Imagine having your wife or mother arrested in the middle of the night, never to be heard from again. Her crime? Leading an underground prayer gathering in her home. You fear for her life, praying that she has the strength to endure the likely torture that her captors are inflicting upon her.
People are tortured every day across our world for their faith in Christ – they face horrendous physical tortures that I can’t even begin to comprehend how they survive. I know that Christ gives them the necessary strength to survive the pain they experience, but also the necessary faith to remain strong in their steadfast hope in the One they are suffering on behalf of.
But there is another form of torture we have to consider – the psychological and emotional trauma that those who are not imprisoned and attacked by their enemies experience for the sake of those they have lost. Such is the case of the family and friends of Puih H’Bat – a Degar woman from the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
The Degar, or Montagnards, are an indigenous group that have been brutally colonized by the Vietnamese for decades and have been systematically denied their inherent rights and freedoms. Most Degar are Christians who seek to worship Christ free of the controls of communist-sanctioned churches. They believe that being a part of a government-controlled church is not an option for followers of Christ, so they continue to live out their lives of faithfulness quietly and subversively.
Puih was arrested for such a crime. In 2008, the then-41-year-old mother of four was leading a group of 20 Christians in a prayer meeting in her home. Four Vietnamese security police burst into her home and demanded that all those present sign a document agreeing to follow the government-sanctioned evangelical church, threatening arrest and imprisonment to those who refused. Despite the threats, all the Christians that night refused to sign the document.
The following day, police stormed back into Puih’s home and forcefully arrested her along with two other believers, Ksor Sim and Rahlan Don. They were taken to the local prison, where after torture and continual threats, Ksor Sim and Rahlan Don were released after signing the document.
However, since April 11, 2008, no one has heard from Puih. She was officially sentenced to a five-year sentence for “destruction of the unity of the people’s solidarity.” Her family and friends now live under the torture that the Vietnamese government continually submits them to – the torture of never knowing whether Puih continues to live out her days in Vietnam’s brutal jails, not knowing whether release will truly come in 2013, or whether she has been murdered by a regime that purposefully seeks to stomp out underground Christian movements on false accusations of their political undermining of the current regime. Most Degar fear that Puih has perished in Vietnam’s harsh prison system.
After three years, Puih’s fate remains a mystery. Her family and friends live daily with the torture of the unknown. For the sake of Puih H’Bat, her children, and her husband, we must not let her story be forgotten. We must pray that God opens the hearts of her captors and allows information of her survival, or unfortunate death, to be communicated. We cannot allow them to continue suffering under this torture of the unknown.
Advocacy Officer and Regional Manager of Southeast Asia
Have you noticed how divided people are about the issue of Islam? Some people speak of the struggle between Christians and Jews on one side, and Muslims on the other as a “war of civilizations.” Critics of Islam point to September 11 and other acts of terrorism to say that Islam is violent, while Muslims and their defenders call Islam a “religion of peace.”
Over the past eight years as the president of ICC, I have had the opportunity to study Islam on a theoretical and historical level (understanding Muhammad, the Quran, and Hadith), as well as on a practical level (dealing with the victims of radical Islam). I wanted to give people the same insights into Islam that I’ve received in my role as president of an organization that deals daily with its consequences.
As I set out to write my book, I came to the humbling realization that, in the end, it didn’t matter what I had say. The issue has become so politicized and polarized that readers that are aligned with me in terms of politics, religion, or worldview would accept my views, while those on the other side of the fence would reject my views, seeing them as being hopelessly biased from whatever factors make me different from them.
It was at that point that I set out to create a book about Islam that didn’t exist. I would interview a broad cross spectrum of experts on Islam that reflected our fractured and discordant culture: leftists, right wingers, atheists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, feminists, etc. I would interview experts from all ends of the spectrum(s) to discuss Islam and discover any common threads of truth.
I started by interviewing a radical Islamist that is known for his candor. From there, I interviewed a popular, established author and critic of Islam. I went on to interview four ex-Muslims whose views span the political spectrum; two are atheists and two are converts to Christianity. One of them was the son of one of the founders of the terrorist group Hamas. I then interviewed two Muslim reformers, a historian who grew up as a Muslim, an expert on Islam and Western culture, an expert on dhimmitude (Islam’s laws on dealing with sub-cultures within Islamic nations), and finally an ex-director of the CIA.
