Blue Flower

CHRISTIAN MIGRANTS FIND PERSECUTION FOLLOWS THEM TO EUROPE

Christians among the thousands of Middle Eastern migrants who have fled to Europe have discovered they have not escaped religious persecution. Some Christian migrants have been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence from other Muslim migrants. One Iranian convert to Christianity was murdered. The phenomenon has been observed in various locations across Europe, including the camp of Grande-Synthe in northern France, where Iranian converts have been targeted by migrants from Iraq. The situation has greatly concerned local churches, which are now supporting migrants by supplying them with food, clothing, and, in some cases, shelter.

Philippe Dugard, the Pastor of a church in the neighbouring town of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, which has spearheaded the relief effort in Grande-Synthe said “There was a group of Iranians who confessed faith in Christ, who started to attend our church. Some were Orthodox, while others said they were Christians but were not truly converted. We got to know them, and felt they had a real spiritual thirst,” he said. “Then one evening in December, we were informed two of them were stabbed and the whereabouts of a third was unknown. “We said that as Christians we could not leave them alone in that situation, and the victims themselves said they no longer wanted to stay in the camp, as they felt threatened.” We put the victims up in hotels, before they were moved to a church in Dunkirk, the closest city to the camp.

Generally the Kurds in the camp are against Christians. One refugee said “They stole our money then attacked us and called us infidels. They cut me with a knife and they beat my friends. There are still some Christians in the camp, but many are too scared to speak of their faith. They just want to clear the camp of all Christians” he said. A mosque has been created in the camp, but there is no church. The camp hosts around 2,500 to 3,000 migrants. Tensions and violence are common in the camp especially between Iraqis and Iranians, of whom there are only around 50. The thousands of Iraqi Kurds are mostly Muslim, while some of the Iranian minority are Christians. Some of them attend local churches secretly, because they are scared of the Muslim migrants and smugglers, who hold sway within the camp.

The Mayor’s office in Grande-Synthe said there is no security problem in the camp, which is open to external visitors. However, police now patrol the entrance. On 26 January, a shooting between rival gangs erupted, prompting a huge police deployment around the camp. Security checks are now carried out at the entrance of the camp. There is a fear members of Islamic State may be among the migrants. Two months after the attacks against the Iranians, the tension has settled, according to Dugard. The majority of the victims of the December attacks have moved on. Some managed to reach England, while others, tired of waiting or because of a lack of financial resources, returned to Iran. Others have left for other European destinations, with the hope of reaching England another way. “They are always in search of new routes because the passages via Calais and Dunkirk seem completely blocked.

“In the meantime, other refugees, including moderate Muslims have now arrived.” A group of about 10 migrants, only one of whom professes a Christian faith, are currently staying in a church in Dunkirk. Local churches are struggling to cope with the demands as they seek to support migrants of all faiths and none. What started as an emergency has become a long-term commitment, Dugard said. “We are wondering whether we have the spiritual, human and financial resources to continue this work he said. “Yet the migrants are really suffering. They have faced many obstacles to get here in the hope of a better life. They realise it is often hopeless to try to get to England and end up living in precarious conditions often more difficult than in the countries they left” Michel Varton, director of Open Doors France, added.

Many Christians amongst them are already traumatised. Imagine their despair on reaching France, to find the same discrimination and hate from fellow immigrants. Local churches have shown dedication in helping Christian refugees and those who are genuinely interested in the Christian faith. The authorities must allow them to have buildings where they can meet and worship God in security. It's totally unacceptable that someone could lose their life for their faith once in France.” In addition to the churches, various groups from all over Europe also seek to provide assistance to migrants, which only adds to the pressure, said Dugard. “Some groups are useful, others are not” he said. “Some often come with very aggressive attitudes for 2 to 3 days, and then leave. In the end, their actions are doing more harm than good.”

