We are not supposed to be here today. At least that is what Harold Camping, an 89-year old radio preacher, had told the world. Camping had predicted the end of the world would commence on Saturday, May 21, 2011 with the return of Christ to earth and the rapture of Christians to heaven. He had originally predicted the apocalypse to take place in 1994, but when that day came and went, Camping claimed he had miscalculated and readjusted his prediction to 2011. But Saturday came and went, and no Christians were reported missing.
To most, Christians and non-Christians alike, the entire situation turned out to be nothing more than a passing comment, snide remark, or simple joke. To the majority of Camping’s followers, it was a disappointing and devastating let-down – especially to those who had given away their life savings, had said their final goodbyes, and who expectedly awaited a life free of worries and hurt. But even for them, life goes on.
That is how Camping will likely be remembered – as a cult leader with two failed and false prophesies. A man who led thousands astray. But most of the world will not remember him as a man who contributed to the deaths of Vietnamese Hmong.
Peaceful Gathering of 10,000 Hmong Incites Attacks from Police
For the past month, reports have been pouring out of Vietnam that an unknown number of Hmong Christians have been killed, attacked, or arrested by military forces. The Vietnamese government has closed off outside access to the Muong Nhe District in Dien Bien, where an estimated 10,000 Hmong Christians from the Central Highlands and Dien Bien have been congregating since late April. Insiders who are able to leak information past government forces and media controls have reported that as many as 70 Hmong have been killed so far, though exact numbers cannot be confirmed. These Hmong have also been brutally attacked and arrested by the Vietnamese government, while most are fleeing into hiding to spare their lives. Meanwhile the outside world is unable to send in help.
But why did this even take place? What led 10,000 Hmong Christians to come together in peace yet face such a brutal and violent end? Answer: Harold Camping. Worldwide media have reported on the gathering of Hmong in this region, and ICC sources have confirmed the underlying premise of these gatherings to be primarily due to Mr. Camping’s influence.
Mr. Camping’s prophesies had reached as far as the small and poor mountain villages of the Hmong in Vietnam, and his false teachings had sparked a flame of hope of a better life free of persecution for their faith and poverty for their ethnicity. The Hmong are one of the poorest and most persecuted people groups within Vietnam. The government does not even allow them to have a Bible translated into their native tongue, as most Hmong do not read Vietnamese – thus leaving them in the dark on matters of faith and susceptible to false teachers and doctrine.
They congregated because they believed that the world was coming to an end and that their long-awaited Messiah was coming for them. As they waited, the Vietnamese government grew anxious of such a large congregation of citizens coming together – citizens who they systematically deny their inherent human rights to religious freedom, and to economic and social equality. Murmurs of protests and the birthing of a political separatist movement within the congregated Hmong led the government to quickly take violent action on May 5.
Today, thousands of people are displaced and fearing for their lives, and numerous men, women, and children have been murdered.
We cannot allow the persecution of Hmong Christians to go on. The Vietnamese government must recognize the growing spread of Christianity among the Hmong, allow the printing of the Hmong Bible and other Christian education materials, and allow Christian denominations to provide sound theological education and leadership training to Hmong communities. The world cannot sit idly by as such persecution takes place. Sadly enough, Harold Camping will likely not be the last false prophet to lead astray those who will desperately cling to any small promise of hope because of the horrific reality they face each day in the here and now.
This has been a historical year for Egypt where a 30-year dictator has been overthrown and its citizens are seeking to create a new government and identity. Amidst this turbulent change, Coptic Christians are facing increasing persecution and attacks. We are continually receiving reports of Christians being killed and attacked, of churches being burned down, and of communities fearing for their safety. The blood of innumerable Christians is soaking Egyptian soil.
The Egyptian government is not responding. Currently Egypt is being controlled by an interim government, set to be dismantled by parliamentary and presidential elections this coming September. Most experts agree that these elections will instate a government controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, who has historically persecuted those outside of the Islamic faith, particularly Christians.
We have an unprecedented opportunity to pressure the Egyptian government to change its laws regarding religious freedom, before a more permanent governing force rules out all opportunities for lasting change.
ICC is petitioning the interim government to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of Coptic Christians, and to repeal current laws that stifle religious freedom for all Egyptians.
Please join ICC in demanding legislative reform in Egypt in the coming months. Follow the instructions below and have your signatures back to us by July 11th.
Here’s How You Can Help
#1 Pray: The first thing you can do to help is stop right now and ask the Lord in the government structures of Egypt and in the lives of Coptic Christians who are being persecuted.
#2 Next, review our petition.
#3 Electronically sign the petition.
#4 Print out the petition and take it to your friends and church and have everyone you know sign it. Send the signatures back to us so we can compile the responses.
