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THE AID AGENCY FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013

HOPE FOR THE HOPELESS

IN THIS ISSUE

Syria

Middle East

Convert

An Islamist militant finds Christ

UR

G O D IS

FAITHF U L

Unpicking the tangled web

O

The end of the Church?


£5. 00

My Devotional Journal

Patrick Sookhdeo

My Devotional Journal

is an inspiring collection of short testimonies, poems and prayers from Christians around the world, as well as uplifting Bible verses and pages for you to record your own thoughts and reflections throughout the year. ISBN: 978-0-9825218-2-3 No. of pages: 96 Cover: Hardback P&P: £2.00 | RRP: £7.99

£9.49

et and g nal e n o Buy tional Jour

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Heroes of Our Faith

Patrick Sookhdeo

This outstanding devotional book contains 366 stories of brave Christians who gave up their lives for their Lord. Their stories inspire us to live wholeheartedly for Christ. Spend a year with these great heroes of faith and allow God to touch your life.

Free E-Cards

You can spread the message about the work of Barnabas Fund as you bless your friends and family with Christmas greetings. We have created Christmas eCards that can be emailed for free to your loved ones, along with a personalised message. There are different Christmas designs to choose from, and the cards include a brief message about our work along with a Bible verse. To send the Christmas eCards to your family and friends, simply visit our website at www.barnabasfund.org/christmas-cards and fill in your details, choose the design you would like and supply the email address of the recipient. This is a quick and easy way to spread the word about supporting the persecuted Church, while remembering your loved ones this Christmas time.

ISBN: 978-0-9825218-9-2 No. of pages: 386 pages Cover: Hardback P&P: £2.50 | RRP £11.99

To order these books, please contact Barnabas Fund, 9-10 Priory Row, Coventry, CV1 5EX or call 02476 231923. Cheques should be made payable to “Barnabas Books”. Or visit barnabasfund.org/shop.

The paper used in this publication comes from sustainable forests and can be 100% recycled

Front cover: A Christian girl in Syria whose family recieves emergency aid from Barnabas Fund To guard the safety of Christians in hostile environments, names may have been changed or omitted. Thank you for your understanding. Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version®. Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and obtain permission for stories and images used in this publication. Barnabas Fund apologises for any errors or omissions and will be grateful for any further information regarding copyright. © Barnabas Fund 2013


WELCOME FROM THE DIRECTOR

Bruised and broken, but not despairing

As

I write this editorial, the news has been coming in of two suicide bombers blowing themselves up at All Saints Church, Peshawar, Pakistan. The death toll has now risen to 85. This is a church that I know well, having visited it on various occasions. The Christian community in Peshawar are desperately poor and vulnerable, many of them doing the most despised jobs, such as sweeping the streets or cleaning the sewers. They have been bruised and broken. There is a saying in Judaism that the Jew is like the olive, meant to be crushed. In Jewish history the olive tree, as well as the olive fruit, has great significance. The tree represents hope and peace, based on its ability to regenerate from a stump and the fact that Noah’s dove brought him back an olive leaf to show that the flood waters were receding (Genesis 8:11). The fruit when crushed gives oil for light and sustenance, an oil that also has healing properties and was used to anoint kings and priests (see e.g. Exodus 35:28; Isaiah 1:6; 1 Samuel 10:1). The olive oil was very hard to extract. First the olives would be ground with a millstone until they cracked. The cracked olives were put into bags, piled up and pressed under a huge stone until the oil dripped out. The Aramaic word for an olive press was “gethsemane”. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that our Lord Jesus was almost crushed under the weight of the burden that His Father had placed on Him and the pressure of the knowledge of what would soon befall Him, when He would have to carry the sins of the world on the cross.

