Church Bells Ring and Crosses Rise Over Freed Towns

Open Doors Weekly Email

Church bells ring and crosses rise over freed towns

For the first time in over two years, church bells are ringing and crosses are being erected in towns across Iraq’s Nineveh Plain liberated from so-called Islamic State (IS) militants.

In the town of Bartella, returning church leaders found hymn books scattered, pews upturned and graffiti scrawled on the walls. But in an act of defiance and hope, church leaders this week sounded the church bells – announcing the end of the town’s invasion and occupation by IS.

Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian town, has also been liberated, answering the prayers of many of its displaced inhabitants. In a series of moving pictures, church leader Ammar returns to Qaraqosh and erects a cross atop his church. “Thanks to God… It was a wonderful day to see Qaraqosh,” Ammar says. “Yes, they destroyed and burned houses and churches but of course we will fix it again.”

Church leaders are beginning to return to the village of Karamles too. Thabet takes with him a large cross which he plants in the ground on a hill overlooking the village. “I am so happy I can do this,” he says. “I’m smiling from cheek-to-cheek and I weep tears of joy at the same time. This is the trip I have been praying for for two years now.”

“My dream is to bring back all the Christians to this village,” he adds. “Then we will worship outside on Barbara Hill; we will take communion in the open air. Everybody will see that this is the church; this is the body of Christ; this is Christian land. That is my dream – to give a testimony to the world.”

Please Pray:

  • Praise God for the liberation of towns across Iraq’s Nineveh Plain from IS!
  • For the liberation of Mosul and other towns in the region. Ask God to protect civilians living in warzones and those being held captive by IS
  • For Open Doors workers in the region as they continue to support thousands of believers in the changing situation.
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Future remains uncertain

Before the IS invasion in 2014, this region was home to the largest concentration of Christians and religious minorities left in Iraq. Thousands of displaced families are being cared for by Open Doors’ partners in Kurdistan and our commitment is to support them for as they long as they need us. Open Doors has worked in the region for over 20 years. Thanks to an incredible response to appeals in 2014 and since, our partners are currently supporting 15,000 displaced families with emergency relief, trauma care and long-term rebuilding.

As the battle for Mosul intensifies, the UN and other aid agencies are predicting a humanitarian crisis, with up to one million people expected to flee Mosul itself when the fighting reaches the city. Open Doors partners are monitoring the situation and are planning how they will support displaced people to return to Mosul and the surrounding villages once it is safe for them to do so.

Because the truth is, that even with IS gone, they will be returning to devastated and destroyed communities. With your help we will be with these communities for the long-term. Their churches will need rebuilding, their homes will need to be restored. They have lost their possessions. But they want to return home.

Thank you for your prayers and support. Please continue to pray, give and speak out for Christians in Iraq.

Bring hope to the Middle East

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With many thanks for your prayers,

Lisa

Lisa Pearce
CEO Open Doors UK & Ireland

Please support Open Doors in every way you possibly can. There are so many people still being persecuted for their Christian beliefs in too man countries throughout the world.

With many peaceful and hope-filled blessings

Geoffrey

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The Battle for Mosul Begins

Open Doors
Open Doors Weekly Email

The battle for Mosul begins

Christians in Iraq are asking for prayer as the battle for Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, intensifies. A local Open Doors contact told us: “A coalition of Kurdish and Iraqi forces, backed by international allied forces, aims to recapture the city – the last major stronghold of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, and with it all of the Nineveh plain in Iraq.

“The thousands of displaced Christians in Erbil are very excited… Most Christians in Erbil are now glued to their televisions, phones and computer screens, trying to get all the latest updates on the battle and on the status of their villages. They hope and they pray that they will be able to return to their houses, once the situation is safe.”

Open Doors partners are supporting 15,000 displaced families in Iraq every month with vital relief aid and long-term support, thanks to the prayerful generosity of our supporters. When asked how the battle for Mosul might affect their work, an Open Doors coordinator told us: “For now, the battle will not impact our work directly. In Erbil things have not changed because of the situation: Christians are still displaced and are still uncertain about their future.

“It is expected that most Christians will wait for the entire Nineveh Plain to be completely safe and ‘ISIS-free’, before thinking about going back. Nobody knows how long it will take, but it now seems more likely to be a matter of months than of weeks.”

