IRAQ/SYRIA: Former Fighter Prays for the Islamic State

Islamic State Prayercast

Source: Prayercast, February 2, 2015

Up to 1.2 million people were displaced by the violence in Iraq in 2014 alone. Millions more live in fear. Massacres, beheadings, crucifixions, abductions, and sexual violence are rampant. Islamic State has attempted to eliminate entire Christian communities. As many as eight million people are believed to now live under the partial, or complete, control of IS.

This modern-day nightmare has not only darkened the landscape of Iraq and Syria, but the whole world, with over 11,000 people from abroad joining the ranks of the 30-50,000 Islamic State militants. Teaching an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam, they believe they are the only true believers and see the rest of the world as their enemy. Using violence to get what they want, their goal is the creation of an Islamic caliphate ruled by a single political and religious leader, ruling Muslim communities around the world.

Despite these gruesome realities, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but…against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). This is a spiritual battle against our adversary, the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

We hate the darkness and underlying evil, and we grieve the resulting bloodshed and pain. Yet Jesus still says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). God’s love reaches not only those suffering under this oppression, but it reaches even into the ranks of Islamic State. Just as God transformed Saul into Paul through an encounter with Jesus, so can he transform today’s persecutors into tomorrow’s evangelists.

» Read full story and watch the related Prayercast video.

» See also two inspiring pieces: a video about an Iraqi Christian child extending forgiveness to those who displaced her family (SAT-7) and the story How Libya’s Martyrs Are Witnessing to Egypt (Christianity Today).

USA: Church Filled With Muslims Every Sunday

Source: Godreports, February 25, 2015

Pastor Adrian Rodriguez has been preaching the gospel, translated by his wife, to about 30 people every Sunday in a church on the outskirts of Hartford, Connecticut, and not one of the congregants is Christian.

“We’re dealing with very hardcore Muslims,” he says of the immigrant refugees from the Middle East who are drawn to his church. “They’re very indoctrinated. But God is speaking to their hearts.”

Pastor Adrian’s response to America’s burgeoning Muslim enclaves is perhaps Christianity’s best model: View them with eyes of compassion, not with eyes of suspicion.

» Read full story.

WORLD: Are Refugees the Problem?

Source: various, via Pat Noble

Three of the four gospel writers record that Jesus warned that in the last days, “nation shall rise up against nation.” For many years I assumed this meant political nations going to war as we saw in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Greek word translated nation, though, is the same as is used in the Great Commission of Mathew 28, which says “…go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

While reading headlines for this edition I found many stories about “ethne rising up against ethne.” Take a look:

» Foreign Shop Owner Set Alight in South Africa (Al Jazeera)
» Cracking Down on Illegal Workers (Crossroads Arabia)
» Pakistan: Stop Forced Return of Afghans (Human Rights Watch)
» Two Charts Showing That “Deterring” Migrant Boats Is Failing (IRIN)
» What Would You Do if ISIS Was Approaching and Safety Was Only 70 Miles across the Sea? (The Independent)
» Afghan Refugee on National Geographic Cover Embroiled in ID Row and Vulnerable Families Bear the Brunt of Norway’s Crackdown on Asylum Seekers (The Guardian)

INDIA: Veteran Pastor’s Gentle Answers Turn Away Wrath

Source: Christian Aid Mission, February 19, 2015

Adept at gently answering the hostilities of radical Hindus, threatening Muslims, and suspicious government authorities, a pastor in northern India found himself facing an inflammatory media question last December.

Amid a roiling controversy about religious conversion in India, an interviewer from a Delhi television station asked the pastor and leader of an evangelistic ministry in Uttar Pradesh, whether conversions should be allowed. High-level Hindu nationalists were proposing that conversions be prohibited.

Working in an area where harassment from radical Hindus preempts public evangelistic events and nearly half of the residents are Muslims whose prohibition of leaving Islam sometimes leads to violence, the pastor appeared to be driven into a corner wherein anything he said would pour fuel onto the fires of controversy.

He surprised the journalist by answering that he was not only against forced conversion, but “totally against any religious conversion.”

“Jesus never taught about religious conversion,” Sankar said. “He taught about conversion of the heart, and that we preach.”

The interviewer pressed him, asking him if he converted people.

“I cannot convert people. I teach them from the Bible what we believe, and the law in our country is that everyone is free to preach his or her religion, and everyone is free to change his religion,” he said. “But if you want to talk about that, I share what I believe, and it’s Jesus who converts them. It is Jesus who changes their heart, and if they start coming to my church, it is not my problem. It is his problem. Go and ask him!”

People in India, he said, don’t want to hear about Christ. They already know about him, with many counting him among their hundreds of gods. Rather, they want to see him.

» Read full story.

CYPRUS: Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians Envision Reconciliation

Source: Lausanne Movement, February 12, 2015

Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians met together in Limassol, Cyprus, January 26-30 to discuss, pray, and work towards reconciliation.

The Lausanne Initiative for Reconciliation in Israel/Palestine (LIRIP), an initiative of the Lausanne Movement, hosted the conference. Its vision is “to promote reconciliation within the body of Christ and our wider communities in Israel and Palestine by creating a network that encourages, under the auspices of the Lausanne Movement, models of gospel-based, Christ-centered reconciliation that will have prophetic impact in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Each day the participants studied Through My Enemy’s Eyes: Envisioning Reconciliation in Israel–Palestine, by participants Salim J. Munayer and Lisa Loden.

Richard Harvey, British Messianic Jewish theologian and Co-Chair of LIRIP, said:

“Our discussions were cordial and mutually respectful, but we did not flinch from addressing difficult issues and frankly expressing our disagreements. Salim and Lisa’s book is a most valuable resource for all who are interested in the challenges and possibilities of reconciliation in the region.”