Feel free to print out extra signature pages for large numbers of sign ups. When you have collected all your signatures, please mail the signature pages to:
PO Box 8056
Silver Spring, MD 20907
or fax them to us at (301) 585-5918.
Please get them back to us by July 11th.
Sincerely in Christ,
International Christian Concern
P.O. Box 8056
Silver Spring, MD 20907
Phone: (800) ICC-5441
Fax: (301) 585-5918
A Christian couple, Eunice and Owen Johns, made headlines in UK, showing how Christians are becoming increasingly marginalized in that part of the world. The couple applied to be foster parents for children between the ages of five and ten, but their application required them to sign a document which would force them to promote homosexuality, which they refused to sign. This is only one example of the kind of discrimination that Christians in the UK are facing.
Andrea Minichiello Williams is at the forefront of the fight for the rights of Christians in the UK, advocating on behalf of discriminated Christians. She is the director of Christian Concern for our Nation and the Christian Legal Centre—organizations that work on behalf of Christians, defending their values.
In the following interview with ICC, Andrea shows how Christians are facing discrimination in the UK, and how they may face greater persecution in the years to come:
As a lawyer Andrea has encountered several cases of persecution against Christians. She tells us of some examples:
I am representing people currently losing their jobs as a result of standing for Jesus. Some people are being arrested for preaching on the street, for preaching with regard to homosexuality. We have dealt with those cases too. Some parents have been arrested for corporal punishment for chastisement in their homes. If this is not going to be reversed, at some point people will be put in jails, or probably even worse. We don’t know what is going to happen with the concerted rise of Islam in this country and whether or not Christians will actually be persecuted.
She calls for people to wake up before it is too late. But she also sees how the Lord will use persecution to purify his church:
In some ways, the church is a bit lukewarm in our nation, which is sad. I never wish it but at least if the church is persecuted, the church would wake up. We are still asleep in United Kingdom. People are not noticing the persecution. It is not persecution like Nigeria [with killing of Christians], but it is the beginning of it. The sort of people who stand today against anti-Christian laws are the people who will stand tomorrow.
So what motivates her to continue to speak on behalf of Christians in UK? She says:
We have great and beautiful heritage. We have a nation that flourished under God. Our system, our nation, and part of being British itself is really about being Christian. Christianity is where we find our true identity, but we have abandoned that. Jesus Christ and His values are not only good for me and for you but also they are good for the community. They are good news for towns; they are good news for cities; they are good news for our nation. Why would we let go of that?
What can the church in the US learn from the state of the church in the UK, and act accordingly? Her answer was:
Firstly, the church must love Jesus and speak clearly of His ways, speak clearly of His precepts, and not flinch but have courage. Secondly, it doesn’t take long to dismantle a culture. Religious freedom for Christians was dismantled in the UK during the Blair/Brown administration (1997-2007), so ten years was all it took. The human rights language & the equality language are used in order to create a politically correct ideology—secular liberal humanism—which then cut out Christianity.
When we think of persecution, we don’t usually think of the UK or Europe. But this interview with Andrea shows us the challenges that our brothers and sisters are facing in the UK. It is time for the body of Christ in the United States to pray for and to support their brothers and sisters in the UK and all of Europe.
Every year, our ministry puts together a report on the top persecutors of Christians around the world. While North Korea always tops the list, almost every other country (with a few exceptions) is Muslim-dominated. If you delve further into the report, you’ll discover that the Muslims in these countries also commit some of the most horrendous acts of violence against Christians. While this can be a frightening reality, as believers we cannot allow fear or hatred to enter our hearts. So how can we guard our hearts?
ICC’s president recently posed this question to one of our partners in the Middle East who is a former Muslim and a leading figure in reaching out to the underground church in Iran via Satellite TV. He re-directed the question perfectly, telling us that when he became a Christian he asked, “God, what is Your heart?”
Ultimately, it is only the grace of God and being able to see people through His eyes that will enable us to put away our human instincts to fear and hate what we don’t understand.
The Father has clearly shared His heart for Muslims with our brother over the years, giving him a passion for and a perspective of the Muslim people that we think is invaluable. Below, we’ve pulled some excerpts from our interview to help us answer this important question.
Getting God’s Perspective
“God’s heart is that all should be saved. We’re talking about 1.5 billion people that Jesus loves. … When you look at the news, it’s very easy to think that Muslims are all evil. But I’m telling you that even some of those who die as suicide bombers are sincerely searching for God. They want to reach the unknowable God. They desire so much to know God that they think that if they die in jihad, at least then they will be with Him. In Islam, there’s no assurance of salvation aside from giving your life.”
