on a Kachin refugee camp near the border of China. Dyann Romeijn with Vision Beyond Borders says this isn't the first time soldiers have shot at refugee camps.

"The Human Rights Commission did a report on the Burmese, and they violated all the codes of war," said Romeijn. "I mean, they should be indicted on war crimes. Why we don't enforce some of those things, I don't know."

The Free Burma Rangers, a group providing relief aid in Burma's war zones, reported that the Burma Army fired machine guns near the region for two hours before hitting the little boy. Bullets punctured his right hand and left thigh, fracturing the young boy's femur. After he was rushed to a nearby hospital, more bullets and mortar shells pelted the region for another two hours.

While doctors fixed the little boy's hand, they're not sure if they can save his leg. Pray for healing.

Romeijn said that despite what the government tells the outside world, Burma still has undeniable problems.

"They're known to have child soldiers; they're known to use rape as a weapon; they're known to have extra-judicial torture and killings," she stated. "These things are well-documented."

There are still over 70,000 people in the Kachin state who can't go home because of ongoing violence. Although Burma's President told the U.S. in September that he had ordered troops to stop attacking minorities in the Kachin state, Free Burma Rangers reports active units in the region totaling 700 soldiers.

One of their recent rape victims was a widowed mother of 12.

"They also will take civilians and use them to walk in front of the army to detonate land mines," Romeijn added.

About 90% of the Kachin people are believers. Pray that God would protect His people, and that He would move in the hearts of their persecutors.

"The only thing that's going to make a difference is if God moves on the hearts and changes hearts of those who are opposing these people," said Romeijn.

Ethnic refugees in Burma need basic necessities like clothing, shelter, and food. Click here to collect supplies to send with Vision Beyond Borders teams.

Source:  Mission Network News


October 23, 2012

Hardliners Stir Against Faith Communities in Indonesia.

Screen shot 2012-10-23 at 3.12.06 PMIndonesia (MNN) ― In the last week, authorities in Indonesia's Aceh province shut the doors of nine registered churches and six Buddhist temples, reports Morning Star News, an Indonesian paper.

Aceh is only province that uses Islamic sharia laws, and the move is causing growing concern among believers as the signs of growing religious intolerance become more blatant.

It began this spring when elections put a hard-liner Islamic governor in office. Voice of the Martyrs Canada and Open Doors both reported an immediate crack-down with the closure of 17 churches in May. Since then, violence against Christians has also increased throughout the archipelago, with incidents in Jakarta, Singkil, the Moluccas and Central Sulawesi.

Aside from the church closures, extremists also bombed a Christian's home and a church building in the Pamona Timur. No one was injured in the blasts, but the attacks put believers on alert in the region, considered a hotbed for Islamist militancy.

Although Indonesia's constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of religion, persecuted church watchdogs and rights groups say the last decade has revealed the government turning a blind eye to attacks on Christians.

Open Doors explains that places of worship have to have a permit to build or hold worship in an existing building. An applicant needs approval from neighbors by gathering copies of their identification cards and signatures. Even after meeting the requirements, notes Voice of the Martyrs Canada, an applicant can still be turned away. If that happens, it leaves worship communities vulnerable to the next action which could be closure, similar to the recent activity in Aceh.

Still, the hope of Christ is a message that more people are gathering to hear. The Church has grown exponentially in the last half century, increasing from 1.3 million to 13 million.

Pray specifically for continued growth of the Church in the midst of intense opposition and growing persecution. Pray that believers will stand firm in their faith as a testament to God's ability to supply courage in all circumstances. Pray that militant groups in Indonesia would come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Source: Mission Network News

October 17, 2012

Having More Than One Bible Could Lead to Jail Time

Screen shot 2012-10-17 at 3.24.49 PMUzbekistan (MNN) ― Imagine a life where you are only allowed to have one Bible, and it may not even be written in your language. The people of Uzbekistan are facing that and so much more.

Christian Aid Mission has a vision to become more involved in the local people’s lives and to open a church in every small city and region. 

Uzbekistan is continually placing restrictions on the civil rights of citizens. They no longer have control over freedom of religion, speech, and press.

The laws that are being enforced have placed a lot of regulations for Christians. If a person has more than one Bible in his household, he is considered a missionary and can face up to five years in jail.

Not only is there a law that only one Bible is allowed within a household, but also it must be written in Russian.

The problem with this is that only about 20% of Uzbekistan citizens have mastered the Russian language. The younger generation learns Uzbek and is learning English as well. Russian is mostly mastered by the older generation.

Uzbekistan Christian Fellowship has about 500 churches that are very small, and the ministers are only allowed to preach in the church building. Even in churches, they are forbidden to teach in the Uzbek language.

The vision of UCF is to open a church in every small city and region for the local people.

Missionaries are also working with the Tajik people. Two women minister to the believers in this mountain region. The people do not want to risk losing what has brought them freedom and truth. In case someone takes away their Bible, they have made handwritten copies of the words they have grown to love.

