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

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 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

Asia Bibbi To Appeal Death Sentence

Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi has been allowed to take her appeal against her death penalty for blasphemy to Pakistan’s Supreme Court in the capital, Islamabad, following a hearing on Wednesday 22 July. Until the Supreme Court reaches its final decision, Asia cannot be executed.

In a statement, the Chairman of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan said: “This order of the Supreme Court has paved the way for her possible complete acquittal.” However, a lawyer who wished to remain anonymous told us: “I think Asia is more at risk than ever. This has paved the way equally to rile up the extremists and create an urgency to destroy her and raise the profile of their cause: the removal of minorities from Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Please Pray with me:

  • For comfort and strength for Asia, her husband Ashiq Masih and their five children
  • For wisdom and protection for Asia’s legal team

For justice for Asia, and for a change to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws so that they can no longer be abused to persecute minorities.

Amen

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Sixty Years of Serving the Persecuted Church

Open Doors is 60 today! Birthdays mean presents – and our free Secret Church pack contains a great film about our origins.

The Cost tells how, on 15 July, 1955, a young man travelled to Communist Warsaw to began a lifetime of support for persecuted Christians. ‘Brother Andrew’, as he became known, later smuggled Bibles into Communist Europe and founded Open Doors.

The Cost tells his story, and also how Open Doors is helping persecuted Christians today. You can watch The Cost now – then share it with your Secret Church!

This is an absolutely wonderful film – I commend it to all of you. This film will change your life – forever!

To view The Cost just go to:-

With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey