While families slept soundly, men of the village patrolled the perimeters of Ta-Kwok, safeguarding their loved ones and neighbors from intruders. On this particular November night in 2011, a section of this Nigerian Christian village had gone unguarded, and a group of strangers entered the village, intent on leaving with blood on their swords.
The Muslim attackers, fueled by a notion that Christians are enemies to Islam, raided the village, shouting “Allah Akbar!” and “Jihad!” as they ran through the village. Twenty-nine Christians were killed that night because of their faith. Many were wounded beyond repair, like Kajyng John, pictured below, whose left hand was cut off during the violence.
If losing her hand was not devastating enough, Kajyng also lost her husband and one of her children that night.
A year later, Kajyang is still not able to work due to the damage she suffered. As a farmer, she needs her hands to work. She lives off the kindness and generosity of her community. Although thankful for their support, she worries about her future and her five remaining children whom she is responsible for.
The attack on her village took her loving husband, her child, and her hand; but the radicals also stole from Kajyng her livelihood and peace of mind. Attacks against Christians do end with the loss of loved ones—believers continue to suffer consequences of violence; the terror has a lasting impact.
As you pray for the persecuted, please pray for strength to rely on the Lord, and to not lose faith. Pray for a burst of reassurance that our Heavenly Father has not forgotten them. Pray for daily reminders of God’s promise to take care of us, that as He provides the needs of the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea, so he provides the needs of his most treasured creation.
The persecution of Christians is quickly escalating in war-torn Syria. On July 23, an entire Christian family was brutally murdered by Islamists in the Damascus neighborhood of Bab Tuma. According to the Catholic News Agency, Islamists from the rebel group Liwa al-Islam, meaning “The Brigade of Islam”, ordered Nabil Zoreb, a Christian civil officer, his wife Violet, and his two sons George and Jimmy to get out of the car. The militants opened fire, killing them all.
Due to the rising threat of Islamists, Christians have fled Syrian cities in the thousands. The besieged city of Homs, for example, has been nearly emptied of its Christian community in recent months.
“The armed [rebels] in Syria [have] murdered more than 200 Christians in the city of Homs, including entire families with young children. These gangs kidnapped Christians and demanded high ransoms. In two cases, after the ransoms were paid, the men’s bodies were found,” a priest in Homs told Barnabas Aid.
Caught in the middle of a showdown between opposition forces and the Syrian army, many Christians fear the prospect of an Islamist-led government if President Bashar al-Assad is deposed. However, the Syrian church refuses to lose hope.
During this period of great suffering and uncertainty, ICC is receiving positive reports from the Syrian church. These Christians are daily confronted by the questions, “Why are we suffering? What is it that we are afraid of? And, how can we serve Jesus in this crisis?” Yet, the Syrian church has responded well to the difficult choices they’ve been forced to make by placing their trust in God’s provision and rejoicing over every new opportunity to share the love of Christ to the poor and hurting.
Syrian Christians are now on the front-lines, facing severe hardship for the sake of the Gospel. They desperately need and seek the prayers of the international church. In an effort to mobilize prayer, we want to share this recent update from a Christian in Damascus. We hope that his words will not only be informative and encouraging, but that they will also lead you to your knees to pray for the Syrian church.
Prayer update from a Christian in Damascus (some information had to be removed for the church’s security): My thoughts have been around our hope in the things that we have been living for as Christians. Recently I began to think and ask myself, “What are we afraid of in this life?” Is it evilness? Is it death that we are trying to avoid? With stories of people being emotionally, physically and psychologically hurt, much blood has been sacrificed in this country. We see people are fighting on both sides claiming to be doing the right thing and in the name of God.
Last month [June] has been hard for us here. We are trying to stay safe and managing our life around curfews. During the last few weeks we slept while hearing the sounds of heavy bullets in the background, which is not easy to sleep through. We think one day we can get used to it, but we are hoping that it won’t get to that point. But, the reason we are here is stronger than the sounds we hear or the curfews in place for our safety. We are truly seeing His mighty hands in the life of our Church and people. We are seeing doors to share the truth with many of the Syrian people. I can’t fathom all the doors God is opening up for the Church to speak the truth into people’s lives.
So many people have fled their cities and towns because of the fighting going on. People have been kicked out of their home by the extremist Muslim. Many did not want to leave, but they have gotten threatened to leave.
- Please pray for the leaders of the church in Syria.
- Please pray for safety of our families, the church, and its people.
- Pray that we can keep holding steadfast to the promise of God to the church and the body of Christ in Syria as we proclaim the Truth of Jesus.
We love you all and we love what God is doing in Syria. Please continue praying for us.