Open Doors partners are monitoring the situation and are planning how they will support displaced people to return to Mosul once it is safe for them to do so.

You can pray, give and speak out for Christians in Iraq and Syria by joining the global Hope for the Middle East campaign.

Please Pray:

  • That Mosul would be liberated soon and that trapped civilians there would be protected
  • For God to shield and protect Christians living near or on the front lines of battle
  • For energy and resilience for Open Doors partners as they continue to support displaced Iraqis.
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Over 20 Chibok girls return home: thank you for your prayers!

Thank you for praying for the Chibok schoolgirls who were taken captive by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria in 2014. We are delighted to report that, two-and-a-half years later, 21 of the over 200 abducted schoolgirls have been reunited with their families after successful negotiations.

There were emotional scenes in the capital, Abuja, when the girls were reunited with their families. One parent said: “We thank God. I never thought I was going to see my daughter again but here she is… Those who are still out there – may God bring them back to be reunited with their parents.”

Open Doors partners have been making regular visits to the Chibok parents to encourage them and provide them with food, medicine and trauma care. “We thank all our supporters for the continued prayers for this situation over the past two and a half years,” said Open Doors’ team leader in Nigeria. “Our eyes are still on God for the release of the rest of them.”

Please pray:

  • Thank the Lord for the return of these girls and pray that they would be fully cared for
  • That God’s power and grace would be at work among the girls who remain in captivity and their captors
  • That the rest of the girls would be freed soon and that the Lord would comfort their families.
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With many thanks for your prayers,

Lisa

Lisa Pearce
CEO Open Doors UK & Ireland

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Torment in the Land of the Kings

Legend held that Laksh’s homeland had been cursed for generations. Long ago, it is said, kings used it as a place to dispose of dead bodies and other refuse, and now spirits roamed the land, tormenting the people. When one of the spirits attacked Laksh’s wife, however, he knew she wasn’t suffering because of dead kings. This was the work of jealous neighbors.

 Neighbours Send Evil Spirit to Attack Woman

Laksh and his wife, Udgita, lived a contented life with their two children, but their neighbours weren’t as fortunate. The family members often fought with each other, and it pained them to see Laksh and Udgita’s happiness. Unable to achieve the same fulfillment, they lashed out at Udgita with a spell of black magic.

One day, Udgita closed her eyes and began murmuring things no one could understand. When people came near, she grew fearful, thinking they were trying to harm her. The same episode happened again the next month and the month after that.

A local witch doctor named Daivya began treating Udgita as the monthly attacks came, but the attacks only worsened. Now, when the evil spirit came, Udgita became violent with increased strength, ripping off her clothes and refusing to let others come near her.

One of Laksh’s relatives suggested visiting a Gospel for Asia-supported pastor, Chanchal, who had prayed for other people harassed by spirits and had seen them released, but Laksh felt uneasy approaching a pastor of a different faith. He could only hope Daivya’s treatments would begin to work soon.

Torment in the Land of Kings

Pastor Offers Prayers

Udgita’s condition didn’t improve, and life still carried the same responsibilities. Laksh had bills to pay and errands to run. He was picking up some things from the store when he happened to run into Pastor Chanchal.

Casually chatting as they got ready to buy their things, Laksh put away his fear of the pastor and shared about the spell placed on his wife by their neighbors. Pastor Chanchal told Laksh about God’s love and assured him that he would visit the family soon.

Still worried, Laksh allowed Daivya to come over one more time, but while the witch doctor was in the middle of his rituals, Laksh saw Pastor Chanchal coming. Laksh told Daivya to leave the room and let the pastor take charge of Udgita’s situation, but Daivya wasn’t quick to give up his role.

“It will do more harm to your wife to involve two different religions in this matter,” Daivya warned. “I am almost at the end of doing rites. Let me complete it.”

Laksh insisted the witch doctor stop, convinced Pastor Chanchal could save his wife. Several visiting neighbors supported his decision. While Udgita slept quietly in the other room, Pastor Chanchal sat down in the living room and began reading aloud from the Bible.

Suddenly, Udgita began to shout.