This sense of being crushed is also being felt very deeply by the Christians of Syria, where, in the space of just over two and a half years, they have seen their society broken down, their way of life shattered and their communities scattered, caught in the midst of war and mayhem, with terror increasingly being used against them. They are bruised and broken. But, as Jewish history teaches, Jews would recognise that when they were crushed it was not to bring them to destruction and despair, but so that good could come out of it. There is a goodness that can flow from being bruised and broken. Writing to the Corinthian Christians, Paul speaks of his own experience and that of his colleagues, in which they were hard pressed but not totally crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair (2 Corinthians 4:8). Twice he affirms, “We do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1, 16), using the remarkable Greek words ouk egkakoumen. So we do not give up. We do not lose heart. We do not ultimately despair. Paul recognises the transcendent hope we have that though our bodies are wasting away, there is an eternal weight of glory that has been prepared for us, and we have within us an inestimable treasure in our weak and fragile clay pots (2 Corinthians 4: 17, 7). My prayer is that our grieving brothers and sisters in Pakistan and Syria may be given a crown of beauty instead of ashes, and the oil of gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah 61:3).

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo International Director

Contents

Compassion in Action Supporting and training leaders for mission Country Profile The end of the Church in Syria?

4 4

Testimony A former Islamist militant finds life in Christ

8

Advocacy Sign our petition for Syria’s stricken Christians

Windows on Islam PULLUnderstanding the turmoil in OUT the Middle East

9 11

Newsdesk Egyptian Christians killed; Afghan converts threatened

12

In Touch Ways to pray for the persecuted Church

17 14 18


COMPASSION IN ACTION

how barnabas £7,228 for income generation for converts in Senegal (US$11,602; €8,584)

Restoring dignity to rejected converts

£7,228 for emergency aid to Christian victims of violence in Guinea (US$11,602; €8,584)

Relief for homeless victims of violence

A Muslim convert to Christianity in his new shoe shop

New well transforms lives and relationships

When Muslims become Christians, they are often rejected by their families and communities and left without financial support. But an income-generation project supported by Barnabas in Senegal has restored security and dignity to twelve new Christians and their families.

The displaced Christian families were scattered in the forest

BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013

The Muslim neighbours were surprised that the Christians allowed them to use the water from their well for free. Our partner wrote, “Now they see that Christians are not enemies. So they change their mind about Christians.” The village elders and local authorities now have a more positive attitude to the church, and persecution has decreased.

Project reference 00-635 (Water Projects Fund)

Barnabas Fund is providing aid to 75 Christians who lost everything they owned in the attacks. We have given food, comprising rice, cooking oil and salt; kitchen utensils, including plates, cups and cooking pots; clothing for men, women and children; bedclothes, mats and mosquito nets; children’s school materials; and medical assistance for a pastor whose leg was broken by a gunshot.

The 63 Christians in a Central Asian village were forbidden by their hostile Muslim neighbours from using the communal wells. But with a grant from Barnabas Fund they were able to build their own well, to provide water for drinking and for their crops and animals. The well is filled by rain and melted snow and holds one or two months’ supply of water. Project reference 17-1152

Project reference 00-356 (Small Business Start-up Fund)

(This project is now complete, but similar projects can be supported with a gift to our Small Business Start-up Fund.)

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The new well has improved the lives of the Christian villagers

On Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 June, Muslims attacked Christian property in the N’zerekore region of Guinea, where Christians are a small minority. Within 24 hours, eleven church buildings in three towns had been destroyed and many Christian homes torched and looted. Many of the Christians were scattered in the forest.

Barnabas provided 90% of the capital for each convert to establish a small business; the converts themselves contributed the other 10%. They were trained in business management and are repaying their loans in instalments. Their projects include baking, dressmaking, hairdressing and a shoe shop. The converts now feel useful to their families, congregations and society. They can contribute to the development of their churches through giving and by training young Christians. They also use their workplaces as a mission field.

£2,265 to provide a well for Christians in a Central Asian village (US$3,590; €2,706)


is helping

£36,606 for staff salaries for one year at three Christian schools in South Sudan (US$58,765; €43,478)

£313 to help a pastor in India injured in an attack (US$502; €371)

COMPASSION IN ACTION

Thank you for your compassion and care for persecuted Christians. Your prayers and gifts make a great and positive difference to the lives of many brothers and sisters who suffer severely for their faith in Christ. Below and on the following pages you can read about just a small selection of the projects we support and the Christians who have benefited from them. Please pray as you read their stories.