By: Jonathan Racho, Regional Manager for Africa
I recently visited a Nigerian village which suffered attacks by Muslim mobs in 2010. On March 7, 2010, hundreds of Muslim attackers invaded the Christian village of Dogo Nawa and other surrounding villages, killing over 500 Christians, mostly women and children.
So when I visited the village in May 2012, the scars of the massacre are still visible. I met several people who recounted the horrific night they suffered the Muslim radicals attacks on the villages.
One of the victims that I met was Kanda, an elderly Christian woman who was attacked with machetes. When the Muslim attackers invaded her village, Kanda ran for her life. Unfortunately, the Muslim attackers caught her and attacked her with machetes all over her body. Two years after the attacks, her wounded leg has yet to heal.
The Christians in the village of Dogo Nawa are in need of your helps and prayers. Please keep them in your prayers.
The Closing of HKBP Kaliabang Perwire – Bekasi
By Ryan Morgan
Living amongst 200 million Muslims, Christians in Indonesia have long been used to being the minority. But in the last year, the country has seen a growing list of churches forcibly shut down by the government after protests from Muslims in the community. Many of these churches existed for years without a problem, but it appears that radical Islamic groups have gained significant ground in a focused campaign to protest the very existence of Christian places of worship wherever possible. Behind each church closure is a unique story, and for the last month a local ICC representative has been visiting those churches, collecting what would otherwise be the untold stories of Indonesia’s closing churches. Below is the second in a small series of these stories, shedding light on the plight of Christian’s in Indonesia that most in the English speaking world have never heard of.
Not far from the GKRI church that has been closed by the local government of Bekasi, another church, HKBP Kaliabang Perwira Church was also sealed due to the resentment of the community around the church. The HKBP Kaliabang Perwira church is now pastored by a young Rev. Hotman Sitorus.
As we sit down and talked together, Rev. Hotman told me that the congregation has not been able to worship in the church. Hence they hold their Sunday services within the church compound. He remembered how the congregation was even excited as they held the Holy Communion service in the church compound that Sunday. The congregation said, “Wow, we feel like having a party!”
Every Sunday, some policemen will guard the church service.
Rev. Hotman recalled how one time he was faced with a very difficult situation just before they had their services on Sunday. While the service was about to start, the about 1,500 Muslim people gathered armed and ready to attack the church. He had to act swiftly otherwise there could be chaos. Finally, the rev. told the congregation to go home peacefully and not to be provoked by their Muslim neighbors.
Even today, the pastor and the congregation still believe that one day God will open the door for them to be able to hold their service and ministry in the church again.
Returning from a recent visit to Iraq, Regional Manager to the Middle East Aiden Clay explores the work Christ is doing in the Church.
The truth of I Peter 5:10 is evident in the Middle East today: “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace…will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” Despite war in Syria, Islamists rising to power in Egypt, and ongoing tension with the Islamic state of Iran (just to name a few), God is strengthening and establishing His church. And He is doing it the same way He has promised in Scripture—through suffering. God has not forgotten His Church. In the midst of grave persecution and uncertain times, the hands of God will keep and bless His Church, and a remnant will always, always remain.
The Middle East is undergoing a period of great turmoil and transition. We read reports weekly of Christians fleeing their ancient homelands throughout the Middle East for a safe-haven in the West. However, we must remind ourselves that the Church will persevere. The Church’s fate is sealed—not by war and revolution ignited by man—but by the will of Christ.
Having met with the faithful routinely in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the region, ICC has seen men, women, youth, and children put their trust in Christ and minister to their countrymen in war-torn regions, no matter the cost. Through their suffering, they are coming to understand the true meaning, to “take up their cross” (Luke 9:23), a decision to follow Christ and to suffer, as He has suffered, even until death for the sake of the Gospel.
“As a Christian, a part of my faith—a very sensitive part—is hope,” an Iraqi pastor who survived two bomb attacks on his congregation in 2011 and lost many of his flock to brutal persecution, recently told ICC when asked why he has chosen to stay in his homeland. “If we don’t have hope in our Christianity then whatever we preach, whatever we teach, is nothing. The church here in this land has faced many troubles, many hard times, but survived. And, it still exists. And, I believe it will exist until Jesus returns back.”
The church does not merely exist, but is being welded into a precious jewel, refined by fire. Moreover, the Gospel is spreading. Muslims throughout the region are turning to Christ in significant numbers. For example, ICC ministry partners in the region reported that 461 people have turned to Christ this year as a result of Christian radio and satellite television broadcasts. Many of these salvations occurred in Middle East countries considered “closed” to the Gospel. These new believers are connected to underground fellowships and are learning to boldly share the Good News with their families and friends.