Woman Lashes Out As Pastor Prays

Udgita demanded that someone close the door to her room and quickly became violent. She tore down the mosquito net over her bed and ripped off her clothes.

Unable to enter the now half-naked woman’s room himself, Pastor Chanchal told Laksh to go to Udgita and control her, but Laksh was afraid to approach her. His wife’s strength had been increasing under the evil spirit’s power, making her violent display a serious threat to anyone who came near her.

Families and individuals often seek prayer from pastors, just as Laksh reached out to Pastor Chanchal.

Torment in the Land of Kings

“Nothing will happen to you because I will be praying to the Lord here,” Pastor Chanchal assured him.

Once again, Laksh swallowed his fear and, desperate to save his wife, faced the demon inside her.

Woman Released from Torment

When Pastor Chanchal (not pictured) began reading from the Bible and praying for Udgita, the woman became so violent that even her husband feared her.

Pastor Chanchal prayed fervently as Laksh walked into the other room, and to the amazement of Daivya and the other visitors, peace descended on the home. As the pastor spoke with His God, Udgita became calm.

As soon as he realized what had happened, Daivya rushed over to Pastor Chanchal and asked for the booklet he had used to drive out the evil spirit.

“I did not use any magic book like you,” Pastor Chanchal said, “but I used the Word of God. I have no Bible to give you, but what I can give you is this piece of literature. The Word of God is written in it. You may read it.”

That evening, Daivya couldn’t stop reading the literature. The next morning, he came to Pastor Chanchal’s house full of questions, and by the end of their visit, he had found his answers in Jesus Christ.

“I want you to come over to my house,” Daivya told the pastor, “and if you could help me remove all the religious booklets [and] charms, it would be so kind of you. I will now go to my teachers, and I will tell them of the new things I have learned about Christ.”

Woman’s Husband and Former Witch Doctor Share Christ’s Love

Having seen God’s tremendous power, Laksh and Udgita also decided to follow Christ, and like Daivya, Laksh began telling his co-workers about the One who had given his family new life.

Torment in the Land of Kings

This man pores over a piece of literature, just as Ugdita’s witch doctor was desperate to know more about the Word.

Torment in the Land of Kings

For now, other villagers fear persecution too much to embrace Jesus, but some of them say they believe in God’s Word. As Daivya, Laksh and Udgita continue to share what He did in their lives, they trust their neighbours will one day have the courage to believe in Christ without reservation.

What more effective way to share God’s love than through His own Word? Put literature into the hands of missionaries like Chanchal, and see how God changes people like Daivya, Laksh and Udgita again and again.

(A Report by Gospel of Asia)

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Gospel For Asia

Three-year-old Jishan felt his grip on his father’s finger slip as the crowd jostled them in the marketplace. Suddenly, his father was gone. Strangers surrounded him.

Crying helplessly in the midst of the crowd, Jishan had no idea he would never see his father, mother or sister again.

In the years that followed, Jishan spent many days crying at street corners, hoping his family would find him. Instead, he found disappointment day after day.

Train Ride to a Life of Begging

When a kind man saw little Jishan crying in the market, he took Jishan home to care for him as his own son. Even at such a young age, Jishan’s religious beliefs were strong and contradicted those of his new family. The family treated him very well, but their different beliefs bothered Jishan deeply. Eventually, 9-year-old Jishan ran away and boarded a train bound for a major city.

Upon arriving, Jishan didn’t have a friend in the world. He had nothing to eat for the first two days in the city. To survive, he slept in the train station and partially appeased his gnawing hunger by begging.

“I used to miss my home,” Jishan remembers. “I used to think, What happened to my father? Where is he? I used to cry all alone at the station.”

At one point during the two or three weeks he spent on the streets, a group of boys beat Jishan in the middle of the night and stole the few coins he had earned through begging. Wary of everyone after the attack, Jishan isolated himself from others. But he did not go unnoticed—a loving eye spotted him among the multitudes packed into the city.

A House of Hope

One day, a lady approached Jishan. When she asked what his name was or if he was hungry, he barely answered her. The lady told Jishan about a place he could call home, and after listening to her for a little while, Jishan decided to trust her and accept her help.

The lady brought Jishan to a Gospel for Asia-supported home for street boys. When Jishan arrived, he met the men, women and other rescued boys who would become his family. The staff gave Jishan a bath, tasty food and his very own cot in a room shared with other at-risk boys.