Though I’m certain war would break out of if these experts were ever locked in a room together and told to define Islam, the aspects of Islam on which they agree are stunning. Out of their incredible diversity of worldview, political orientation, and views about religion, what you find in common among all these disparate voices is extraordinary.
What I have found is that Western governments and media consistently fail to tell the truth about Islam. They censor information so as not to offend or upset you. After reading this book, you will understand Islam as you never have before. Obviously, I won’t give away the lessons you will learn, and ultimately they are yours to discern, but I will simply remind you that title of this book is Islam: Uncensored.
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Among Egypt’s most impoverished people are Coptic Christians living in the garbage districts of Cairo. Entire families live off less than $2.00 a day which is earned by collecting recyclables from the city’s refuse. Most disturbing of all is that the cycle of poverty has been near impossible to break. The craft of trash sifting, which has been passed down from generation to generation, is the only ‘skill’ these communities know. Any bid to help these families establish an alternative business – which ICC proposed – is quickly rejected. Though poor, these families stick to what they know, afraid that a new vocation might leave them penniless.
Sadly, this attitude is passed onto their children. Kids as young as five are encouraged to begin collecting trash to contribute to the family’s income. Being the case, the child’s education is often overlooked or ignored. Without it, a child’s opportunity for a better life vanishes and the cycle of poverty continues. Click here to learn more about education in the garbage slums of Cairo.
ICC recently visited nine families whose loved ones were killed in a March 8th attack on Coptic protestors in the garbage district of Mokattam. When approaching their homes, the mothers, wives and children of the young men killed sat among heaps of trash; their hands and feet covered in the gunk of rotting food, their shirts stained by putrid waste. These families were still in mourning two months after the death of their household’s primary caretaker. Now, they must work twice as hard to buy food and pay rent. The prospect of sending their children to school has faded. Every hand is needed if the bills are to be paid.
I found the wife, mother and daughter (right) of Mihani Ezzad Farouk, a Coptic Christian killed in the protests, digging through a heap of trash (pictured below) to find recyclable plastics. When extending my hand to shake theirs, it was met by the slimy leftovers of someone’s decomposing dinner that was thrown out a week before. Their hands were stained and calloused. Their feet were black from dirt and filth.
My heart mourned for these families. We sat in their homes, prayed with them, offered financial assistance, and connected them to a local Christian group who made a commitment to visit them once a month to bring both spiritual and physical relief. Their situations appeared utterly desperate and helpless, yet we looked to the Lord to heal and provide. Please pray for the families of Mokattam and the other garbage communities spread across the suburbs of Cairo.
ICC is developing projects in these communities with local ministries that will educate their children and provide sustainable incomes. To learn how you can get involved, please contact ICC at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Have the Christians in America really heard about me? Yesterday, I cried out to God and said ‘Lord have I been forgotten? Is there anyone helping me?’ Then a man of God from our village prayed for me and said, ‘God will never forsake you.’ I believed that word. I was crying yesterday and here you are today with the help I needed.”
It’s not very often that we get to directly hear and experience the impact that our ministry (and your gifts!) have on our persecuted brothers and sisters, but last month one of our representatives had the chance to sit down and spend some time with the widow of an evangelist who had been martyred by Islamic radicals. Our representative in Ethiopia traveled 125 miles from the capital of Addis Ababa to reach the village where Birtukan lives in a small hut that she shares with her mother, step-father, and seven other people.
Two months earlier, Birtukan and her husband, evangelist Abraham, were living as missionaries in the city of Worabe, in southern Ethiopia, ministering among Muslims in the community. Their home was constantly attacked by Muslims who were enraged by their work as missionaries, and they had received numerous threats on their lives. On April 21, Birtukan, then six-months pregnant, and her husband were assaulted by Muslims. Her husband didn’t survive the attack. Birtukan told us what happened:
On that day, my husband and I were getting back to our home after visiting a sick person. A group of Muslims stopped us and said they wanted to talk to my husband. They started to assault him and forcefully took him away. I followed them. Then they turned on me. They beat me unconscious. I was taken to a hospital. After ten days, I was told that the Muslims beat my husband to death.
Our representative told us, “Her story broke my heart. I comforted her and told her how the gospel of Jesus Christ was passed from one generation to the next generation through the sacrifices of martyrs. I also encouraged her by telling her that the Lord will never leave her.”