£2,428 for six months’ support for 17 pastors in Pakistan (US$3,849; €2,901)

Leadership for the downtrodden

Health and ministry restored

Christian schooling for a shattered nation

Pastor Munir Shahid’s ministry is building up the church in Narang Mandi

The schools are located in rural areas where parents are very poor and cannot afford to pay school fees. Children who pass through the schools emerge equipped to make a financial contribution to their families and improve their quality of life. Our partner writes, “Local communities have understood the importance of sending their children to school with the hope that they will be the leaders of the next generations.”

Project reference 48-344

South Sudan was wrecked in its long civil war with the former North Sudan, and an entire generation in the mainly Christian country missed out on education. But three Christian schools supported by Barnabas are providing Christian children with knowledge and skills they can use when they grow up to rebuild their churches and communities.

Pastor R.D. Joshua was leading a service in a village in Uttar Pradesh when about ten people tied him to a tree and beat him viciously, leaving him with severe bruising and a broken hand. His motorcycle was also damaged. The assailants complained to the police that the pastor is a huge threat to their community. Officers took him to the police station to make enquiries; although he was later released, they refused to register a case against his attackers. Funds from Barnabas paid for the pastor’s medical care, the repair of his motorcycle and legal assistance in his fight for justice. His hand has healed, and he is continuing his ministry with joy and enthusiasm.

Project reference 00-345 (Victims of Violence Fund)

Pastor Joshua has recovered from the attack and is continuing his ministry

One of the pastors helped by our latest grant is Munir Shahid from Narang Mandi. He planted a church in 2007, and this year 25 people have been baptised, while the construction of a new church building has been completed. Pastor Munir manages a Christian school in Narang Mandi, which is making good progress, and he also ministers to four other congregations in the area.

Project reference 41-432

Children at a Christian school in South Sudan

Christians in Pakistan are mainly very poor as a result of acute discrimination, and they also suffer injustice and violence because of their faith. Their churches need strong and energetic leadership to enable them to stand firm and to grow in numbers and maturity. Barnabas Fund supports over a hundred pastors to strengthen and empower the Church across the country.

Our grant covered six months’ support at an average cost of £23 per pastor per month.

BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 5


COMPASSION IN ACTION

bringing hope,

Support and training for mission Indonesia: Church planting in a hostile context Barnabas Fund supports a dedicated group of 38 church planters in Indonesia who are serving the Lord in a difficult and often hostile environment. The church planters have little money and few resources, as economic conditions in some rural parts of Indonesia are very poor. Educational and job opportunities are limited, and many Christians move away in search of better prospects; the church planters begin their ministry with few church members to help them financially. Barnabas supports them for three to five years, after which time their churches should be big enough to assume the responsibility. Our latest grant was made to 38 church planters at a cost of about £28 per person per month. The Lord has blessed His faithful servants with fruitful ministries. Their churches have been

firmly established, and most of them have grown numerically too; one church has baptised 21 Muslim-background believers in 2012-13. The church planters have become more creative in Gospel outreach, and church members have been trained to share in this ministry. Some local Christians show remarkable commitment; one 103-year-old woman usually comes to church on the back of the leader’s motorcycle! The church planters are immensely grateful for the support they receive from Barnabas. One of them explained how he had had to give all his money to his landlord in rent and had nothing left over for his family’s food and basic needs. He telephoned the bank and was told that his account was empty. Hoping against hope he went to the bank anyway, and he discovered on arrival that our grant had just come in.

One of the Indonesian church planters supported by Barnabas with his family

£13,420 for a year’s support for 38 church planters in Indonesia (US$21,532; €15,941)

Project reference: 22-828

Nepal: Empowering Christian students The rapid growth of the Church in Nepal in recent decades is seen as a threat in this Hindu-majority nation. Most new Christians are converts from Hinduism and face hostility from Hindu extremists who want to reinstate Nepal as a Hindu kingdom. Trying to persuade others to change their religion is officially forbidden and is punishable by fines or imprisonment. In this challenging context, Barnabas Fund has been supporting a Student Missionary Training Course (SMTC) to equip Christian students and youth leaders with skills in leadership and mission. The six-day courses were held in eight different locations across the country in 2012-13 and covered topics such as Bible

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BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013

study, doctrine, Christian attitudes and personal life management as well as specific training in Christian ministry. Many of the 156 participants are already active in leadership and evangelism among their fellow students, for example through home fellowships and Bible study groups. They have also been equipped to impact their churches and communities. One of them said, “SMTC was as a gift of God for me. It has changed my life and my thoughts. I am practising this gained knowledge in my daily life. I want to thank Jesus and you for a great opportunity provided me through SMTC.”

