Christians in Egypt had hoped that the country’s revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 would give them equal rights after having been oppressed and discriminated against for decades. However, the situation has only worsened. The political rise of Islamists has given radical groups nearly free reign to attack Christians, churches, and just about anything they deem contrary to their interpretation of Islam, including liquor stores and Sufi shrines.
In one of the major attacks against Egypt’s Christians last year, which received little media attention, nine young Christian men were brutally killed in the garbage district of Mokattam, Cairo in March 2011. Since that time, ICC has sent aid and helped build sustainable projects for the widows and families of each of the men who were killed.
In a recent visit to Egypt, ICC delivered goats and sheep to five of these families. Among them was Hania (pictured) whose husband, Sama’an Nazmi, was one of the young men killed.
“I saw Sama’an helping an injured youth to his feet,” Hania told ICC. “And then Sama’an dropped to the ground. I couldn’t get to him, but when he fell, I knew he was dead. I knew there was nothing I could do.”
Please be sure to subscribe to ICC’s newsletter to learn more about these heartbreaking stories from the persecuted church and how your donations have helped ease their suffering. In the August edition, we’ll take you on a journey to the most persecuted lands – the garbage community of Cairo, the streets of Baghdad, and the valleys of Nigeria. Though their churches have been bombed and their fellow believers have been brutally murdered, the faithful remnant perseveres by finding refuge in Christ alone.
The other day I was visiting with the chief of staff for a certain U.S. congresswoman when he asked me if ICC ever monitored or reported on incidents of Christian persecution here in the states. The answer was yes, we do. Although it might not seem significant compared with the horrific and almost daily killing, torture, and imprisonment of believers in nations like Nigeria or India, the fact is that persecution does happen here, in the “heartland” of religious liberty, and it probably isn’t going away any time soon. It’s true, Christians aren’t being arrested or imprisoned in the U.S for their faith, but they do face some fairly blatant discrimination on a regular basis. As an example, here are just a few headlines from the last two months:
Anti-Bullying Speaker Curses Christian Teens – In late April, in the middle of a high school journalism conference in Seattle, the key note speaker, Dan Savage, decided that speaking out against bullying should involve heckling the Christians in the audience. When dozens of Christian students got up to walk out, some reportedly in tears, Savage called them names while others in the crowd hollered and cheered. A number of people later complained to the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA), the host for the event, only to be told “We appreciate the thoughtfulness and deliberation regarding Dan Savage’s key note address” and “as a journalist it’s important to be able to listen to a speech that offends you.” Apparently the fact that these where high school kids having their faith insulted from the stage or that they had the courage to walk out of the presentation was completely lost on the NSPA.
Ten Commandments Down To Six For Public Display? – Early in May, a U.S. District Court Judge in Virginia suggested that cutting out four of the Ten Commandments (all of the ones which mention God) could resolve a debate over having them on display at a public high school. The idea unfortunately isn’t that surprising in a culture that increasingly views the First Amendment as a way of making sure that all public sites, from war memorials to schools, are cleansed of Christian influence.
FedEx Employee Vindicated In Religious Discrimination Suit – In mid-May, Charisma news reported the story of Eric Weathers, a FedEx employee in Chicago who was told by his boss to stop discussing Christianity with his coworkers. When Eric asked FedEx human resources why he couldn’t talk about his religion, he was told that his speech was an “act detrimental to the company”, the same designation given to sexual harassment and drug possession in the workplace. Eric was also told to lie about his college degree if asked (he holds a bachelor’s degree in Bible and youth ministry). Thankfully for Eric, the Alliance Defense Fund successfully took up his case and won a decision in court that found FedEx’s actions to be “discriminatory”.
Sadly, these are only a few examples of stories that ICC has reported on in the last couple of months. They may not seem terrible when compared with the trials faced by our brothers and sisters around the world, but to ignore these events would be to ignore the dangerous cultural trends in the U.S. that are leading towards an environment that is openly hostile in its treatment of the Christian faith. Sure, it’s still perfectly acceptable to be a Christian, but try standing up for your beliefs, like those high school kids in Seattle, or sharing your faith at work, like Eric Weathers, and you might be in for something of a rough ride.