Palestinian Christian Munther Isaac, Co-Chair of LIRIP and Professor at Bethlehem Bible College, added:

“We met each day to pray and read the Scriptures together, sharing our perspectives and recognizing our differences. It is important for our communities to talk to one another openly and in a Christian spirit. Reconciliation in our context is a very challenging and difficult endeavor, but the cross compels us to walk in this path.”

» Read full story.

INDIA: Dreams from God

Source: ActBeyond, February 16, 2015

Two weeks ago Brother “Joshi” was leading his small congregation in Uttar Pradesh. Joshi is a young, part-time farmer, full-time leader and trainer in an ongoing movement in North India, and also pastor of his own congregation which he leads when he is in town.

During the Word discussion time in the worship service, Joshi noticed a man standing outside the door of their small meeting space. He saw the man had a skull-cap on. This man was a Muslim! There are hundreds of Muslims in this village, [but] it’s pretty much unheard of for a Muslim to show interest in a Christian worship service. Muslims in India stay pretty well segregated from both the Hindu majority and from the Christian minority.

Joshi invited the man, “Please come in and join us.” He came and sat on the floor where everyone else was. He listened to them discuss the Word together and then Brother Joshi exhorted the community about generosity and giving. Even the Muslim man participated in the discussion.

After the service, the man shared his story. “Every day for the last three days I’ve dreamt the same dream. I’ve dreamt of your building, this building where the Christians meet. I told my wife about my dream. I told her we should become Christian, but she said we can’t because we are born Muslim. That’s simply what we are. Still, I kept having the dream until finally I knew I needed to come. I feel very good being with you this morning, and I want to become a Christian.”

» Read full story.

» See also When a Veiled Woman Visits Your Church (Mission of God blog).

WORLD: Migrant “Ghost Ships” Abandoned at Sea

Source: 24/7 Prayer, February 17, 2015

In recent months, thousands of people seeking refuge from war-torn Syria, where almost 200,000 people have been killed and millions displaced have been found on large, crewless freighters in the Mediterranean Sea.

Smugglers have found a new, wholesale means of transporting refugees who have fled to Turkey. They buy derelict freighters ready for salvage, pack their holds with refugees at $4,000-$8,000 per head, then set sail in the Mediterranean, pointed toward southern Europe. After the voyage is underway, the crew abandons the ship, leaving the refugees on their own.

Recently, a ship was set on autopilot running full speed across the sea. Fortunately, the vessel ran out of gas. When rescue crews boarded, they discovered 359 illegal migrants on board. Another freighter, with 970 people locked in the rusty hold, was found adrift near Greece.

This perilous form of human trafficking has become a profitable business for organized criminals, who fear getting caught with banned cargo such as drugs or weapons. People smuggling, an international crime, is on the rise.

  • Ask God to provide safety to those seeking refuge, who are willing to risk their lives through this perilous travel.
  • Pray for peace, salvation, and restoration for individuals seeking asylum. May they find shelter in legal, peaceful living conditions.
  • Pray that these smugglers are identified and their criminal activity stopped.
  • Please pray for these asylum seekers to be intercepted, rescued, and restored.

» Read full story.

» See also these stories about refugees stuck in limbo: Western Sahara’s Stranded Refugees Consider Renewal of Morocco Conflict (The Guardian), Conflict-Related Displacement: A Huge Development Challenge for India (IPS News), and No-Man’s Land: the Iraqis Trapped between IS and the Kurds (IRIN News).

PAKISTAN: Son of Imam Follows Christ

Source: Mission Network News, February 5, 2015

The Operation Mobilization Pakistan team shares with people about God in towns and marketplaces, while also distributing literature that talks about how they can have a relationship with God’s Son.

One man took a leaflet. He read it and re-read it, but it did not satisfy him. He wanted to know more about the God who wants a relationship with ordinary people. So he began to search for others who knew this God.

Then he met believers in Jesus. They had a personal relationship with God and seemed to know him the way the man hungered for. It excited him, and his questions poured out.

They began to meet regularly, and soon the man learned a lot about Jesus and salvation. He read the Bible for himself and accepted Jesus as his personal savior and friend. As his faith grew, he made a public step of faith by being baptized as a Christ follower.

However, others in his village were concerned with his new faith. They went to his father and complained that his son had become a believer in Jesus. What was he, an imam—a Muslim religious leader—going to do about it?

“My son is adult and mature; he is accountable to God for his deeds, just as I am accountable to God for my deeds,” replied the father. “If he has become a follower of Jesus, he will have to give an answer to God why he did this. However, I can see he is not stealing things or not doing adultery; he is not doing any wrong thing to create problems for others. He knows what is going on, and his God knows it, too.”

» Read full story.

LIBYA: 21 Egyptian Christians Beheaded

Source: WEA Religious Liberty Prayer News, February 17, 2015

On Sunday [February 15], the Islamic State (IS) released a video allegedly showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by militants pledging support to the IS in Libya.

Subsequent to the video release, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi confirmed that those killed in the video were Egyptian Christians taken hostage in Libya and announced seven days of national mourning.

In response to the killings, Egypt’s military carried out raids early on Monday against IS camps, training sites, and weapons storage areas.

  • Pray for Jesus’ comforting presence over the families grieving the loss of loved ones.
  • Pray for God’s protection over all Christians in Libya and across all the conflict areas in the Middle East.
  • Pray that those perpetrating violence would experience a change in heart, repent, and come to know God.
  • Pray for an end to all bloodshed in the Middle East.

» Read additional stories from this prayer bulletin.

» Editor’s note: Please also pray for the people of El-Aour, the small Egyptian town that was home to 13 of the men killed (NPR) and read a letter from the head of the Bible Society of Egypt. See also Murder of 21 Coptic Christians (Middle East Concern).