Participants in a ministry training course for Christian students in Nepal

£1,401 for accommodation, food and training materials for student leadership training in Nepal (US$2,221; €1,673) (This project is now complete, but similar projects can be supported with a gift to our Leadership Training Fund.)

Project reference: 00-430 (Leadership Training Fund)


COMPASSION IN ACTION

transforming lives On the edge of the abyss Supporting endangered Syrian Christians

Tanks supplied by one of the wells provided by Barnabas for Christians in Aleppo

Distributing food aid to needy Christians

S

ince the brutal civil war began in Syria in 2011, Barnabas Fund has been at the forefront of humanitarian work among the Christian community there. We have provided practical aid to about 139,000 Christians, who number some 10% of those still remaining in the country. (Around 600,000 of our brothers and sisters have now sought refuge abroad or been killed in the violence.) Most of the Christians we are helping have had to flee their homes. They are in desperate need: they have left behind almost everything they owned, and their hardship is increased by shortages and the soaring prices of essentials. Many struggle to afford rent payments on even the most basic and cramped housing. Without adequate food or accommodation, they are especially vulnerable to cold and sickness. Attacks on infrastructure threaten water supplies, as in Aleppo, where the main pump has been damaged in the fighting.

Project reference: 00-1032

Our support for Syrian Christians has included: ●● Food parcels, including rice, sugar, lentils and cooking oil, and milk powder for babies ●● Hygiene items, such as nappies, soap, toothpaste and shampoo ●● Help with rent payments ●● Clothing, blankets, heaters and sleeping mats ●● Medicines and surgical costs ●● Water wells on church property in Christian areas of Aleppo, to provide clean water to some 400,000 residents ●● A refuge shelter for 50 displaced Christians, which includes living quarters, bathrooms and a large kitchen

Aid from Barnabas to Syria is channelled through a committee of senior Christian leaders from across the denominations. These leaders know the needs of their communities better than anyone, so we can be confident that our help is reaching those who need it most. Local churches have also worked together to take the aid to suffering Christians; leaders and ministry workers risk their lives to visit Christian families in war-torn areas and supply what they need. Turn to pages 6-8 to read more about the plight of Syria’s beleaguered Christians and our child sponsorship programme to provide food and basic needs for suffering Christian children.

£1,643,593 to help displaced and suffering Christians in Syria (January to August 2013) (US$2,606,333; €1,963,282)

BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 7


COUNTRY PROFILE

THE CHURCH IN SYRIA: ST 1 CENTURY – 2013?

Maaloula is one of the few places where Aramaic is still spoken

U

ntil 2011, Syria was one of the easiest places to be a Christian in the Middle East. Christians made up a sizeable minority, around 10% of the population, and were allowed to live out their faith without much hostility from the Muslims around them and with little interference from the authorities. But this all changed with the “Arab Spring”. As clashes between government forces and opposition fighters escalated into a brutal civil war that would tear the country apart, Christians emerged as particular targets for rebels who assumed our brothers and sisters were government supporters. And as Islamist bands became the most prominent groups amongst the rebel fighters, Christians began increasingly to be targeted simply for their faith. Now, around 600,000 Christians have fled the country or have been killed; it is estimated that of this number around 600 were martyred for their faith. The future for those who remain appears bleak.

Under threat from Islamism

What began as a people’s revolution has developed into a bloody Islamist campaign. Even the revolution’s original activists have

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BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013

complained that their rebellion has been hijacked by Islamists who, far from being pro-democracy, are instead fighting for a strict Islamic state. Islamist fighters from overseas make up a significant proportion of the opposition. The leader of the al-Nusra Front, a prominent rebel band, declared allegiance to al-Qaeda frontman Ayman al-Zahiri in April. The British government has made membership of the al-Nusra Front illegal. With Islamists growing in power, anti-Christian violence is being seen on a larger scale. Rebel fighters massacred almost 40 residents of the Christian village of Dweir, on the outskirts of Homs, on 27 May. Women and children were among those killed. A Barnabas Fund partner in Syria told us that two of his relatives, who were among the victims, were tortured before they were murdered. On 4 September, the historic Christian village of Maaloula, which is one of the few places in the world where Aramaic (the language of Jesus) is still spoken, was attacked by al-Qaeda-linked rebels. After a suicide bomber blew himself up at a government checkpoint, the attackers seized control of the village. They went into every Christian home and destroyed

The history of Christianity in Syria extends back almost 2,000 years. But now, the very existence of the Church in Syria is under threat.

This young Christian man was amongst those killed in Wadi al-Nasara

evidence of the inhabitants’ faith. At least seven Christians were killed and most of the village’s residents were forced to flee; Christians who fled to Damascus said at the funeral of three of the murdered Christians, “Let history record that Maaloula is crying today.” Another growing, shocking trend is the use of rape as a weapon. In early 2013 Yasir al-Ajlawni, a Salafi sheikh, issued a fatwa via YouTube calling for the rape of women who are not Sunni Muslims. He said that it is “legitimate” for Muslims who are fighting for an Islamic state in Syria to “capture and have sex with” them, and applied to them the term “melk al-yamin”, a Quranic term for non-Muslim sex slaves. This followed a similar announcement by a Saudi cleric a few months previously. Not long after the fatwa was issued, there was a tragic example of this horrendous ill-treatment. Mariam, a Christian girl from al-Qusair, was raped by 15 different Islamist men who one by one “married” her and then repudiated her. (Temporary marriages are lawful in Islam.) Mariam was then killed by her abductors. She was just 15 years old.


COUNTRY PROFILE

Christians who fled to Damascus said at the funeral of three of the murdered Christians, “Let history record that Maaloula is crying today.” Islamists have also continued to drive Christians out of areas that they have taken over. For example, after rebel fighters invaded al-Thawrah in February 2013, they seized the Christians’ homes, confiscated their possessions and threatened them with death if they did not comply with sharia law. Church buildings are also targets. In January, attacks on churches by rebels were condemned as “war crimes” by international human rights organisation Human Rights Watch.

Are these the last days of the Church in Syria?

The intense Islamist threat, along with the mounting humanitarian crisis facing all Syrians (see page 14), is leaving many of our brothers and sisters with no choice but to flee the country, if they can. It appears that Islamists aim not only to kill our brothers and sisters but to do so in the most horrific ways in order to create terror amongst all Christians in Syria. And if Islamist rebel groups were to emerge victorious from the civil conflict, the plight of Christians would be likely to intensify. The number of Christians in Syria is already estimated to have fallen from 2 million to 1.4 million, and they are running out of safe places inside Syria to which they can flee.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians are displaced within Syria. Around 90,000 fled to the predominantly Christian area of Wadi al-Nasara (Valley of the Christians) when their home towns in other parts of Syria became unsafe. But on 17 August, even this safe haven became a place of bloodshed. Around 15 Christians were killed when Islamist gunmen went on a killing spree at a hotel where the Christians were holding a celebration. A Barnabas Fund partner on the ground said, “Wadi al-Nasara was in deep deep sorrow to lose so many people in one day… I cried a lot seeing the photos of the innocent who were killed in cold blood.” Thousands of Christians were able to return to al-Qusair after the town was recaptured by government forces. But many came back to find their homes and churches destroyed. The walls of one church building had been defaced with anti-Christian graffiti. The kidnapping and killing of Christian leaders in Syria is also threatening the future of the Church. Not only does this deplorable tactic deprive specific communities of the support of their pastors; it also creates a heightened sense

A Church that has endured for centuries

There have been Christians in Syria since Biblical times. It was as he approached Damascus that Saul, who was going there with the intent of persecuting Christians, encountered Jesus Christ, and it was in that city that he was baptised and first proclaimed the Lord’s Name (Acts 9:1-6, 17-22). The Church survived the incursion of Islam in the 7th century, and Christian and Muslim forces vied for control of the country during the Crusades. After Syria was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, Christians and some other minority religious groups were allowed to govern themselves under their own leadership, who were ultimately controlled by the Ottoman authorities. This system continued during the French occupation

of defencelessness within the Church as a whole. The kidnapping in April of two archbishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boutros Yazigi, caused great distress amongst Christians, who felt very helpless after the targeting of two such highprofile figures. At the time of writing, the two bishops were still missing. With even their once-safe areas becoming targets, their leaders under intense threat, their homes reduced to rubble and the possibility of an Islamist government looming, Christians may have no choice but to abandon Syria. This could be where the 2,000-year history of Christianity in Syria ends.