Though we often only hear of the church’s suffering in persecuted lands, God is faithful in establishing His church beyond our expectations or understanding. Persecution has followed Christianity throughout the ages; it is nothing new. In fact, it is a promise which comes with great blessing and results. Suffering builds character and establishes the truth of the Word in our lives. So, have hope and take courage. While the Lord’s servant may only see hardship around him and say, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing…” remember that justice is “with the Lord, and My reward with My God” (Isaiah 49:3-4). Our persecuted brothers and sisters need our prayers as they carry on, not in vain, but that God may be glorified through the suffering church.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:3-4)
What comes to your mind when you think about what brings you “pure joy”? Surely abuse, torture or discrimination is not at the top of your list! Scripture says when we experience trials or face persecution, we should consider it pure joy because on the other side of the difficulty we will find a faith that perseveres and is “of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire.” (1Peter 1:7)
Personally, I know the trials in my own life have resulted in a deeper faith. Though they were difficult to walk through, and in the midst of the darkness it was hard for me to sense God’s plan or presence, I can see now how the Lord turned what the enemy meant for destruction into something good and beautiful. I wanted to share a story with you about some of the recent trials our brothers and sisters in India have endured:
[knowing that it was a heavy cost] Anne* decided to follow Jesus and leave Hinduism. When her mother died, Anne wanted to perform a Christian ceremony at the funeral. The Hindus in the village caught wind of her plan and sent her a message: “If the pastor comes to your house or you [go] to the church then [you and your father] both will be persecuted.”
Her father reported the threat to the police, which only enraged the other villagers. They locked Anne and her father in their house and were only freed when an uncle notified the police. The police freed Anne and her father and told the Hindu attackers not to force her to perform Hindu rituals if she was a Christian.
Believing the matter was solved, Anne invited a pastor to her house to host a prayer meeting. The Hindu villagers, seeing the pastor go to her house, were infuriated that she had ignored their warning. They stormed into the house and dragged the pastor outside, beat him and stripped him naked. The pastor fled to the neighbor’s house for help, where they welcomed him in and cared for his wounds.
Hearing that the pastor was receiving help, the Hindus came to the neighbor’s house and forced everyone outside. They proceeded to beat the neighbor’s family and rape their daughter, leaving her unconscious.
Seeing all this happen, another pastor, Brother James* called the police and guided them to the house where the attack was taking place. He helped the police stop the attack and took care of the wounded. When the police left, the Christians in the village heard the Hindus say, “If anyone comes to see or asks about the persecuted people, beat them severely and tie them to the pole.”
The families have not lodged an official complaint of the latest attack with the police because they are afraid of the retaliation.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters as they go through this dark and uncertain time. Pray that God would meet them where they are and remind them to “count it all as joy.” May we, when we experience hard times, be spurred on by their example and do the same.
*Names changed for security.
Part One of Three
Living amongst 200 million Muslims, Christians in Indonesia are long used to being the minority. But in the last year, the country has seen a growing list of churches forcibly shut down by the government after protests from Muslims in the community. Many of these churches existed for years without a problem, but it appears that radical Islamic groups have gained significant ground in a focused campaign to protest the very existence of Christian places of worship wherever possible. Behind each church closure is a unique story, and for the last month a local ICC representative has been visiting those churches, collecting what would otherwise be the untold stories of Indonesia’s closing churches. Below is the first in a small series of these stories, shedding light on the plight of Christian’s in Indonesia that most in the English speaking world have never heard of.
The persecution of the Indonesian churches continues to this day. In spite of the good news of the church growth that we often hear of, Christians are faced with many difficulties when it comes to freedom of worship in Indonesia. One of the cities which can be considered as a stronghold is Bekasi.
GKRI Sinar Gembala Church in Bekasi was started about 20 years ago, using a house as a place of worship for its congregation. As the times passed, the congregation grew and today, there are about 85 people who attend Sunday service weekly. For all these years, the church has been welcomed by the neighboring people and it has had no problem with the community.
Last year, Rev Mokhtar Siringoringo and his wife who had been pastoring the church decided to expand the church building by joining the next house they bought which attached to the church building. This is the beginning of the challenge. Before the pastor and the congregation even tearing down the wall that separate the church and the house, the surrounding people provoked by the Muslims who are living outside or even far away from the community, rally against this project. Not only that, the Muslims even succeeded in making the local government close and
seal the church since last year. As the result of this closing, the congregation now worship every Sunday outside the church building, guarded by about 20 policemen.
In spite of all these challenges, the pastor and the congregation are not afraid. They are still in a good faith and they believe that God is still in charge of all things and they also still have high hope that one day, the church will be reopened.
During my meeting with the pastor and the wife, I did not sense any fear or losing of hope. They really had a great faith in God! They even cracked some jokes despite the persecution and challenges they faced.