The people in Uzbekistan are lost. Pray that the leaders will be able to find employment closer to the citizens of Uzbekistan. 

Also, pray for a church building. To be considered an official church, they must have at least 200 people in the congregation, according to authorities. Continue to be in prayer for the men and women serving this country and getting the Gospel out to all who will listen. 

Source: Mission Network News

October 16, 2012

Weekend Attacks Rock Northern Nigeria

Screen shot 2012-10-16 at 3.30.48 PMNigeria (MNN) ― A roadside blast and two separate gun attacks rocked Nigeria's Maiduguri Sunday.

Todd Nettleton is a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs USA. He describes one of the attacks outside the Church of Christ in Nigeria. "[It] seems to be a husband, and a wife, and their child who were shot as they were leaving their church in Maiduguri, Nigeria."

The same day, the Nigerian army confirmed an early morning assault on a mosque that killed over 20 people. One attack seemed to be more military, the other more personal in nature. Nettleton says, "At this point, Boko Haram has not publicly taken credit for this. But it looks like what they've done in the past, so the assumption is that Boko Haram was behind it."

The city in Nigeria's restive northeast is a bastion for Boko Haram. The terrorist group has ties to al Qaeda and is known for their open declaration of war on Christians, among others. They want to create an Islamic state in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria. These Islamists have also vowed to kill many of Nigeria's traditional Muslim leaders, many of whom they accuse of betraying Islam by submitting to the authority of a secular government.

The attack on the family brought its own question: was it personal? "Is there some connection to this particular family that they were being targeted, rather than indiscriminately targeting Christians as they were leaving church? Both of those are possibilities with Boko Haram." Nettleton says answering that question is up to the authorities.

Boko Haram is known for two kinds of attacks: "There are attacks just indiscriminately just seeking to create chaos, seeking to create a high body count. There are other attacks that target specific people that they don't like, or people who have advocated philosophies that they don't like."

Boko Haram is blamed for killing more than 1,400 people in Nigeria since 2010. Maiduguri is considered the group's base. The group may be succeeding in accomplishing one aim in their campaign to eradicate Christians, says Nettleton. "I think the first goal is to create fear and to make the Christians fearful."

Pray that believers will not be overcome with fear, but that they will sense God's presence and peace. "Scriptures tell us that when one part of the body of Christ is hurting, we're all supposed to connect with that. We're all supposed to feel that pain. So if you think about a husband and wife and a child who were shot and killed as they left church, their family is hurting, their church family is hurting, and we're a part of that family."

So, continue to pray. It's the first thing believers are asking for, says Nettleton. "Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters there, that they won't succumb to that fear, that they won't be overwhelmed by a sense of fear and a sense of hopelessness." At the same time, there's the realization that "when there is chaos, that can be a time when people are open to the Gospel, and it can be a time when people ask questions about eternity and about life after death."

Please lift up Nigerian Christians in your prayers for God's protection and consolation. Remember the families of the believers who have lost their lives as a result of these attacks. Pray that the government will take steps to protect Christians from further violence.

VOM assists hundreds of Nigerian pastors and also provides food, clothing, and medical aid to Nigerian Christians who are attacked by Muslim extremists. There's more. Check our Featured Links Section for details.

Source: Mission Network News

October 12, 2012

Al-Shabaab Strikes Again in Kenya, this Time Killing a Child

Screen shot 2012-10-12 at 3.03.15 PMKenya (MNN) ― The Somalia terrorist cell al-Shabaab seems to have reached a new low. According to International Christian Concern (ICC) and multiple international news agencies, police think al-Shabaab was behind the Sept. 30 attacks that killed one child and injured 12 more.

Pray for the families of these children.

As Sunday school was in session at St. Polycarp's church in Nairobi, attackers lobbed a hand grenade into the building. Kenyan police told Reuters a nine-year-old boy was fatally injured, and other children were sprayed with shrapnel when the grenade exploded. BBC said most of the 12 injured children were harmed in a stampede following the attack.

Al-Shabaab means "The Youth" in Arabic and emerged in 2006 as the radical youth wing of Somalia's previous Union of Islamic Courts. Since Kenyan troops entered Somalia a year ago, al-Shabaab has increased its attacks in Kenya. It seems the terrorists aim their Muslim rage at believers.

Five Mombasa churches were severely damaged by rioters following the death of known al-Shabaab supporter Sheikh Aboud Rogo in August. Gunmen attacked a Garissa church in July, killing 18 believers and injuring 60. The ICC said the Sept. 30 attack took place in Eastleigh, a neighborhood known to be a safe haven for al-Shabaab operatives.

"The churches in Eastleigh and the underground fellowship feel threatened," said underground church leaders quoted by the ICC. "We need prayers because our lives are at risk."

Pray for safety for innocent believers. Pray that the Kenyan government would suppress al-Shabaab forces.

Source: Mission Network News

October 10, 2012

Venezuelan Christians Concerned About Religious Freedom After Elections

Screen shot 2012-10-10 at 3.23.54 PMVenezuela (MNN) ― In a re-election to another six-year term, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez defeated Henrique Capriles by a 10% point margin in the presidential election.