The environment was new for Jishan, but he embraced it. The rooms were kept neat and clean, and there was structure to the days’ events. Jishan had fallen behind in his schooling since running away, and he earnestly wanted to catch up, so the staff arranged for him to receive extra tutoring.

One Big Family

The men and women serving at the boys’ home truly love the children they minister to. As new children enter the home, the staff recognize each child’s individual needs.

“[The children] are already depressed, they are downtrodden,” explained Manik, the project coordinator for the Gospel for Asia-supported boys’ home. “They are not happy, and people despise them in the world outside. If we are not kind to them, if we do not show love to them, they will lose hope . . . and I don’t want that to happen to these children.”

The atmosphere in the boys’ home is that of a big family, with many “uncles,” “aunts” and “brothers” to learn from, play with and cherish. Children who are sullen or dejected when they arrive at the boys’ home soon learn to laugh again through the love shown to them day after day. Jishan quickly recognized this genuine love.

Once, when Jishan experienced trouble with his legs and became weak and tired due to illness, the staff ladies cared for him and served him in many ways. They provided medicine for him and even massaged his weak legs.

“I will never forget the way they have cared and loved me,” Jishan said. “They have served me more than a mother would do to her children.”

Positive Role Models for Life

Jishan, now 16 years old, is a testimony of the love and encouragement the Gospel for Asia-supported staff pour out for the children at this children’s home. Their lives demonstrate gentle yet strong character, and Jishan values their direction and counsel.

“Had that sister not come to the railway station and not met me that day,” Jishan shared, “my life would have totally changed. I would have become very bad and rogue. If I had not met that sister, I would have been into criminal activities, drinking, consuming drugs, maybe stealing, even murdering. Who knows?

“One of the reasons I like the staff here at [the boys’ home],” Jishan continued, “is because even if I do [make a] mistake, they correct me . . . and I don’t feel bad when they scold me because I know that they are trying to correct me. They are trying to teach me what’s right and what’s not right. . . . I know they do it out of love and concern to make my future and my life [better]. I am very grateful and thankful to them.”

Jishan might be miles apart from his biological family, yet he has joy in his heart because of the love showered upon him in Jesus’ name.

Through the kindness and care Jishan received at the Gospel for Asia-supported children’s home, his ambition changed from simply finding some food to fill his stomach to becoming a cricket player and completing his education. What’s more, God’s love has been demonstrated in ways Jishan will remember the rest of his life.

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Christian Solidarity Worlwide

The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.
Psalm 33:18

This week, we’re delighted to share some good news! It’s always a pleasure to be able to share positive developments with you: I hope that you’re as encouraged by this news as we are!

Our first bit of good news is about about Pastor Nadarkhani, who was arrested along with his wife, Tina Pasandide Nadarkhani, and fellow church member Yasser Mosayebzadeh on 13 May during a raid on his home. Two other people, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammadreza Omidi, were also arrested. We’re pleased to report that Pastor Nadarkhani and his wife were released immediately and Yasser Mosayebzadeh and Sahed Fadaie were released after making excessive bail payments.

However, judges had initially refused to accept Mr Omidi’s bail payment, saying that he faced additional charges.  He was eventually released on 7 June and informed he would be “summoned again.”

Staying with Iran, we also have an update on Maryam Naghash Zargaran an Iranian Christian woman who is serving a four-year prison sentence. Maryam has severe health problems that were made worse by her time in prison – we’re relieved to tell you that she’s been released on furlough for treatment.

Finally, we are pleased to report that the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea (COIE) has determined that crimes against humanity have been committed in a “widespread and systematic manner by Eritrean officials since 1991; and is urging a swift international response to bring an end to these violations and to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. Together with our partner Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE), CSW campaigned for the creation of the COIE and the extension of its mandate to include an investigation into crimes against humanity.

We have also been working to bring the human rights violations in Eritrea to the attention of the world for many years, so this verdict is a fantastic answer to prayer!

As usual, you can find your digital edition of this week’s Prayer Diary below.

