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

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

Please Pray For Pastor Tomaza in Cuba

Pastor Tomaza Victoria Ayala Zellero and her family were evicted from their home on the 22nd May 2009.
 
She is part of the Apostolic Movement and pastors an Apostolic Church in Central Elia, Las Tunas province, Cuba.
 
They were originally told that the house, which also served as their Church, would be confiscated in July 2008, despite the fact that Tomaza and her husband, Jorge, had lived there for almost 30 years and were the legal owners.
 
When they were evicted the authorities gave them documents prohibiting Tomaza from holding any religious services and the police chief threatened to imprison her for ‘dangerousness’.
 
Finally, the authorities also forcibly closed their carpentry shop, leaving the family homeless and depriving them of an income.
 
Please pray for Tomaza and her family, that God gives them the strength to endure all the hardships from which they are presently suffering.
 
I know that they would welcome all your letters and support to show that many people are thinking of them – and praying for them.
 
Tomaza’s address is:-
 
Pastor Tomaza Victoria Ayala Zellero
Iglesia Apostolica
Cooperative Agricultural Leningrado
Victoria de las Tunas
Cuba
With many peaceful blessings
Geoffrey

Please Pray For Egyptian Christians

Elections began yesterday

Christians in Egypt are asking for prayer for the nation’s parliamentary elections, a process that will begin tomorrow, 17 October, and last for some weeks. It is due to be Egypt’s final transition from military rule.

The years since the Arab Spring in 2011 have not been easy for Christians in Egypt. One believer, Yusuf*, says: “For reasons unknown to us, God allowed the Muslim Brotherhood and all their affiliated Islamic radical groups to take over the country… For Christians and moderate Muslims, fear of the state was replaced with fear of radical Muslims.”

Although stability in Egypt has been restored considerably since the early days of the Arab Spring, there are concerns that extremists may wish to disrupt the elections. Please join our Egyptian brothers and sisters in prayer for their nation.

Please Pray:

  • For a peaceful election process, and that any planned attacks would be thwarted
  • That those in small villages and towns will not be prevented from voting by extremists – this has been a problem in previous elections
  • For the small number of Christians who are standing in the elections, that God would be glorified through them
  • For a parliament to be elected that will be a true reflection of Egyptian society.

Pressure refines Egyptian church

The increased pressure on Christians in recent years has caused many to leave. Yusuf says: “The accelerating pressure on the church and individual Christians was hard for many Christians to take and this resulted in a significant wave of emigration of Christians.”

This pressure continues, as demonstrated by the raid on the offices of SAT-7, the Arabic Christian TV channel, on 10 October.

However, Yusuf believes God has used the situation in Egypt for good. “While many left what seemed a sinking ship, others came together. The increasing pressure on the church ignited a spirit of prayer and unity among Christians from different denominations.”

Your support changing lives

Thanks to the prayers and support of brothers and sisters like you, Open Doors works through local partners to provide vocational training, literacy programmes, discipleship training and Bible distribution, amongst other projects. Sonia took part in an Open Doors-sponsored literacy programme, and now she teaches others: “I can help others become empowered to change their lives as I did,” she says.

Many thanks for your continued prayers

Lisa Pearce
CEO Open Doors UK and Ireland

http://www.opendoorsuk.org

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Tin Sheets Help Teen Go To Church

Sunlight filtered through a hole in the ceiling onto the back of a teenaged boy who had too many chores to do. The boy, Digvastra, longed to be at church, joining the saints for Sunday worship, but his father had given him a long list of chores to complete by sunset.

Digvastra’s father, Hemendu, had decided he could stamp out his son’s new faith by preventing him from going to church.

Tin Sheets Help Teen Go to Church

Hemendu gave his son a long list of chores each Sunday to stop him from going to church, hoping to snuff out the flame of faith growing in Digvastra’s heart.

Son’s New Faith Provokes Father’s Anger—and Eventual Curiosity

When Digvastra had put his trust in Jesus and had started going to the local church meetings, Hemendu became furious. He chided Digvastra, telling him not to go out on Sunday mornings, but Digvastra would sneak out. Then Hemendu decided to start giving Digvastra a long list of chores each Sunday morning to stop his son from attending church. Digvastra, still a teenager, honoured his father by doing as he was told.

Chandira and Yahvi, two Gospel for Asia-supported women missionaries who had shared Christ’s love with Digvastra, befriended Digvastra’s family and had opportunities to tell Hemendu about Jesus. Gradually, Hemendu’s heart grew curious about the new faith, but he was not yet willing to risk the scorn his neighbours and relatives would heap on him for believing in Jesus.

Hemendu gave his son a long list of chores each Sunday to stop him from going to church, hoping to snuff out the flame of faith growing in Digvastra’s heart.

Tin Sheets Help Teen Go to Church

Two women missionaries, Chandira and Yahvi, shared with Hemendu about Christ. He became curious, but he still wasn’t ready to believe in Jesus.

Prayer Answered Through Practical Gift

Digvastra kept praying to God to speak to his father, and Chandira and Yahvi prayed about a way to bless Digvastra’s family and show Christ’s love to them. The two missionaries felt the Lord was leading them to give the family a gift in their next Christmas gift distribution, but there was one problem: They didn’t know what to give them.

Then, one day, Digvastra shared a prayer request with Yahvi and Chandira. He explained that the roof of his family’s house had a hole and needed a major repair. Digvastra knew his family desperately needed financial provision to fix the leaky roof.

Amazed by and grateful for God’s clear direction, Yahvi and Chandira knew what to do. They put in a request to their leaders, and when the day of the Christmas gift distribution came, they were able to give Digvastra some tin roofing sheets!

Two women missionaries, Chandira and Yahvi, shared with Hemendu about Christ. He became curious, but he still wasn’t ready to believe in Jesus.

Tin Sheets Help Teen Go to Church

Digvastra asked Chandira and Yahvi to pray that his family’s roof would get repaired. Soon, the young man received tin roof sheets through the Christmas gift distribution program!

Gift Overwhelms Son and Father Alike

Overcome by God’s love and goodness, Digvastra could find no words to express his gratitude for the gift that his family had desperately needed.

That night, Digvastra told his father, “The Lord has been helping us in so many ways and has not only known our needs but has provided us with our needs. How can you still harden your heart? … The Lord is good to us. He has changed my life.”

“God is good to us, and I know that, but it is hard for me. … I need time,” Hemendu replied.

Even though Hemendu still wasn’t ready to put his trust in Jesus, the gift—a gift that would protect his family from inclement weather for years—impacted him. He was grateful to God for knowing his family’s needs and using the Church to meet those needs. Hemendu’s attitude toward Jesus and His followers completely changed. Instead of opposing his son’s faith, Hemendu became supportive. Digvastra can now spend his Sunday mornings worshipping with the local congregation instead of doing chores.

“I am thankful to you for teaching and showing the right path to my son,” Hemendu told Yahvi and Chandira one day. “I can see that his life is transformed, and I am happy as a father to know that my son has chosen the right thing.”

For more information about Gospel for Asia please go to:-

http://www.gfauk.org/

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey