In this week's episode of VOMRadio, "John" tells us about his ministry in Syria and the good things that God is doing in that country in the midst of war and terror and chaos.
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In July, as the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) drove out more than 100,000 Christians in the area of Mosul in just a few days, many became newly aware of Islamic extremism at its worst. In Part I, we shared about Islamic extremist groups in the Middle East. Christians also face extraordinary dangers in both Africa and the Philippines.
Christians working in more than fourteen countries have indicated an increase in terrorist organizations that specifically target Christian populations. In Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, groups like al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Shariah are known for their violence. In Libya’s capital, Benghazi, Ansar al-Shariah reportedly offered a reward for any Christians who were turned in to them. Seven Coptic Christians living in one suburb of the city were abducted in February 2014 and found executed by their abductors the following morning. Christians throughout the region often face harassment and are threatened for their Christian faith.
Christians living in Egypt face similar threats from the Muslim Brotherhood. In August 2013, forty churches were attacked and set on fire, and at least 250 people were killed in the violence. Christians have had homes and shops looted and burned down.
Christian families must be especially protective of their daughters and wives. Teenage girls and young women are frequently kidnapped, married and forcibly converted to Islam. While this has been happening for decades, the number of kidnap victims spiked dramatically in 2014. VOM sources estimate that between 20 and 30 Coptic Christian girls were kidnapped each month. Often, videos of the girls stating that they converted willingly are sent to families. Recently, a woman, whose family was told by government officials she had left willingly, escaped. She publically denounced Egyptian government officials for their collusion with the radicals.
In Sudan, the government led by Omar al-Bashir is as dangerous as a terrorist group for believers there. In their quest to drive blacks and Christians from Sudan, the government continues to bomb schools, churches and homes in the Nuba Mountain region.
Like Sudan, Somalia is a majority-Muslim country. There, al-Shabab militants seek to ensure that any Christian is either converted to Islam or killed. The Islamic militants even go so far as to attack Christians in eastern Kenya as well as those living along the coast. Al-Shabab have tried to create an area governed by Sharia law in east Kenya, and they have burned churches, and killed many pastors and Christians.
Like their counterparts in Kenya, the Boko Haram militants in Nigeria desire an autonomous state ruled by Sharia. In the past three years, they have set fire to hundreds of churches along with the homes of Christians living in the northern Nigeria. After IS declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram announced their own caliphate in Nigeria. They have overrun many villages in the northern portion of the country, slaughtered Christians, set fire to churches and homes, and abducted females. In the October newsletter, you can read how Habila Adamu of Nigeria chose to stand up for his faith even while an AK-47 was pressed into his cheek.
Rebels in Nigeria and Kenya have declared themselves rulers of territory, but in the Philippines, insurgent groups like the Abu Sayyaf, Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front have fought with the Philippine government forces for decades, taking over villages, including stealing their livestock and harvests, and often kidnapping civilians or using them has human shields as they engage in gun battles with the Philippine army in Mindanao. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is now poised to receive control of a five-province area called Bangsamoro. It’s the first time that VOM workers are aware of where a democratically-run government is brokering a peace deal with insurgents – and awarding them with territory. Though the insurgents have agreed to disarm, Christians in the region face even further abuses in a Muslim-ruled area where many want to eradicate all Christian influence.
Christians around the world face an increasingly hostile world. However, the faith our brothers and sisters demonstrate shows us that we can remain faithful to Christ even in trying circumstances.
This report was originally published on www.Persecution.com.
Around the world, the advance of Islamic extremist groups is creating increasing difficulties for Christians, as Islamists seek territory and political power. Islamic groups often terrorize Christians by chasing them off of their property, appropriating Christian properties, and even kidnapping or killing family members.The increasing threat of extremism was highlighted this year with the advance of the Islamic State (IS) terror group from Syria into Iraq.
Taking advantage of the war between Muslim rebels and the Syrian government, IS militants begin seizing control of cities in both Syria and Iraq and declared a “caliphate” in June 2014. As celebrations were held, video cameras rolled showing Islamic supporters in Raqqa, Syria, firing guns into the air, but few took notice until IS overtook Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in a matter of hours in July. Thousands of believers living in the historically Christian areas nearby were given few choices: convert to Islam, pay a high tax, leave the area, or face death. To save their lives, nearly all of the estimated 100,000 believers fled their homes. The ongoing war in neighboring Syria has claimed the lives of another 100,000 people, both Muslim and Christian.
Even while extremists appropriated nearly one-third of Iraq and Syria as their caliphate, some Christians continued to reach out to those around them. As many Muslims impacted by the war were driven from their homes in Syria, Christians began distributing “outreach packs” to Muslims who had largely been ignored by their Muslim leaders. The packs were simple gifts of clothing and food, but they spoke of Jesus’ love for everyone, even those who don’t love Him. Similarly, when the influx of refugees came in from Mosul after the IS takeover, Christians began reaching out to the Muslim refugees with quiet evangelism. At the same time, local Christians in Kurdistan have been serving their now-homeless brothers and sisters from Mosul.
Violence against Christians by terrorist groups isn’t limited to the Iraq/Syria conflict. In Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Christians are also subject to the brutality of groups like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There, Christians are opposed openly and there is little opportunity for evangelism. Islamic insurgents often kidnap individuals in exchange for money or prisoners.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, Christians face the Taliban. In the worst attack on Christians in Pakistan’s history, two suicide bombers from a Taliban faction attacked the All Saints Church in Peshawar last year, killing at least 87 people and injuring more than 120 people. But in spite of the attack, believers continue to worship in the church.
While facing huge obstacles, Christians throughout the Middle East are remaining faithful. They continue to meet together, and they evangelize those around them. They look to support from their Christian brothers and sisters who will pray for them and help them access materials like Bibles, gospel tracts, Christian literature and media.
This report was originally published on www.Persecution.com.