Blue Flower

IRAQ WAR A TRAGEDY FOR CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ AND MIDDLE EAST

The future looks bleak for Christians in Iraq, as the Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict spreads across the Middle East.' The Iraq war has been a tragedy for Christians in Iraq and the Middle East, leading to a massive exodus of historic communities from the lands of the Bible. Iraq once boasted one of the most established Christian minorities in the region, dating back to the birth of the faith. But Christians have left in their droves since the war against Saddam Hussein in 2003. 'Christians have lost their trust in the land and the future,' Chaldean Archbishop Bashar M Warda said. 'The attack on Christians has been immense. Pray for their safety in this chaotic situation.' As the haemorrhage from Iraq continues, observers say just a quarter of a million Christians remain - while upwards of four-fifths have fled the country.

Iraq is now considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian, ranking close to the top of the persecution watch lists. The exodus gathered pace when law and order broke down after the invasion of Iraq. Today the Christian presence is dwindling, not only in Iraq, but in the surrounding nations. Christians have been driven out by extremists who have flourished in the power vacuum created by the toppling of Saddam Hussein. 'In our visits to help persecuted Christians, many ordinary Iraqis told us that things had been better for believers under Saddam Hussein,' says Release Chief Executive, Paul Robinson. 'Few had fond words for the dictator, who kept the church under tight surveillance and imprisoned some evangelicals, but the constant refrain was that Iraq had been safer under Saddam.'

When the allies removed Saddam and dismantled his army and system of government they kicked open a door to chaos, extremism and religious cleansing. Significant numbers of Iraqi children have been traumatised by conflict and are considered easy prey for radicalisation. 'The war has sown the seeds of religious violence for a generation,' says Paul Robinson, looking back on the Chilcott Report into the Iraq war. Even though the Iraqi army has been gaining ground, large swathes of the country remain under the control of Islamic State, the terror group that sprang from al-Qaeda. Islamic State (IS) has demolished churches and confiscated Christian property. Their fighters have abducted Christian and Yazidi women as sex slaves.

The collapse of government in Syria and the insurgency in Iraq have allowed Islamic State (IS) to extend its so-called caliphate from Syria to Iraq. IS militants have given Christians the ultimatum: convert, submit, or die. Thousands have been stripped of their belongings and forced from their homes to trek through the desert to Kurdistan. Religious conservatism and intolerance is spreading to areas beyond IS control. In Basra Christian women have been threatened in the workplace and forced to wear headscarves. Many have been driven out. Lena said: 'People were threatening us. My daughter received a letter with a bullet in it.' Another daughter, Dahlia added: The extremists said we had to leave or we will shoot you. We were very scared.' Lena said: 'We had no choice. We left.' They, too, headed for Kurdistan.

Much the same has been happening in Baghdad. Many of the remaining Christian women have been forced to wear headscarves and up to two thirds of the homes belonging to Christians have been taken. Reports persist of low-level persecution against Christians under the government and its Shia-dominated army. Another threat to Christians is lawlessness. Kidnapping is now commonplace. 'The future looks bleak for Christians in Iraq,' says Paul Robinson of Release, 'as the Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict spreads across the Middle East. Christians are caught in the crossfire.' Shia areas of Baghdad are frequently targeted by IS suicide bombers, who killed more than 280 in a single attack recently. And Sunni Kurdistan is constantly on alert against infiltration from Shia Iran on its border.

Baghdad once had a thriving Christian community. Now most have left. The'ar and his family fled Baghdad after extremists bombed their church, killing 58, including two members of their family. They headed north to the Christian village of Qaraqosh in the hope of finding safety. But they had to flee again when it was captured by Islamic State. 'There is no hope,' The'ar told Release. 'Since the invasion in 2003, we have all this bombing and fighting. We have no future. Our prayer is to leave this country, just to be human and to raise our kids with dignity.' Despite the turmoil, there are some rays of light. One is the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, which has declared itself a safe haven for Christian refugees. It is one of the few areas of the Middle East where churches for Muslim-background believers are flourishing.

In other areas dominated by extremists, Muslim converts are killed as heretics. However, some Christians in Kurdistan complain that their lands and houses are being seized, and Kurds, who are Sunni, fear being caught up in a sectarian conflict with neighbouring Iran, which is Shia. 'Kurdistan is a place of relative safety for Christians - please pray for them,' says Paul Robinson of Release. 'Another encouraging sign is that Muslims, sickened by the violence being carried out in the name of religion, are coming to faith in Christ across the Middle East. 'So please pray that the Christian faith both survives and thrives in this region. Pray also that Christian refugees are afforded the same aid and treatment as others.'