Talks are currently underway among churches to come together under the umbrella of the national Evangelical Church network of France. The Grande-Synthe camp stretches over nearly 50 acres of marshland. With thousands of people, including women and children, living in such unsanitary conditions, respiratory problems and infectious diseases are common. A new camp, equipped with heated tents and located 3 kms from the current camp, will accommodate migrants in coming days. Matthew Bosiger, of the Salvation Army in Dunkirk said “The refugees have no plan to stay in France. They have only one thought in mind: to cross the channel to England, at any cost.” Many have relatives or friends already there and the living conditions seem attractive and there is a prospect of better economic opportunities.

Source: World Watch Monitor

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RADICAL REVIVAL SWEEPS CHINA'S GOVERNMENT CONTROLLED CHURCHES

It's Thursday evening and scores of men and women are dancing, waving flags, blowing shofars, singing and worshipping God. You might think you are in a charismatic service in the United States. But you are not. This is communist China. And what Duan Huilai says is remarkable about this scene is that it's happening in an officially government-controlled congregation known as Three-Self Church. "Dramatic changes are happening," Duan said. "God is moving powerfully inside these Three-Self Churches."  Duan and his wife have for several years crisscrossed China documenting the Holy Spirit's move among Three-Self Churches. "The most amazing thing is that the Lord is raising up God-fearing people in these churches—brothers and sisters who love God deeply and want to serve Him," Duan said.

Pastor Duan says what is happening today in Beijing and in other parts of China as it relates to the powerful move of God amongst the Three-Self Churches is quite remarkable considering where the church has been in the last 30 years. "Every sermon that the pastor preached back then had to be vetted by the government authorities. Young people were never allowed to attend these churches so you'd only see old people, mostly women," Duan said. "Preaching about the power of the Holy Spirit was forbidden. You couldn't talk about end times or preach repentance." Topics on healings, miracles, signs and wonders were out of the question. Not anymore. "Nowadays people have accepted these topics," Duan said. Two main types of churches exist in China: registered and unregistered.

Three-Self Churches, are government-approved. Unregistered, sometimes called underground or house churches, operate outside government control, and for decades faced intense persecution. And with that persecution came tremendous growth. Three-Self Churches on the other hand never experienced that kind of explosive growth. Until now. "Now there's big revivals happening in the Three-Self Churches," Dr. Zhao Xiao said from his offices on the outskirts of China's capital city. Zhao is one of China's foremost experts on Christianity. A former Communist Party member and atheist, Zhao converted after reading the Bible. "If you go to Haidian Church, you'll find yourself in a 100-metre line trying to get inside and worship. In Shenzhen, there are usually an average of 500 people being baptized each Sunday!" he shared.

Decades ago, the Chinese government had a law that said that young men and women below the age of 18 could not attend Three-Self Churches. Zhao says those rules have been relaxed in recent years. "There's an increasing proportion of them in churches now—more young males, professionals, mainstream celebrities, especially in the big cities, that are attending the church unlike the past when it was mainly the elderly who attended." Back at the Thursday night meeting in Fujian Province, folks have gathered for a four-day event called "Love Camp." "Love Camp aims to help the Believer grow in their faith walk and get closer to God," Sun Rengui said. Sun is a pastor and leads the camp. He says the idea came 12 years ago when the Holy Spirit one day showed up while he was preaching at the Three-Self Church he pastors.

"During the service, suddenly everyone at the church felt the Holy Spirit come. Some couldn't stand straight, others fell down. Some were dizzy and nauseous. When the worship began, people started crying. After the service, some were being healed. I saw demons leaving people's bodies." Pastor Sun says his church had never experienced anything like it.” "It was unprecedented. We had no theological training in the work of the Holy Spirit. Word quickly spread. " Soon, leaders from other churches came to us and were eager to receive the Holy Spirit. Later they also started witnessing the Holy Spirit's move as well," Pastor Sun said. But it wasn't without controversy. "People doubted if it was real. There was even conflict among my church staff," Sun said. "But as time passed, more people accepted it."

