Middle East: Gaza War Worries Regional Leaders as Ramadan Approaches

Source: Mission Network News, March 5, 2024

Senior U.S. and Israeli leaders are meeting in Washington this week to discuss the Gaza crisis. The U.S. began humanitarian aid drops this weekend in the latest attempt to alleviate suffering.

Hamas officials have not agreed to a temporary ceasefire that Israel signed off on, so the war rages on, sending ripple effects throughout the region.

“Remember that whatever is happening in Gaza is affecting not only the surrounding countries but also the whole Middle East—Yemen, Dubai, Jordan, Egypt,” Fadi Sharaiha with the MENA Leadership Center says.

“All over the Arab world, people are feeling it.”

The timing of Israel’s potential expansion into Rafah has some Middle Eastern leaders on edge. Ramadan—the Islamic month of fasting—begins the same day Israel vows to begin its assault on Rafah.

Read the full story. Other sources are also reporting uneasiness across the region.

Please take a minute to watch this video from INcontext and pray.

Tanzania: 11 YWAM Missionaries Killed in a Road Accident

Source: Evangelical Focus, February 27, 2024

A Christian ministry lost 11 of its members in a traffic accident in Tanzania (Africa) on Saturday, November 24.

“Leaders and students” taking part of a masters program of YWAM were “on a field trip with other local YWAMers” near the city of Arusha. “One mini-bus was struck and overrun by a large truck with failing brakes,” YWAM Ships Kona said.

“Five injured individuals are still hospitalized and two more people in critical condition to be rallied around in prayer,” an update the day after the incident said.

Other media, citing official sources in the country, confirm that a total of 25 people died: one girl, 10 women, and 14 men. Among the dead were an American, a South African, and a Kenyan. The injured included people from Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Switzerland, the U.K., and Mali.

Local and international leaders of YWAM were trying to respond to the tragedy on the ground with details of repatriation, medical evacuation, family support, and funeral arrangements.

YWAM has opened a link for donations to help pay for expenses that are expected to rise to US$350,000.

Read the full story with prayer points.

In a February 26 letter, YWAM Cofounder Darlene Cunningham said, “We have not seen a tragedy of this magnitude in all of YWAM’s history and we are all devastated.”

Algeria: Ministry Leader Charged for Holding an Unauthorized Assembly

Source: Middle East Concern, March 5, 2024

Pastor Ourahmane is a senior pastor overseeing a number of churches and Bible schools in several areas of [Algeria], in addition to his responsibility as vice president of an association of more than 45 Protestant churches.

In March 2023, he was investigated by the authorities, after a small number of Christian families spent three days during a school holiday in a church compound under his supervision. The compound has a small church, which had been sealed in 2019 by an order from the governor of the province.

Pastor Ourahmane was not informed of the court hearing or the verdict (two years in prison and a fine) until mid-September 2023. He was charged with holding an unauthorized religious assembly (worship) and holding worship in a building not permitted for worship. The charges are based on two articles of the Ordinance to Regulate non-Muslim Worship, enacted in 2006.

On November 19, there was hearing appealing the verdict [but] the sentence was upheld. Pastor Ourahmane has filed a further appeal.

Prosecuting the vice president of the EPA is an escalation of a campaign, started in 2017, to close Protestant churches and harass leaders. Only a handful of churches are still open. Several Christians, especially church leaders, have faced court cases on different charges.

Read the full story.

See also Africa’s Largest Mosque Inaugurated in Algeria After Years of Delays (The Guardian). It features the world’s tallest minaret and its prayer room can accommodate 120,000 people.

Tajikistan: Demand for Exorcisms on the Rise, Despite Crackdown

Source: Radio Free Europe, February 25, 2024

Exorcism is a key source of income for Sabohiddin Shodiev, a popular cleric in his rural community on the outskirts of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Shodiev—not his real name—says that every week he treats about 15 clients who ask him to expel what they believe is an evil spirit, or jinni, possessing them, or to rid them [of] “an evil eye.”

The 53-year-old cleric has been practicing exorcisms—which he learned to do from his father—for more than two decades. Most of Shodiev’s clients come from Dushanbe and nearby districts, but some travel from faraway regions to seek his help.

Three Tajik clerics who spoke to RFE/RL claimed the demand for exorcisms is on the rise in the predominately Muslim country.

There are no official statistics in Tajikistan on exorcisms or the number of people performing the centuries-old practice, which survived decades of religious crackdowns during the atheistic Soviet era and most recently the Tajik government’s attempts to restrict exorcisms.

Some Tajiks see the ongoing efforts by the secular government as a way to keep a tab on “all things religious.” As part of that campaign, Islamic hijabs have been banned in schools and offices, while growing a long or bushy beard is frowned upon for young men.