Please pray

Pray that Christians in Syria will know, no matter how desperate their situation becomes, that God is their help; that the Lord is the one who sustains them (Psalm 54:4). Ask the Lord to meet all the practical and spiritual needs of Syrian Christians, and pray for a peaceful outcome to the conflict that will not further marginalise or endanger them.

between 1920 and 1946. Since current President Bashar al-Assad’s father came to power in 1971, Christians have been an accepted minority, well represented in political and administrative affairs, but this status is now under threat. The Church in Syria has been swelled in the past by influxes of Christians fleeing persecution in other parts of the Middle East; for example Armenians fleeing the genocide that peaked in 1915, and Iraqi Christians who fled Islamist violence in their homeland following the 2003 US-led invasion. Tragically, Iraqi Christian refugees are now seeing similar events to those that forced them to flee Iraq unfold in Syria.

BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 9


COUNTRY PROFILE

SPONSOR A

CHRISTIAN CHILD

HELP SAVE THE CHURCH “I cannot find a single family that has not been affected by this crippling war. No single child is safe.” – A Barnabas Fund partner in Syria Christian children in Syria are the future of the Church. But these same children are growing up surrounded by terrors that no child should have to endure. Christian children have seen their family members killed, and many have themselves been injured, maimed or even murdered. Many are showing signs of being severely traumatised. Christian girls are particularly vulnerable to kidnap and sexual abuse. Some have seen the places they feel most secure – their homes, schools and churches – damaged or destroyed. Many have had to flee with their families, and may have been living in inadequate, temporary accommodation for months. Schools

Hanaa’s father told a Barnabas Fund

partner of the trauma his daughter has experienced. After their home in Homs was bombed, his family fled to another area of the city. But they were not welcome there. The whole family was subject to harassment from their new neighbours, but the worst treatment was reserved for Hanaa, the young daughter of the family. Fearing that she would be subject to sexual harassment, the family was forced to flee once more. This time they sought refuge in Wadi alNasara, along with many other Christian families. But finding safety came at a price. Hanaa’s father has not been able to find a job in the Wadi, and the family of six is now living in a small house that is in disrepair and is inadequate for their needs.

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have been bombed, used as military barracks or shelters for the displaced, or closed. Some children have not been to school since the conflict began, in some cases because the journey to and from school is too dangerous. Because of shortages, inflation and sky-rocketing prices, hundreds of thousands of Christian children are going without many of the basics we take for granted. Scarcity of food, water, baby milk, petrol and electricity is causing great hardship. As part of Barnabas Fund’s work to safeguard the future of the Church in Syria, we are looking for sponsors for 2,000 children like “Hanaa” and “Georgio”.

Georgio’s family came to the

Wadi to escape the violence, in which their house was bombed, but they could not afford to rent a house. Instead they are now living in two rooms in an empty office. They have divided one of the rooms with a partition so that they can use part of it as a bathroom. Although Georgio’s father is working, he is unable to give his family the life he would want for them. Despite these deprived circumstances and the trauma he has experienced, Georgio has managed to stay in school and is a high achiever. His father reported that Georgio attained 300 marks out of a possible 310 in his examinations.

Supporters who give regularly will receive a prayer card with the photograph of one Christian child and will receive a regular newsletter about the sponsorship programme. Please note that because of security concerns, direct contact between sponsors and children is not possible.

Could you be a lifeline for one Christian child?

Just

£18 on average per month

provides one child with the basics they desperately need. To begin sponsoring a Christian child in Syria, please use the gift form on p.19, indicating that you would like to give regularly and using project number 00-1147 as a reference. Alternatively you can set up a regular gift for a child in Syria by contacting your nearest Barnabas Fund office or by visiting www.barnabasfund.org/donate-online, selecting “Direct Debit” and choosing “Sponsor a Persecuted Christian Child – 00-1147” from the drop-down list.