“I’ve been in that place. It is like bondage. How would you feel if you saw people being bound as slaves in chains? How would you feel if you saw the slave master beating people who wanted to step out of that chain, but knew if they did, they would be killed? Many Muslims want to escape Islam, but they fear death. … It is by fear and by lies that our enemy, which is Satan, has billions of these precious souls in bondage. He is beating them, controlling them, and sending them to die.”
“This is what most people don’t know. There are millions of Muslims crying out to God like slaves in Egypt. They’re crying, “We want to know You, but we are in bondage. …We were born into this religion and there’s no way we can get rid of it without losing our life.”
“Jesus came to set the captives free. We have to see Muslims as captives, have compassion for them, and believe they are precious in His eyes. What I pray is that Christians will not fear or hate, but have compassion. The greatest power against Islam is our love. That’s why our broadcasts are powerful. The love that they share breaks through the lies of the enemy and the power of fear.”
Following the election of Christian candidate Jonathan Goodluck in the Nigerian presidential election, Muslim mobs carried out simultaneous attacks against Christian minorities in most of the northern Nigerian states. While impartial observers have called this election the fairest in decades, the attackers alleged that the election was rigged and that General Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim presidential candidate, was the rightful winner.
Though Nigerian authorities quickly organized mass burials of the victims in order to hide the details of the massacre, our sources estimate that hundreds of Christians were slaughtered. One of our sources travelled to the towns of Zonkwa and Kafanchan in Kaduna, where more than 300 people, mostly Christians, were massacred.
Muslims were also among the dead as the militants killed fellow Muslims who had voted for President Goodluck, and Christians in some areas killed Muslims in defense of their lives and families.
The Muslim attackers also burned down 308 churches (see one such church below) and several Christian homes.
Christian leaders in northern Nigeria are calling for a full investigation of the violence. ICC is also calling for a full investigation and urging the Nigerian government to bring all the perpetrators of the killings to justice. Hiding the facts will only worsen the situation. The truth has to be told and the impunity must end.
Below is a map of northern Nigeria in which we’ve indicated the states in which Christians were killed in these attacks with a red cross. The violence also extended to Borno, Niger, and Yobe, where a total of 50 churches were burned, but no deaths were reported.The states under Sharia law are indicated by the Islamic crescent.
“It’s not everybody who gets to be called a martyr’s wife,” Pauline Ayyad told ICC on a solemn afternoon after much reflection. “That’s a great honor.”
Pauline’s husband, Rami worked for the Palestinian Bible Society and ran a Christian bookshop in Gaza. While Rami was locking up his shop after a normal day of work one afternoon in October 2007, a vehicle pulled alongside him, and several men forced him in the backseat. Rami, remaining calm and trusting in the Lord, was allowed to call his wife. “I’m going with some young men somewhere, but I’ll be home soon,” he tried to reassure her. That was the last time Pauline would hear her husband’s voice.
Hours later, Rami’s body was found. He had been brutally tortured and shot twice, a bullet in the chest, and one in the head. “We don’t know the scenarios that took place with him or what they had done to him, but we believe there was an attempt to force him into something that he didn’t want to be, maybe into the religion of Islam,” the head of the Palestinian Bible Society told ICC. “He’s a martyr for Christ.”
I was moved deeply after contemplating Pauline’s words that it’s a ‘great honor’ to be the wife of a martyr. That statement did not come easy, but carried great wisdom and could only be said after Pauline had fully come to grips with her husband’s murder by forgiving his persecutors and surrendering the burden of his death completely to Christ. Her loss great and her suffering severe, Pauline was forced to embrace a cross unfamiliar to those of us who have never experienced a close family member paying the ultimate price for their faith – martyrdom.
The Road to Forgiveness
“I was so broken after the death of my husband, and I hated the people who did it,” Pauline said. “Why did this happen to Rami? Why would God allow it?” Pauline began working at the only job she was able to receive employment. It was part-time and paid little, but provided health care for her family. Still, Pauline was not able to earn enough to care for her children. Bitterness consumed her, and she felt lonely, lost and helpless.
But slowly Pauline became attentive to God’s purpose and realized that there was nothing she could have done, but that her husband’s death had been God’s plan all along. “God wanted Rami home,” she said. “He didn’t want anybody to interfere. God wanted Rami to be with Him that day and called him home. That was the bottom line. It was then that the Lord poured over me forgiveness for those who killed Rami and those who I used to blame.”
“After that, I totally became a new person, a positive person full of forgiveness. It was a gradual process where Jesus had to touch my heart and heal me. Now, even in my weak moments, the Lord closes the door and removes my doubts. ‘That’s it,’ He says. ‘You are forgiven and you have forgiven.’ After that, I started thanking the Lord for the cross that he gave me. I started feeling that His yoke is light, and God gave me the strength to carry it.”
“It was like a divine healing,” said a close friend of Pauline’s. “The Lord touched her heart so she was able to forgive, and after that, to live. Her life turned 180 degrees after she released those people.”
Rebuilding Her Life
Having been “tested in the furnace of affliction,” (Isaiah 48:10) Pauline victoriously overcame great loss and hardships by obeying and trusting in Christ. She now finds joy and purpose by fulfilling God’s plan for her husband’s life as a living testimony of God building His kingdom through the blood of the martyrs. Unlike her husband, Pauline realized that her greatest impact in this life would not have come as a martyr, but by exemplifying Christ as a martyr’s wife.
Please remember Pauline and her children in prayer. Pauline still tackles the challenges of being a single mother in a Muslim male dominated society. Three years after her husband’s murder, Pauline has been unable to find employment that fully supports her family. ICC is developing a small business that will provide a sustainable livelihood for Pauline and her family. Please consider partnering with us by donating* to this business and blessing this great woman of faith.
*please include Pauline’s name in the donation form note.
Coptic Christians were the first Egyptians to organize protests in 2011 when thousands took part in demonstrations following the Alexandria church bombing on New Year’s Eve that killed twenty-four worshippers. Some believe that the boldness of the Coptic protests helped ignite the fervor of the revolution. “This was the most powerful protest that Christian Copts ever held in recent history,” said Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activist. “It went three days and inspired the 25th youth movement. We wanted to end a life under dictatorship, and we were not alone in our aspirations.”
Coptic frustration was again triggered just days after the early-January demonstrations when Mubarak publicly blamed the Army of Islam, an Al-Qaeda linked Palestinian network, for the church bombing. Copts believed that the attack was carried out by Egyptians and that Mubarak’s accusation was to avoid addressing internal Islamic terrorism targeting Christians.
Mubarak’s disregard was nothing new for Copts who had experienced considerable persecution in 2010. Murders were accompanied by anti-Christian propaganda in Egyptian media, acquittals of Muslim offenders who initiated anti-Christian attacks, the inability of Christians to build churches without special government authorization, and the lack of basic freedoms for Christian converts from Islam. Marginalized by the government, Christians are left helplessly exposed. It came as no surprise that Christian frustrations boiled over in January.
“We have suffered a lot as Christians,” said Yacoub. “We’ve seen churches being bombed, innocent people being killed, girls being kidnapped, and the increase of Islamism. We want to get rid of the dictatorship that we have been living under for over thirty years.”
“As Christians, we need to support the approach of a democratic secular state,” said Magdi Khalil, Director of the Middle East Freedom Forum. “This means equal rights… it means religious freedom. We want Mubarak to leave immediately to begin a secular constitution that will protect our freedoms.”
While Christians hope for greater freedom, there is a palpable fear that demonstrations will lead to a power vacuum and possible takeover by the only organized and financed opposition: the Muslim Brotherhood. When we asked Wagih Yacoub if he would regret participating in the revolution if it leads to a Muslim Brotherhood takeover, he thought carefully. “I don’t know. Some Christians would. I don’t think I will personally because all I can do is hope for a better future for my country. I would die for it. And I think there are a lot of Christians who would die for this cause as well. I keep praying that they will not come to power. If the Brotherhood took over power, it would turn Egypt into the Taliban. It would be another Afghanistan. We would go backwards 1,400 years.”
“If the Muslim Brotherhood were to take over, it would not only be dangerous for the Christians in Egypt, but for the whole world,” said Magdi Khalil. “It means the entire Middle East will be an Islamic Middle East. Egypt is the key state (in the Middle East). We must support the secular approach and rewrite the constitution to be a secular constitution.”
While the demonstrations began as a youth movement, we predict the Muslim Brotherhood will hijack the revolution and call it their own. Idealistic in nature, revolutions often showcase the law of unintended consequences. Yet many Christians believe that now – and only now – is their chance at a better life. For Christians to let this opportunity slip away may mean giving up their only hope for religious freedom.
“We are seeking freedom, we are seeking democracy,” said Wagih Yacoub. “No one can live without freedom. Freedom is life.”
On November 24th, Egyptian security was dispatched to halt the construction of a church that was building without having the proper permits. The police opened fire on Coptic protesters with live ammunition and hailed bricks on the crowd from a bridge. Four Copts were reported killed and more than a hundred were arrested, including minors.
Most of those arrested were the caretakers of their family. With them in prison, wives and children were left without an income. In early December, an ICC representative in Cairo, in partnership with the local church, distributed blankets and food to the neediest families. Within a month, most of those arrested were released, but the temporary provisions helped to sustain the families until that time.