Read the full story.

(Copyright © 2024 RFE/RL, Inc. Used with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty).

Also from Tajikistan, some there are speaking out about local popstars wearing immodest clothing (Eurasianet).

Video: Understanding the Kingdom of God

Source: Global Frontier Missions

Jesus said, “this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end would come.”

How many of us have a good understanding of what the Kingdom of God is and how we can proclaim that to others? What would it look like not only to share the Good News that Jesus died on the cross for our sins but that “the Kingdom of Heaven is near”?

Take a few minutes to get a better understanding of the Kingdom of God and how to share it with others by watching this whiteboard video.

It’s also part of GFM’s Missions 101 series designed to inspire and activate the global Church in the Great Commission. They’re also used in a free five-week missions Bible study for students. And the videos are available in a growing list of languages. See the playlist. Thanks, GFM!

Another new-ish video you may find helpful: How to Communicate Safely About Your Missionary (Pioneers-USA).

Prayer Guides: Get Ready for Ramadan

Sources: Various

It’s been more than 30 years since the launch of a global effort to invite Christians to pray for the Muslim world during their season of fasting, Ramadan (this year, March 10 to April 8). Maybe you’ve participated in 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World. Why not join in again this year and bring your church, small group, or family along? Consider using one of these resources:

Would you rather focus your prayer and mobilization efforts? Missionaries and ministries all over have set up campaigns focused on the people and places they serve. Pray4Movements.org has put together a list of 100 campaigns that cover Muslim countries, regions, and major cities. Why not pick one of them and sign up for a daily prayer slot? Organizers will send you a reminder email with content specific to that campaign.

Learn more. The video below makes it easy for people to see how it works, and many of the campaigns have versions which easily walk people through the signup process for that campaign.

Menu: Feast Your Way across the Muslim World

One more thing. You may know the month is noted for feasting as well as fasting, since good food always shows up when the sun goes down. A few years ago, our friend Shane Bennett threw down a tasty challenge to try.

“My family plans to make and enjoy a special meal once a week during [Ramadan]. Each meal will represent a significant Muslim population and we’ll remember them in prayer.”

Ask a Muslim friend for tips (and a possible dinner invite), see what Google can tell you, or just download this ready-made, four-meal menu for the Muslim world. You might also appreciate Shane’s article with 4 things every Christian should know about Ramadan.

Music: 10 Worship Songs for Your Family’s Playlist

Source: Via Families

God is worthy of our worship! He desires the worship of our families, our churches, and the nations. We sing of God’s might, holiness, justice, and love, but how often do we sing about his heart for the nations? Let’s give God the praise he deserves as he fulfills his mission to be known and worshiped by people from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

We invite you to listen to, learn and sing these 10 worship songs with your family. The lyrics speak of God’s love for the whole world, his worthiness to receive praise from all peoples, and the hope he brings to all nations. Check out the full playlist on YouTube.

See if your favorites made the list and get five tips on using worship songs with your family.

Events: Missions Conferences and More in March

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

March 4 to July 7, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online). New online classes begin regularly.

March 5-7, Standards of Excellence introductory workshop (online). Provided regularly to help short-term mission leaders and mobilizers make their mission trips better. Also offered May 7-9.

March 10, Virtual Prayer Gathering: Call to Prayer (online). Join others to engage the Muslim world through prayer on the second Sunday of each month. This month, hear a testimony from Saudi Arabia.

March 10 to April 8, 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World (global). An annual global prayer event coinciding with the observation of the Ramadan fast.

March 11, Coast to Coast: Covering Ramadan in Prayer (online). Join Frontiers in covering the Muslim world in prayer during this four-hour event.

March 11 to April 6, COMPASS (Palmer Lake, CO, USA). Language and culture acquisition provided by Missionary Training International.

March 12 to May 14, Frontier Filmmaking Seminar (online). Learn to make cross-cultural evangelistic films with Create International.

March 18-22, Storytelling Training (online). Get hands-on experience with oral Bible storytelling with five three-hour sessions provided by Story Runners.

March 19, Contend: Monthly Day of Prayer For Mission Mobilization (global). Coordinated by GMMI. Held on the third Tuesday of each month.

March 21, Digital Storytelling: How to Build an Effective and Engaging Story Site (online) Peer2Peer webinar for marketing and communication staff from Missio Nexus.

March 25-26, Support Raising Bootcamp (Orlando, FL, USA). Provided by Via, formerly Support Raising Solutions. More classes held around the world throughout the year.

March 28, A Journey toward Polycentric Missions Leadership (online). A webinar from Missio Nexus.

View the complete calendar, updated regularly. Submissions welcome.