Greatly encouraged by our visit as an answer to her prayers, Birtukan affirmed that she was sure the Lord would never leave her and thanked and blessed all those who had a role in helping her, saying, “May the Lord remember you at the times of your needs!”
ICC provided Birtukan with funds to help meet her immediate needs and is also helping her to start a small business where she will work to earn a sustainable income to support her family.
P.S. — At the time of our visit, Birtukan was nine-months pregnant. On July 6, just a few days later, she gave birth to a baby girl.
Coptic Christians in the garbage district of the Mokattam Hills of Cairo protested in the streets on March 8 to condemn attacks on Christians and the destruction of a church that had occurred days earlier in a nearby village. The Coptic protestors were met by a Muslim mob, both of whom threw stones at each other. At 4:00 pm, the Egyptian military intervened by firing live ammunition at the Coptic protestors, according to eye witnesses.
Hearing gunfire, Sama’an Nazmi went to the site of the demonstration to see if anyone needed help. “I’m not afraid,” Sama’an told a friend. “I want to protect my church and my family.” The gunfire continued after Sama’an arrived on the scene and it was he who became the next victim. “The Egyptian military killed my son,” Sama’an’s mother told ICC.
The family took Sama’an to the hospital, but the doctor said nothing could be done. Sama’an was 28 years old, and left behind his wife, five-year-old son Hany, and two-year-old daughter Mariam.
“They take our children, our money, and our power. They take everything. What do they want from us?” Sama’an’s mother lamented.
ICC recently visited Sama’an’s family and eight other families who lost loved ones on March 8. ICC is giving financial assistance to these families and helping some of them begin a sustainable business. Sama’an’s family lives in an area of Cairo known as a ‘garbage community.’ The family’s lone source of income comes from collecting and recycling Cairo’s trash. Please pray for Sama’an’s family (pictured) as well as the eight other families who lost loved ones in this tragic attack.
The Assyrian International News Agency brings us the latest report on the kidnapping of Christian girls in Egypt. ICC has long been involved in researching similar cases and aiding kidnapped girls and their families. For more information, click the Girl Abducted tab on the top of the page.
Egyptian Muslim Ring Uses Sexual Coercion to Convert Christian Girls
By Mary Abdelmassih
7/13/2011 Egypt (AINA) – The number of Christian girls abducted and coerced into converting to Islam since the Egyptian “January 25 Revolution” has skyrocketed, according to Father Filopateer Gamil of St. Mary’s Church in Giza. “More than two to three girls disappear everyday in Giza alone,” he said. “The cases that are brought to public attention are few compared to what the numbers actually are.”
Many Christians blame the military council for not intervening to put an end to this problem, which has escalated after the Revolution because of the “emergence of Muslim Salafists,” says activist Mark Ebeid, “who believe strongly that converting a Christian Infidel is in some ways like earning a ticket to paradise — not to mention the earthly remuneration they get from the Saudis.”
Jackline Ibrahim Fakhry, 17, disappeared from a town on the outskirts of Cairo, prompting her parents to stage a sit-in until her appearance. They accused 31-year old Muslim Shokry Abdel-Fatah, who used to take lessons with her mother (a teacher) of kidnapping her. After she returned, Shokry said in a television interview that he has loved her since she was nine years old. He brought her to Alexandria where she met many sheikhs to convert, but she refused.
Nancy (14) and her cousin Christine (16) Fathy disappeared from their town in Upper Egypt. Their parents staged a sit-in in Minya until their children surfaced and accused two Muslim brothers, in their late twenties, of being behind their disappearance. The two teens appeared in Cairo, wearing burkas and claiming they had converted to Islam, which is illegal before the age of 18. Instead of being handed over to their parents, they are now in a state care home pending investigations and until they and their parents have reconciled. The two men accused of their abduction have been discharged by the court.
This issue has been ongoing for over four decades. Coptic Pope Shenouda III warned against this phenomenon back in 1976, saying “There is a practice to convert Coptic girls to embrace Islam and marry them under terror to Muslim husbands.”
Christian parents say their girls are underage children who disappear either due to emotional ties or to blackmail, and they do not get any assistance from the police in locating them, not even after they have been coerced into converting to Islam, which is illegal before the age of 18. Muslims claim the girls, of whatever age, flee their homes and convert to Islam of their own free will.