Twelve years later, Pastor Sun says the impact of the Holy Spirit's move is seen in the transformed lives of church members. "Our cell groups are expanding, more people are attending church, and more people are going outside the church to share the Gospel." The church runs two orphanages and two elderly care centres, and twice a year puts on the Love Camp. For Pastor Duan and his wife, this is evidence that God is doing something special in China. "I was speaking in Shandong recently. Around 8,000 people joined the meeting. Last Christmas, I was speaking at a Three-Self Church in Yuhuan and there were 12,000 people," Duan exclaimed with joy. "The number of Christians in China is growing rapidly. It means Christ is starting to play an active role in China's society and that's good in many ways," Zhao said.

Source: CBN News

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FAMILY-FRIENDLY MOVIES THE BEST BOX-OFFICE EARNERS

An annual box office analysis by a Christian group catering to families has found that the most inspiring family-friendly movies with the cleanest content earn more money at the box office and on home video. The 2016 Annual Report by the pro-family advocacy group Movieguide® shows that the most family-friendly movies averaged more than $73.01 million per movie in 2014 in America and Canada, but that the least family-friendly movies with the most offensive, obscene, immoral content averaged only about $17.59 million. R-rated movies fared almost as poorly, averaging only $17.67 million per movie. The study extensively analysed the content of the top movies released by the major studios in Hollywood earning $750,000 or more, including the major independent studios.

“The evidence is clear,” said Dr. Ted Baehr publisher of Movieguide. “Moviegoers prefer family-friendly movies and want to see Good conquer evil, Truth triumph over falsehood, Justice prevail over injustice, Liberty conquer tyranny, and Beauty overcome ugliness,” he added. “They also would like to take their whole family to the movies more often.” The study also found that movies released in 2015 with no sex, no explicit nudity and no foul language averaged more money than movies with such content. The story was similar for the Top 10 Home Video Sales in 2015. Only one of the Top 10 Home Video Sales in 2015 were rated R, the popular patriotic movie “American Sniper.” The Top 10 Movies Overseas in 2015 fared almost as well, with only one R-rated movie, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and it came in at No. 9.

The most family-friendly movies included such popular titles as “Big Hero 6,” “Home,” “Cinderella,” the last two “Hunger Games” movies, “Inside Out”, “The Peanuts Movie,” “Max” and “War Room. Movieguide has been analysing the content of movies and comparing box office numbers since 1991. “We’ve found similar results in practically all of our previous studies,” Dr. Baehr noted. “However, last year was one of the best years for family-friendly entertainment.” Dr. Baehr is chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission® (CFTVC) ministry. CFTVC and Movieguide are an international non-profit ministry dedicated to “redeeming the values of the entertainment industry by influencing industry executives and by informing and equipping the public about the influence of the entertainment media.”

The organizations say that they serve 242 million American Christians and 60 million faith-driven moviegoers. The annual Gala, also known as the “Christian Oscars,” was attended by a glittering array of Hollywood stars, and it turned out to be quite an evening for one of them, Dolly Parton, and her COAT OF MANY COLOURS team who came away with the $100,000 Epiphany Prize for Most Inspiring Television Program of 2015, which was presented to them by actress, Lily Tomlin. If that wasn’t enough, the Grace Award for Most Inspiring TV Performance By An Actress, went to Alyvia Alyn Lind who played the young Dolly in COAT OF MANY COLOURS. Meanwhile, WAR ROOM came away with the $100,000 Epiphany Prize for Most Inspiring Movie of 2015.

Source: Assist News Service

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REFUGEES PLAN TO FLOOD EUROPE THIS NORTHERN SPRING

It’s not even March, and Europe has already played host to over 100,000 refugees fleeing the Middle East by boat, reports the United Nations. Yet, this number is relatively small compared to the mass exodus expected this northern spring. Al Goff with Global Aid Network (GAiN) explains, “When Spring hits, and it gets much nicer and sunny again, because it rains a lot this time of year, there’s white capping. But there will be millions, literally millions, coming over as quickly as possible. Estimates are up to a range of around 3 million in Turkey, waiting to come in.” Surprisingly, about 80% of the refugees coming into Greece are young men. “What’s happening is: different factions are fighting in the Middle East, they will conscript a young man at gun point into fighting for them.