Source: Release International

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AVEDA KING SAYS KILLING OF YOUNG BLACK MEN TRANSCENDS RACE: IT IS A WAR ON LIFE

Editors note:  These statements were issued prior to the killing of white police officers which occurred subsequent to the events mentioned in this article.

Christian leaders, Pastor Stephen E. Broden, President of Protect Life And Marriage in Dallas, Texas; Bishop Jim Lowe, Pastor of Guiding Light Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and Alveda King of Priests for Life's Civil Rights for the Unborn, respond to recent shootings of young men in Minnesota and Louisiana. "Our youth, children and families are understandably devastated by the recent killings. We pray for the families of these dead men. Their lives matter very much to us and to God. Humanity, every human life matters. We call for a moratorium on violence and immediate investigations into these deaths. Giving a pro-life perspective on "Black Lives Matter,"

 

Pastor Borden urges:

.  "These shootings are horrifying and shocking to our sense of justice and fairness. Something is terribly wrong when the police are operating out of fear with power to kill people. These recent killings are precipitated out of fear, fear of black men, and fear of police by blacks. Our culture and society are in big trouble if we don't come to realize all lives matter from the womb to the tomb. We will see an ugly result for our communities, our nation if we don't stop this mistrust of one another. Professional agitators will use these recent incidences to foster hate and conflict between black communities and police personnel across our nation."

Bishop Lowe insists:

.  "Violence against any human being must be resisted religiously. Violence is abhorrent to God and nature! Even as Dr. Martin Luther King did during his lifetime, we are calling for one voice against violence against humanity.

Evangelist King concludes:

  "My children and grandchildren are devastated at the mounting deaths of their peers by way of violent treatment from law enforcement officers who should be protecting our communities rather than using force to eliminate more and more young people. This issue transcends race; this is war on life. Our children are dying from human trafficking, abortion, mass incarcerations, poverty, drugs, racism, sexually transmitted diseases, abuse, assaults and many other evils. It's time to repent and save our children. Human life is sacred to God from conception until natural death. "My Uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King once said in his 1967 Christmas Sermon, 'When we truly believe in the sacredness of human life, we won't exploit people, we won't trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won't kill anybody.'"

The leaders who represent thousands of like-minded concerned citizens agree that it is time for America to resist violence, repent and pray! Broden, Lowe and King agree that prayers for our nation and our world, in the midst of all the domestic and global upheaval, are needed. They are calling for leaders across the nation to join them in taking direct action to stop the violence: "We need to remember that God's love and natural law trumps human nature, martial law and common law."

Source: Priests for Life

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THOUSANDS OF IRISH JOIN RALLY TO DEFEND LIFE FROM CONCEPTION

Thousands of people bussed, drove and walked from throughout Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland to unite in defence of laws protecting life from conception. "This generation of pro-lifers are committed, tireless, skilled and determined, and they will ensure that love wins through, that abortion is defeated, and that mothers and babies are protected," Niamh Ui Bhriain, the director of the Dublin-based Life Institute, told the All-Ireland Rally for Life - a crowd bright with banners, posters, flags, and face paint. With a looming legislative fight in Northern Ireland and a likely referendum coming in southern Ireland to remove laws and constitutional safeguards, the youthful crowd and their leaders showed enthusiasm for the battle.

Before the rally, the group marched through Belfast behind a 30-foot banner addressing both Northern and Southern Ireland: "Protect the Offenses Against the Person Act 1861 and Save the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution." Ui Bhriain said thousands of young people were eager to defend the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution, which protects unborn life equally with the life of the mother. Bernadette Smyth of the Precious Life group in Northern Ireland received sustained applause when she praised Attorney General John Larkin, who appealed a court ruling that found Northern Ireland's 160-year-old law criminalizing abortions a violation of women's rights in the case of unborn babies with severe disabilities. She called Larkin "a courageous defender of the right to life of babies with disabilities."

Several women spoke about their experiences bearing and nurturing disabled children. Tracy Harkin of Every Life Counts said politicians such as David Ford and Mick Wallace in Northern Ireland "are actually arguing that these babies are not human because of their severe disability - and that is simply appalling." Her daughter, Kathleen Rose, was diagnosed with Trisomy 13, which she said is "often described as a 'fatal abnormality' by pro-abortion campaigners. She is now 9 and brings us so much joy." Fionnuala McArdle described  how her baby girl, Meabh, was born at 23 weeks weighing  just 1 pound and given a "0.1 percent chance." She is now thriving at eight months. The mother urged the crowd to "fight for your baby."

Bronagh Park described how she "was told when I was 23 weeks pregnant that I should have an abortion because of my daughter's disability." Born with only half her heart developed and still, at nearly two years old, facing many physical challenges, "Sofia is a wee fighter and she amazes us every day." The Belfast Telegraph covered the pro-life rally and another pro-abortion event with a single story that devoted twice the amount of space and four pictures to the pro-abortion rally while using no photos of the pro-life supporters.