In our forthcoming issue of Persecution, ICC explores Islam’s War on Christianity. The image above displays attacks from radical Muslims that resulted in the death or injury of innocent lives.
When you understand the history and foundation of Islam, this map is not shocking. For example, did you know that after 10 years of ministry, the prophet Muhammad had only 100 followers? But after developing the concept of “jihad” (meaning, “holy war”) his followers quickly multiplied.
Followers were instructed to subjugate pagans and propagate Islam by force. In addition, Allah and Muhammad allowed followers to keep the goods of any people that were attacked, and for those Muslims that died in jihad, eternal paradise awaited them.
Each new generation of Muslim is told by Fundamentalists that the reason the world is not at peace is because they are not living faithfully by the Quran, Sharia law, and Muhammad’s instructions. And how to you spread Islam? By the tip of a sword.
To learn more about this subject, sign up for the latest issue of Persecution.
Our Regional Manager to Africa, Jonathan, is in Northern Nigeria. In the city of Kafanchan, the majority is Christian, but still they suffer the most lost in terms of damage to personal property and churches.
Jonathan reported that there were two anti-Christian attacks by Muslims last year, that resulted in the destruction of 1500 Christian homes. A Christian couple was killed in this Assembly of God church pictured above. It is one of the few remaining churches, as dozens of churches were burned down by Muslims.
Please pray for protection for Northern Nigeria’s Christians, and that Christians and Muslims would live in peace.
Part of ICC’s mission is to advocate for the persecuted church and to “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).
Even when suffering behind prison walls, God uses His children to testify to His name, enhance His kingdom, and give Him praise. While in jail, the great 17th century writer and preacher John Bunyan wrote: “I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the Word of God as now: those Scriptures that I saw nothing in before are made in this place and state to shine before me; Jesus Christ also was never more real and apparent than now…”
As we remember those who are chained for the sake of the Gospel, let’s pray that God will embolden their faith, give them rest and peace through His Spirit, and enhance their witness to the lost and hurting. While we pray, remember how God used the apostles to strengthen the church during their imprisonments (read Acts and the Epistles). In a similar way, God is using imprisoned Christians today for His purpose and glory. During a recent conversation with Said Musa, an Afghan Christian who was imprisoned for nine months in Kabul, ICC heard about the tremendous work of God in the darkest of places:
“I want to tell you. A person who’s accused of murder, he’s sleeping in front of me in the corridor of jail,” Musa said. “He’s a hundred percent extremist and has discrimination with my religion. He’s a Talib person [reference to the Taliban]. One night he wants to suicide himself… I prayed for him more and more. I told him please be patient… Please believe in Jesus Christ, he’s the only person to forgive you and save you and release you from this jail… The first time he began screaming and insulting me. He told me, ‘You’re not clean, you’re not a Muslim.’ But I told him, ‘Oh my friend and brother, please think about my word…’ Then I prayed for him since the middle of the night. He woke up from sleep. He came near my bed and sat and told me. Please forgive me brother. You’re really true person. I have seen wonderful dreams. A very light person spoke with me. He was an amazing person. I fell down on my knee and to the ground. He told me, please believe in your friend Said Musa. I am Lord Jesus Christ. I forgive you now. I couldn’t speak at that moment and was shaking from fear and then I woke up. He told me, now I have believe in Jesus Christ.”
Musa also told another story about two prisoners chained next to him:
“Two guys were addicted to opium,” he said. “Their hands were in the chain. The commander tied them beside me in the corridor. He told me, Musa you are a true man, you are a right man, don’t let them smoke opium or hashish. I said, ‘I’m not a good man, God is good, but I will advise them.’ [The prisoners] spoke to me little by little. ‘Musa, I did many right things in Islam. I read the Quran, I prayed, but my life has become a bad thing. Despite everything I did, everything bad happened to my life.’ I told them, ‘If you want eternal life, if you want to become good, then you believe in Jesus, the Son of God.’ And I spoke to them little by little, and both of them believed in Jesus.”