The win marks Chavez's fourth presidential election victory since 1998. It also means more of the same leftist-leaning policies. Some of these have earned Venezuela a dubious reputation.

In fact, the 2012 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Watch List includes Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, and Venezuela. Venezuela has been on USCIRF's Watch List since 2009.

According to the USCIRF, "The Watch List provides advance warning of negative trends that could develop into severe violations of religious freedom, thereby providing policymakers with the opportunity to engage early and increasing the likelihood of preventing or diminishing the violations."

In that report, investigators found continued violations of freedom of religion. These included: government failure to hold accountable those behind attacks on religious leaders and houses of worship, virulent rhetoric from President Hugo Chavez, government officials, state media, and pro-Chavez media directed episodically against the certain faith-based communities.

Since President Chavez first came to office in 1998, there has been a steady increase of government rhetoric, and in some cases government actions, against the faith-based groups thought to have ties with the West.

Greg Musselman, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs Canada, says it's not likely things will change in the direction of more freedom. "Chavez, being close with the Castro (Cuban regime), would have similar kinds of policies against the Church, which would be having more control over the church. And if they didn't go along with the policies of the government, or if they were in any way seen even preaching the Gospel--which will conflict with an ideology like Hugo Chavez, that could cause problems for the Church."

As Chavez flexed his muscle over the economy, non-governmental organizations, and society, he simultaneously seemed to be backtracking on democracy and respect for human rights. There are no official restrictions on religious practice, but Chavez' actions have created a hostile ministry environment. Musselman explains, "It's more of subtle persecution. It's still things that are happening against the Church. It's a church leader who has a second job and may lose his job."

That is likely to continue if Chavez continues to trend the way he's been going. "If things do get more difficult, pray that the church would be strengthened, that believers would be prepared for churches to close down."

One of the more obvious manifestations of Chavez ideology was seen in November 2005. President Chavez gave all New Tribes missionaries ninety days to leave tribal areas of the country. The order effectively revoked a forty-year-old permit given to the mission.

After so many years' presence for NTM, what changed? Musselman says it was a rise in nationalistic fervor. "Christianity can often be labeled as ‘Americanism' or ‘coming from the West.' If he would view missionaries as ‘westerners' in some way, undermining his control, he would be in much opposition of that." NTM appealed the order, but the Supreme Court allowed it to stand, leading to the relocation of missionaries in the tribal areas in February 2006.

In the meantime, there have been scattered reports of church bombings and other assaults, and slow justice. That's another hallmark of a country that's steadily moving toward unfriendly territory for Christians. First, says Musselman, "That may not be bad for the church because it'll cleanse it. There has been quite a compromise amongst many of the leaders."

Second, Musselman spoke with a prominent church leader in Venezuela: Nelson Castro (no relation to Cuba's Fidel Castro), a former colonel who served with Hugo Chavez. He understands Chavez' ideology which is why "he expects things will get worse in Venezuela, and there will be closing down of churches. In his opinion, the Church has started to go underground."

As that begins to unfold, Musselman says, "The main prayer request is that the church would be strong, that they would continue to preach the Gospel, certainly in humility and love, but not compromise as has been the case in the last number of years."

Source: Mission Network News

October 4, 2012

30 Christian Students Massacred in Nigeria

Screen shot 2012-10-04 at 3.57.55 PMNigeria (MNN) ― Christian students were specifically targeted by Islamists in what some say was a retaliatory attack in northeast Nigeria. The massacre killed up to 30 students at Federal Polytechnic Collage in the city of Mubi in remote Adamawa State.

Emily Fuentes with Open Doors USA describes the attack. "Certain students were called out and attacked. But Open Doors sources in the area have notified us that the people who were attacking were allegedly members of Boko Haram and were allegedly separating Christians from Muslims students; [they] attacked the Christians students there."

This is a new for Boko Haram. "Up until now," says Fuentes, "Christians were either attacked in their churches, their homes, and maybe their places of business. So this is different to have Christians attacked at university, at the school that they're going to."

Was it retaliation? Some are claiming that, says Fuentes. "Police actually went through these halls and arrested 156 members who they believe were members of Boko Haram who were actually in the school."

Fuentes says more than 700 Christians have been attacked in 2012, and believers are on edge. "It's a different kind of attack than the ones that they're used to. And it's a whole different form when [terrorists] are attacking the young at the university."

Christians are taking action. "There's been a big movement with this minister, as well as other pastors and church leaders, to encourage churches and Christians to be wise about their security to prevent more attacks like these from happening."

Open Doors is encouraging people to be aware of this situation and pray earnestly for Christians there.

The U.S. State Department's 2011 International Religious Freedom Report released a few weeks ago confirms that there have been increasing attacks against Christians. However, the government didn't effectively quell rising hostility or investigate and prosecute those responsible.

Nigeria is ranked #13 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians.

Source: Mission Network News