So families are sending their young men to Europe, both to try to get a job and to get them out of being conscripted into military service for ISIS or the Syrian government, or whatever group is trying to get them to fight for them,” explains Goff. Unfortunately, the bad weather is providing a different opportunity for travel. During these dangerous months on the water, smugglers actually lower their prices for travel. Because of this, more women and children take to the waters in efforts to reach Greece. But the lower travel rates aren’t necessarily a good thing in this situation. “The women and children that are coming, are putting themselves in real danger. And then, they’re on a raft with probably 90% men,” says Goff. “So it’s really bad for the women and children that are trying to come over as you can imagine.”

But it’s not just Iraqis and Syrians making the trip to Europe. People come from Libya, Afghanistan, Algeria, and other places, too. However, once these refugees land in Greece, only certain people groups are allowed to continue forward. The others who’ve been denied further passage have no choice but to camp out where they are. At the moment, GAiN is working on two fronts: one in the Middle East and one in Greece. In the Middle East, GAiN is working to stabilize refugees by providing the basics of food, water, and blankets. Most of the time, refugees come to Turkey and other places with the hope of returning home. But as the war continues, many refugees realize that their hopes for returning home are slim to none. At this point, many decide to continue into to Europe, usually through Greece.

In Greece, GAiN is working with various groups to help move refugees from staging camps on Greek islands, to the main land in order to continue their journey into countries taking refugees. In the midst of all this danger and chaos, an incredible thing is happening: people are turning to Jesus. Because the way volunteers are caring and loving refugees is so radical, refugees are coming to volunteers and asking, “Why are you caring for me?” “When you love people extravagantly they are touched,” says Goff. “This is our opportunity to share the love of Jesus. There is a wonderful story we tell them. ‘I’m not here because I want to help you. I’m here because I work for a refugee and He sent me to help you.’ Then we tell them the story of Jesus and how His family took Him to another country–to Egypt, to get Him to safety.”

Source: Mission Network News

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SINGAPORE ARCHBISHOP WARNS CATHOLICS AWAY FROM IMMORAL MADONNA

The Archbishop of Singapore, William Goh, has expressed concern about the visit of international pop star Madonna. The recording artist has been criticised by Christians for using religious symbolism and clothing in songs. Archbishop Goh has said that many voices in the Church are upset by the singer's "disrespectful use of Catholic and Christian symbols". He has warned believers not to support anyone who is seen to "denigrate and insult religions". He even met with government officials to express his worry about a concert in Singapore, which is part of the American singer's Rebel Heart tour. It will be Madonna's first performance in Singapore, a largely conservative nation, since she was banned from performing in 1993 after police said her performances are "objectionable to many on moral and religious grounds".

In a statement posted on the diocese website, the archbishop said: "It is our moral obligation not to support those who denigrate and insult religions, including anti-Christian and immoral values promoted by the secular world. "There is no neutrality in faith. Being present at these events in itself is a counter witness." "Obedience to God and His commandments must come before the arts. As the people of God, we should subscribe to authentic Arts that lead us to God through the appreciation of beauty, goodness, truth and love, respect and unity, and not support the 'pseudo arts' that promote sensuality, rebellion, disrespect and pornography". The Media Development Authority in Singapore has restricted who can attend the concert to over-18's due to references to sex,

Source: Premier News Service

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450 NEW BELIEVERS BAPTISED IN IRAN

More than 240 Iranians were baptized recently in two large celebrations in the Iran region. A further 16 were baptized in a smaller service, and about 200 more are to be baptized at a fourth celebration. These large baptism services are joyful day-long gatherings, with sessions of worship, preaching, prayer for the nation of Iran, Holy Communion and shared meals. In a separate story, 30,000 copies of the ‘Action Bible’ have come off the press. This version of the Bible for children and youth was launched in Persian in 2013 and has been incredibly popular. Another 150,000 New Testaments were also printed recently, ready for more evangelism in the Iran region.

Source: Elam Ministries

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