Representatives from ICC meet with Congressman Peter Roskam from Illinois
Over the course of just three days ICC held 26 meetings with members of Congress, the State Department, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. This intense series of meetings was to advocate for 35 Ethiopian Christians who are still languishing in a Saudi Arabian prison 4 months after being arrested for holding a private worship service.
During this intense series of meetings we asked for congressmen and senators from both sides of the aisle to make this case a priority, and to put in a call to the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel A. Al-Jubeir, and ask him about this issue. The response we got was very positive, and several offices immediately agreed to contact the Saudi ambassador.
Over the next couple of weeks ICC will continue working with these offices and coordinating efforts by our government to demand the quick release of all 35 wrongfully imprisoned Christians.
On April 20, more than 100 Muslims armed with clubs and machetes attacked a Church in Burqa, Ethiopia. Miraculously, no one was killed during the attack but the Muslim mob smashed musical instruments and sound system of the church. The Muslims were enraged because the church is established by a convert from Islam. Please pray for the body of Christ in the city of Burqa.
Khalid* is a father of two, a devoted husband, a farmer, and a respected leader in his community. Today, Khalid is also a Christian, having been introduced to a saving faith in Jesus Christ through satellite Christian television. Even within his Islamic society, Khalid strives to be an example and bold witness of Christ.
“Everybody, especially the young men, wonder why I don’t go to the mosque to pray with the older men,” Khalid told an ICC ministry partner. “They ask me, ‘how do you love God if you don’t go to the mosque?’ I reply, ‘I fear God,’ and then I share my testimony with them.”
“In the beginning of 2006, I was looking through the satellite TV for the World Cup football, and stumbled upon a Christian TV channel and I started watching. At that time, it seemed like the person was talking to me personally. He seemed to say, ‘These words are for you and you alone. Listen, stop a moment. Here you will find your salvation. Here you will find your real joy.’
Many months passed. Little by little, I started looking for information about the message of salvation, the sacrifice, grace, and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ that was given freely to people like me. The shock was very strong when I was watching this program. God drastically changed the direction of my life.
Now I am not bowing to Mecca anymore – not bowing like the Muslims. Now the direction of my life is in following Jesus Christ. He is the way, the life, and the truth. I will never go far from him, and he has promised also not to neglect me.”
Often times, watching Christian television and listening to Christian radio are the only times Muslims hear the Gospel of Christ. The difficulty can be getting Bibles into the hands of new believers and connecting them to a local church.
“My thirst and knowledge grew,” Khalid continued. “But, I want to have a book of the gospel and know other brothers and sisters. I want to get baptized. I want to talk to people who are spiritually dead, to give them life.
I was in a conversation with a group of young people in the café, and we were talking about the life of the prophet and I talked about Jesus. Everybody was surprised at my words and about the knowledge I have about Jesus’ miracles and the work that he did. They have never been informed about this even though they read the Quran. But a 14–year-old boy was confirming my stories about Jesus, saying, ‘You are right. You are right.’
I asked the boy, ‘Where did you read all about this? You confirm what I say.’ He said, ‘I have a book called The Gospel in my home.’ I asked him to borrow it and he gave it to me. God answers prayer in wonderful ways!
Now I am keeping the Gospel in a very secret place in one of the big trees on my farm. Each time I am thirsty, I go to that place and drink of the water of life in the shade of that tree. Thank God for the grace of salvation and his abundant love. I am so thankful that God answered my prayers.”
ICC-supported satellite television and radio is sharing the love of Christ to Muslims throughout the Islamic world. In many countries, Muslims rarely have opportunities to hear the Gospel. Please pray that new believers like Khalid grow in faith and find a church body to fellowship with.
*Khalid’s name has been changed for security reasons.