Coptic activist Michael Saeed denies this, saying “there is no legitimate reason which prevents Muslim men from marrying women “of the Book” — either Jewish or Christian — without their conversion to Islam. What we have here is a Saudi Arabia funded campaign of Islamization of Christians in Egypt.”
A decade ago, it was not uncommon for beheadings captured on video to be released by the Taliban, usually a warning to the West to stay out of Afghanistan’s internal affairs. The now-too-familiar executions began with a recitation of Quranic verses, then a jolt to the victim’s neck and a slow severing of the head with a small and sometimes dull knife, and finally ended with a chant of “Allah Akbar” or “God is great” while blood flowed from the decapitated corpse. Some notable killings included Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002 and U.S. defense contractor Nick Berg in Iraq in 2004.
Recently, President Obama announced a pullout plan that will begin reducing troops this year, just one indication that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is closer to completion and the ability for the Taliban to carry out their brutal beheadings has been somewhat constrained. Yet, all the while, Afghan Christians have been warning ICC that without a U.S. presence inside Afghanistan, they will be left defenseless and slaughtered if their religious identity becomes known. Their pleas for protection took on new urgency in early April when another video, this time a blatant warning to Afghan converts to Christianity, was smuggled out of the country by an Afghan Christian and immediately sent to ICC. “Please watch this and forward it to the world so they know how serious it is in Afghanistan to be a Christian,” a leader of the Afghan Christian refugee community in Delhi wrote to ICC.
In the two-minute video, believed to be filmed early this year, four Afghan militants who claim to be the Taliban behead a Christian man named Abdul Latif in Enjeel, a village south of the town Herat. The men, wearing explosive belts and kaffiya head scarves to cover their faces, pin Latif to the ground under their feet while he cries for mercy. “For God’s sake, I have children,” Latif pleads. The militants go on to announce his fate. “Your sentence [is] to be beheaded. Whoever changes his religion should be executed.” A blade is then thrust into Latif’s neck. Once decapitated, his head rests on top of his chest while the militants proclaim “Allah Akbar.”
We have decided to make this video available to the public due to the urging of our Christian contacts in Afghanistan who asked that it be forwarded to the world so that they would understand “how serious it is in Afghanistan to be a Christian.” The video is not intended to shock or exploit, it is simply intended to honor the wishes of Christians in Afghanistan and show the horrifying reality that many believers face around the world today for their faith in Christ. We have attempted to describe what you will see if you choose to watch this video in the paragraph above, so please understand that before you press play. If you do not wish to watch the video, a translated transcript has been provided below the video.
WARNING: The following video is extremely graphic and shows a man being completely decapitated with a blade. Nothing is censored or cleaned up. Do NOT watch this video if you are unprepared or unwilling to see that level of real violence.
Full translation of video:
Victim: For God’s sake, I have children. [He repeats this sentence many times]. I serve your religion. I serve you, my dear brother, ask me first. Let me speak, then kill me. Ask me once. I serve you. I have children.
Talib 1: [Reading a verse in Arabic: "In the name of Allah, peace be on the leader of all human beings, and the high priest of all holy warriors, Mohammad, peace be upon him."] All praise be to our creator, almighty Allah, who helped and blessed the Holy Warriors of the Alfateh Movement. The Holy Warriors of Qenahat belonged to the Afghanistan Islamic Emirates, so we can implement the commandment of Allah on this infidel whose name is Abdul Latif from the (Zefareh/Zekhareh/Sefareh) village of the Enjeel District of Ancient Herat Province, so that he is punished according to his wrong deed. He is punished according to the commandment of Allah as a warning to other infidels.
[A verse is recited from the Quran: "Holy and Almighty Allah says, 'You who joined with pagans, cut their head.'"]
You’re sentenced to be beheaded.
[A verse is recited from the Hadith: "Mohammad (peace be upon him) says, 'Whoever changes his religion (converts), should be executed."]
Praise and peace …….. Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar (God is great)!
Victim: I ate your leftovers, please leave me. I ate your leftovers, please leave me.
[Victim is beheaded.]
All Taliban: Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar!
Talib 2: Come to this side.
Talib 2: Why didn’t you behead him from the backside?
Talib 3: Go away.
Talib 4: Bring the notice (execution order) and hang it on the wall. Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar.
All Taliban: Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar!
Talib 4: Glory and honor to Allah, His messenger, and all believers (Muslims). This is the infidel. This is the infidel. [shouting in Arabic].