In summary, please pray:

  • Thanking God for the release of Pastor Nadarkhani and Tina Pandide Nadarkhani and for the conditional release of Yasser Mosayebzadeh, Sahed Fadaie and Mohammadreza Omidi;
  • That the Iranian authorities would drop all charges against Mr Mosayebzadeh,  Mr Fadaie and Mr Omidi;
  • For God’s protection for Mr Omidi as he remains in prison;
  • For Maryam Naghash Zargaran’s health to improve;

Thanking God for the the COIE report of– and praying it would mark the beginning of effective international action to secure justice for victims of crimes against humanity.

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Please join me in praying for all the millions of Christians throughout the world who are suffering great abuse and torture on a daily basis because they have faith and trust in the Lord our God.

Praise be the Lord

With many prayerful blessings

Geoffrey

A Life of Hard Labour: A Pastor’s Sentence

A life of hard labour: A pastor’s sentence

Lim Hyeun-soo, a Korean-Canadian pastor from Toronto, has been sentenced to a life of hard labour for numerous charges – including attempting to overthrow the government and establish a religious state in North Korea.

“Pastors like Lim, who have seen so much of how North Korea treats its prisoners, cannot easily be released,” said an Open Doors field worker. “I don’t see Lim returning home anytime soon.”

Pastor Lim, aged 60, has travelled to North Korea over 100 times to do humanitarian work. Though he was not involved in the country’s underground churches, the harsh sentencing has come after several of months of crackdowns on Christians by the North Korean regime.

“A case like this does outrage the North Korean government,” says the Open Doors field worker. “North Korean believers could be dealt with even more harshly if they are exposed.”

Please Pray:

  • For Pastor Lim and his family, that they will be strengthened and comforted by God, and that Pastor Lim may be freed
  • For tens of thousands of Christians incarcerated in North Korean camps and for the underground church, that they will feel God’s protection and that they will shine like lights to those who do not know Christ
  • That Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean regime will come to know God’s love and power.

Conditions in the camps

Sources in North Korea have confirmed that, in the recent crackdowns, Christians have been murdered and others have been incarcerated in prisons and labour camps. In both detention facilities, people are starved, tortured and the death rate is extremely high.

“I was locked up for years,” said a North Korean refugee. “I will never forget the prisoners who were too weak to continue their work. The guards would pick them up and put them on an automatic belt that threw them in a large oven while the prisoners were still alive.”

Christianity in North Korea

Christianity is seen as a threat to the North Korean regime: they believe Christians spy for the enemy, meet in secret and, at most, only give lip service to the North Korean government. Such disloyalty deserves severe punishment.

Despite this tragic arrest and others, the church has survived almost 70 years of severe persecution. Between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians still secretly profess their faith.

If you receive the Open Doors Magazine, please look out for some inspiring letters written by North Korean pastors in the next mailing.

For more information about Open Doors and the many Christians who are being persecuted in many countries throughout the world please go to:-

http://www.opendoorsuk.org

Please join me  in praying that our Father God blesses mightily all the Christians who are being persecuted for their faith in Him and to give them the strength to endure all the atrocities perpetrated against them.

In Jesus name

Amen

Responding to the Islamic State

RESPONDING TO ‘ISLAMIC STATE’

Even in the face of the fiercest attacks, the church in Syria has continued to stand. Robert, Open Doors co-ordinator for Syria and Iraq, says: “We observe a new development best described as an ‘internally displaced church’. Every now and then we discover complete parishes adrift. Islamic State confiscated their church building, demolished their valuables, and burned their Bibles.

“Despite this, the priest and his deacons continue holding services. Functions are fulfilled and prayers ascend to God. All tangible elements of the church have disappeared, yet the church as the Body of Christ still functions.”

‘WHO WOULD HELP IF THE CHURCH DOESN’T HELP?’

The church is a vital lifeline for thousands of people in Syria. Pastor Samuel says: “If we did not help the suffering families who have no income, how would they survive? Who would help if the church doesn’t help?”

Open Doors is providing food and other essential items to almost 10,000 families – around 50,000 people – every month through local partners like Pastor Samuel. This is only possible thanks to the faithful prayers and generosity of people like you. A gift of £71 today can provide an emergency food parcel to feed a family of five in Syria for a month.

With many thanks for your prayers.

Lisa Pearce
CEO Open Doors UK & Ireland