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

Statement on the Murder of the Coptic Christians by IS

I am sure that, like me, you were appalled at the killing of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by IS.

The President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference,  the Revd Ken Howcroft and Ms Gill Dascombe, have issued this statement in response to the murder of 21 Coptic Christians by Islamic State in Libya:

“We deplore the horrific killing of 21 Coptic Christians who had travelled to Libya for work. These people were taken hostage and killed because of their faith as Islamic State and affiliated groups seek to divide communities through the most corrupt and brutal methods imaginable. The majority of IS victims in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere have been Muslim. This demonstrates that we face a battle against a perverted ideology that people of all faiths who value tolerance will want to oppose.

“Our most effective response must be to redouble our efforts to meet with people of all faiths and share with each other those insights that enable us to achieve understanding, overcome difference and celebrate our common values. Today our prayers are for the families and communities affected by this appalling atrocity and for our sisters and brothers in the Coptic Church community who are hurting at this time.”

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Please join with me in praying for the families of the Coptic Christians, killed by IS, as they must be devastated in their collective grief.

God Bless all these grieving families

With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Open Doors Launches 2015 World Wide Watch List

Islamic extremism threatens Middle East Christians

As the Western world reels from the Islamist attacks in Paris this week, our 2015 World Watch List reveals that Islamic extremism has been devastating for Christians around the world in the past year – it’s a major factor for 18 out of the top 20 countries.

The Middle East is a region of particular concern, with Iraq and Syria taking positions 3 and 4 following the rise of Islamic State. Only 300,000 Christians are left in Iraq, down from 1.2 million in 1990. Over 700,000 Christians have left Syria since the conflict broke out in 2011; 200,000 Christians fled the country in 2014 alone.

Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland, visited an Iraqi refugee camp in November, where one desperate mother told her: “I haven’t seen my daughter since IS took her. I cried and shouted at them – what could they want with a three-year-old? She’s just a child.”

‘Defining moment’

Beyond the Middle East, one of the biggest trends is the rise in persecution in countries where it has not historically been an issue – in parts of Asia, Latin America, and especially sub-Saharan Africa.

Even Christian-majority states are experiencing unprecedented levels of exclusion, discrimination and violence; Nigeria has moved up from number 14 to number 10, and Kenya is the highest climbing country on the entire list, at number 19.

“I am convinced that what happens in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa in the next three years will define the future of Christianity as we know it. We can’t afford to sleep-walk through these critical days,” says Lisa.

“The church is experiencing persecution on an unprecedented scale. Time is running out.”

Open Doors is inviting MPs in the United Kingdomto come to the launch of our report on global persecution on 20 January – email your MP to invite them and encourage them to meaningfully engage with the issue of international religious freedom.

Source: http://www.opendoorsuk.org/

 

Please Pray:

  • for comfort for all who suffer at the hands of Islamic extremism, including the thousands of refugees who are suffering through the winter in Syria and Iraq
  • for an end to violence in Nigeria and Kenya, and protection for Christians there
  • for wisdom for the international community as they attempt to tackle Islamic extremism in its various forms, and engage with the issue of religious freedom.

With many thanks for your prayers.

God Bless

Geoffrey

OPEN DOORS is an international ministry serving persecuted Christians and Churches throughout the World.

I have just received their November 2014 magazine and I feel drawn to quoting from the Editorial.

“Christmas is a time to celebrate, meet the family and worship the Lord. It’s a time for meals, decorations and presents.

But for some of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world, none of this is possible. I think of persecuted Christians in the Central African Republic, Iraq and Syria. What can they look forward to when there is no room for them – and no silent night?

Christmas used to be a time of big celebrations in Syria, when Christians would go out and even distribute Christian literature. But that was before the war. It won’t be like that this year. The situation is becoming worse.

It is not safe in Damascus. People don’t sleep at night. Before the war, we had the best Christmas in the world. We had freedom, but now I think no one is in the mood for singing in the streets. In most of the Christian houses there is sadness; many lost relatives”.

Syrian Christian, Hanna, says, “For sure, God is with us, all the days of this war. God hears our prayers, God is good. That doesn’t change during all the shooting and bombing. Around 25% of Syria’s Christians have left the country, but the churches are not empty.

New people are always attending church, interested in the gospel, and comforted by the message.

And the church is making room for them, doing its best to be a place of encouragement, so there will be presents for the children and something extra for those who have lost their homes.”

“Every year of this war, “says Hanna, “we said that things would change and would get better. To be honest, humanly speaking, I see no hope for 2015, but I know that God is there.

He is moving things and He holds the coming year. I trust Him.”

Hanna asks us to keep speaking up for the safety of Christians, to make room for them in our prayers.

“Pray for an end to the bloodshed, for the broken ones, for encouragement. Without prayer we would all be dead by now!”

It’s not easy for us, living in the relative security of a safe environment, to hear such words as we plan our Christmas celebrations. But that is exactly why Jesus came, ‘to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear (Luke 1:74).

Zechariah celebrated because he could see the Lord redeeming His people. He could see hope, rescue, forgiveness and mercy coming to ‘shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace‘ – which is exactly what Hanna, and all our persecuted Christian family, are praying for this Christmas.

Let’s join them – by making room for them within all our hearts.

 

 

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey