One aspect of my years in ministry was a period when I was engaged in working with the suffering Church. The nature of that suffering was anything from social and economic exclusion through to imprisonment and martyrdom. Perhaps, given the horrifying recent events across the Middle East, and more especially in Syria and northern Iraq, we can empathise with huge numbers of our Christian family, whose roots reach back into the soil of the New Testament age, being destroyed through brutal persecution.
I have had the privilege of meeting and worshipping alongside such oppressed communities, and never was active faith more alive than when among those for whom their very safety hung by a thread. I, of course, enjoyed the privilege of a UK passport and so was only visiting.
I recently received from a Premier listener a wonderful prayer written by an Iranian Christian who endured solitary confinement for 351 days on account of his Christian faith. In that space he crafted this, his solitary prayer:
My wilderness is painful but lovely, some parts of my wilderness are covered with thorns and hurt my feet, but I love it and that’s why I call it Lovely Pain.
My wilderness is so hot my tears disappear before falling onto the ground, but it is cool under your shadows.
My wilderness is like an endless road but short compared to eternity.
My wilderness is dry but an oasis with the Holy Spirit’s rain.
My wilderness seems to be a lonely trip, but I am not alone, for my Beloved is with me; not only him but my faithful brothers and sisters too. I carry them all in my heart.
My wilderness is dangerous but safe because I dwell between his shoulders.
So I love my wilderness because it takes me to a deeper part of you, Lord, and no one can separate me from your arms forever.
(Dr Micha Jazz)
With many peaceful blessings
Open Doors Reports:-
With the recent fall of the city of Palmyra to Islamic State (IS) militants, Christians in Syria are increasingly fearful. “Christians see fewer reasons to stay in their country because of Islamic State,” says Open Doors worker Roger. “On the other hand they said they find their strength in Him. One of them said: ‘We know that God’s presence is with us’.”
Please join with me and Pray:
- for peace and protection for Christians in Syria
- for a continuing knowledge of God’s presence and unity among believers
- for wisdom and strength for Open Doors workers like Roger, local pastors and others who are working to support the people of Syria
that God will change the hearts of members of IS and draw them to Himself
For further information about Open Doors and persecuted Christians worldwide please visit:-
With many peaceful blessings
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.”
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
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.”
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.
- 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.
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.
With many peaceful blessings