Source: LifeSiteNews

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TURKEY ERUPTS: COUP FAILS: PURGE ENSUES

Failed coups usually strengthen the incumbent. That seems to be the case with the 15 July poorly planned and blunder-ridden coup by some military dissidents in Turkey. President Erdogan escaped capture at his Aegean resort and returned to Istanbul where he quickly urged citizens to take to the streets and "support the democracy." Turkey, a NATO member, is seen as a vital strategic ally to the West. Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey envisioned a separation of church and state. Concerns have grown recently with the arrests of journalists and the erosion of rights. Prime Minister Davutoglu in April pledged that Turkey's draft constitution would guarantee secularism, sparking controversy with Islamists.

Erdogan's recent purge, after the attempted coup, of 2,745 judges and arrest of 600 suspected military officers and dissidents (at time of writing) has strengthened his control. Both the military and most of the judiciary have been a bastion of secularism and the strongest opponents of his expansion of power. The failed coup raises many concerns: Will Western allies still be allowed to fly from Turkey in air strikes against Daesh? Will Turkey continue to turn a blind eye to insurgents who traverse it to join Daesh? Will it alter Turkey's role as a pathway for refugees fleeing to Europe? Will the attempt to turn the country into an Islamic state threaten Christianity and religious minorities?

 

Let's Pray For:

*   Christian Believers worldwide to realize the awesome power we have in prayer. Pray that Turkey will not become an Islamic nation. Pray that the draft and final constitution will guarantee that Turkey will continue to be a secular government. Pray too that fair-minded judges will be reinstated, for our God loves justice.

*   fair and just inquiries and trials for those arrested in the recent attempted coup. Pray for Christian Believers in Turkey to be bold in their witness to others as they explain the hope they have in Jesus Christ.

*   Turkish Christians to follow the admonition in 2 Chronicles 7:14 and thus mobilize a massive amount of prayer. May they cry out day and night for God's intervention for their nation, and may Turkey once again return to its Biblical roots - a powerhouse for God and sending base for evangelists.

 

Source: Windows International Network

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DO WHAT YOU LIKE TO US: WE WONT LEAVE CHRIST

Hindu extremists in India have given a group of Christians a stark choice: stop worshipping Jesus or we'll kill you. And local police have threatened to fine believers if they hold church services in public. Please pray for the church family in Hunter village, Jharkhand state. The 25 Christians there are standing firm in their faith, despite death threats - but at a high personal cost. The six families concerned are Dalits or 'untouchables', the lowest of the low in Hindu society. They are also now being denied the right to buy basic foodstuffs at subsidised rates. Their troubles started in May when 100 Hindu villagers summoned them to a meeting and told them it was wrong to follow Christ.


Pastor Sanjay Kumar Ravi responded by sharing a testimony of how Jesus healed him in 2007. Furious villagers beat him and five others with sticks, hanging them upside down by their legs. Yet, the Christians stood firm. 'Do whatever you like, we are not going to leave Christ at any cost,' they said. When the believers reported the attack to police, officers forced Christians to sign a statement that they would worship only at home or risk stiff fines. Last month extremists threatened to kill the Christians, after one of them again resisted pressure to deny Jesus.

 

Please pray:

*   that God will heal the six Christians who were beaten. Naresh Ram's hands were broken and Pastor Sanjay has internal injuries that cause severe chest pain.

*   that moderate Hindus in Hunter will reject extremism and support local Christians.

*   that President Narendra Modi and his Government will take a firm stand against the religious intolerance which appears to be growing in India.

Source: Release International

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SOME CHURCHES IN CHINA FORCED TO GIVE TITHES AND OFFERINGS TO GOVERNMENT

Some churches in China are being forced to hand over their tithes and offerings to government authorities as China continues cracking down on Christianity. The government in China's province of Zheijiang has enacted a new law which forces churches to surrender all their tithes and offerings to authorities. "The government officials will interfere with church affairs, managing our donations and some large-scale projects. We have to obtain their (the government's) permission if we would like to buy equipment or decorate the church. We will have to ask for permission for any expenses more than a few thousand yuan," a source told China Aid. China has been increasing its persecution of Christians and crackdown against Christianity in the last few years.

In 2014, China's president Xi Jinping began a "Beautification" campaign called the "Three Rectifications and One Demolition" campaign. Authorities have used this campaign as an excuse to demolish hundreds of churches and crosses. A number of Christian pastors and human rights lawyers have also been arrested for refusing to comply with the authorities' demands. This year's annual report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom ranked China among the "countries of particular concern" where "the governments either engaged in or tolerated 'particularly severe' violations of religious freedom."

Source: China Aid

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