WINDOWS WINDOWSON ON ISLAM ISLAM

Making sense of the Middle East

Making sense of the Middle East (This article was written in mid-September 2013 and analyses the state of the Middle East at that time.)

In

the last three years, Barnabas Aid has carried many news stories and articles about the Middle East. Many of these have focused on the brutal and destructive civil war that has been raging in Syria since 2011, or on the rapid and tumultuous political changes that have racked the nation of Egypt. Since both countries have large Christian minorities, who have been cruelly oppressed as a result of these events, they are of particular concern to Christians in the West. But the strife in Syria and Egypt is not purely internal. To be understood correctly, it has to be seen in the context of a wider and multi-faceted conflict across the entire region. A number of divisions run across the Middle East, creating political and social tensions of many kinds. The key regional players compete with one another to achieve outcomes that will best serve their own agendas. These divisions hugely complicate the unfolding dramas in Syria and Egypt, not least because some countries (notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar) are on the same side in one of the conflicts and on opposite sides in the other. They also further jeopardise the already precarious position of Christians in the region, many of whom are caught up in the wider struggle but have little power to influence it. In this pull-out supplement we shall consider some of the most important of the divisions in order to illuminate not only recent events in Syria and Egypt, but also the developing crisis across the entire Middle East.We shall also spell out some of the implications for Christian minorities in the affected countries.

Sunni versus Shia

The conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims has a long and bloody history. The split originated little more than 20 years after the death of Muhammad, in a dispute over the succession to the leadership of the Muslim community. When Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, became caliph in 656, he was not universally accepted as the rightful heir, and war broke out between his supporters and his opponents. Although Ali and his sons were all killed, his followers, Shia Ali (the party of Ali), continued and became the Shia Muslims. Sunni empires and states have been the dominant force in Islam, and Sunnis have comprised the majority

population. They represent at least 80% of the world’s Muslims today and around 90% of those in the Middle East. But the Shia are a majority in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain and have significant minorities in Lebanon, Yemen and some other Gulf states. The Shia Alawite sect has also ruled Syria for decades through the current President Assad and his father, despite their being only a small minority in the country. Sunnis and Shias remain hostile to each other, and in the Middle East this hostility has intensified in recent decades since the resurgence of activist Shia Islam. That revival was seen most clearly in the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the emergence of the militant Shia group Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1982. Sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias broke out in Iraq following the US-led invasion of 2003 and has continued sporadically ever since, while Iran has hardly troubled to hide its intention of extending its influence in the region. Meanwhile the Sunni regimes in the Arabian Peninsula are battling to suppress their own restive Shia minorities (or in Bahrain’s case, majority) while supporting anti-Shia groups elsewhere. The conflict between Sunnis and Shias is becoming more complex because of outside allegiances. Some Sunnis support Hezbollah because they are opposed to Saudi Arabia. Equally, Lebanese Christians may support either Hezbollah or the Sunnis. In both Lebanon and Syria, Christians may end up supporting Sunnis, Shia, Hezbollah or Kurds depending where they find themselves, for self-preservation. The main Sunni-Shia battle is currently between the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf (including Qatar) and the Shia nation of Iran, with the West siding with the Gulf states against Iran and its nuclear potential. It is being played out most graphically and tragically in the cities and villages of Syria. The Alawite government is a key Iranian ally, and both Iran and Hezbollah have declared their plans to defend Syrian President Assad, even against attacks from the West. But Saudi Arabia and Qatar, eager to deprive their Iranian rival of its Shia partner, are supporting and arming the opposition forces. An opposition (Sunni) victory in Syria is likely to have a devastating effect on Iran and its Shia allies. The regime in Iran would come under increasing pressure from its own discontented population, and a new political sys-

BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013

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WINDOWS ON ISLAM

Making sense of the Middle East tem might emerge. Hezbollah in Lebanon and other Shia supporters would also be greatly weakened. Although these changes might have some positive political results, there is also a danger that the wounded Shias would lash out against soft targets as a way of bolstering their popular support, especially perhaps the highly vulnerable Christians in Iran. (The outlook for Syrian Christians in this scenario is examined below.) Aggression between Shias and Sunnis has spread to neighbouring countries. A Sunni jihadi group in Iraq killed hundreds of Shias in 2012, aiming to eradicate key Shia strongholds in the country. In Lebanon the two communities have lined up in support of the Syrian government and opposition respectively, sometimes with bombings and gun battles. Hezbollah is also perceived to threaten the stability of Lebanon and the wider region, as it has become a state within a state, is anti-Israel and obtains its arms from Iran. The Shias of Syria with the Alawi-led government of Bashar al-Assad, the Iranian Shia regime and Hezbollah are perceived as a single entity that the West, Israel and the Gulf states would like to see dismantled. An alQaeda-linked group has also threatened Shia supporters of Hezbollah with attacks. The turbulence created by this inter-Muslim conflict looks set to continue for some time, with potentially disastrous consequences for Christians and others caught in the crossfire. But the prospect of a decisive Sunni victory in Syria seems no more promising for them.

Secular liberals versus Islamists

At its beginning, the Arab Spring of 2011 was widely hailed as a victory for Western-style liberal democracy over despotic autocracy. But the picture that later emerged was a very mixed one. Only in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were governments actually overthrown; in various other countries, sustained civil disorder or more moderate protests brought some political changes, but the old regimes continued in power. In still other places, major or minor protests effected little significant change. At least, however, the optimists could point to free elections in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as a sign of positive change. But the infant democracy in Egypt has already come to grief, as the elected government has been toppled in a popular uprising supported by the military. The Tunisian regime is deadlocked with its opposition following the assassination of two politicians, and the Libyan government is struggling to contain numerous hostile militias (many of them linked to al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups) who are defying its attempts to disarm them. The people of these nations are learning the hard way that democracy is about more than votes and elections. In order to flourish it requires a strong civil society, including a fair and free press, a strong and independent judiciary, laws that protect individual rights and safeguard the political process, and an educated and informed electorate. Many or all of these essential conditions are lacking in North Africa. At the heart of the crisis, at least in Egypt and Tunisia, lies a fundamental conflict between secular liberals

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and Islamists over the roles of Islam and the state. While liberal or progressive Muslims, along with Christians and other minorities, believe that religion and the state should be separate, Islamists insist that Islam must dominate the state. They believe that the Islamic source texts and sharia law contain sufficient guidance for a complete social and political system, and that the state is the best tool for implementing this. As a result, they seek to gain political power by any means they can, including by democratic elections, and then to use the coercive power of the state to enforce sharia. Although the early Arab Spring protests were dominated by liberals, who called for Western rights and freedoms, these were not delivered by the subsequent elections. In Tunisia and Egypt, the long established and better organised Islamist movements capitalised on the power vacuum to pursue their own goals. The Islamist parties, Ennahda and the Muslim Brotherhood, duly emerged victorious from the polls in Tunisia and Egypt respectively. The Muslim Brotherhood at once began to exert its grip on Egyptian politics and society. It rapidly imposed its own Islamist agenda, pushing through an unpopular constitution that gave clerics an undefined role in ensuring that all legislation complied with sharia. The Islamist regime of President Mohammad Morsi was characterised by a series of power grabs directed at (for example) the judiciary, regional government and the media. Christians were among the worst affected by the new order, with an increase in violent attacks and a growing number of “blasphemy” cases that saw them jailed for allegedly insulting Islam. The government offered them no effective protection and failed to take action against those responsible. It appeared that Islamist success in Tunisia and especially Egypt would herald a strengthening of Islamism throughout the Middle East. Its goal of reshaping society and politics on the basis of sharia to create Islamic states ruled by Islamists seemed within touching distance. There was even talk of re-establishing the caliphate, a united Islamic state under one ruler or caliph. But all was not as it seemed. Discontent grew rapidly among secularists in Egypt, who saw their revolution being hijacked by the Islamists. The government also failed effectively to address the country’s economic crisis, and inflation (especially rising food prices) fuelled popular discontent. Mass public protests erupted on the streets. Despite attempts by the Egyptian government to neutralise the army, it retained its independent political power and was ready to respond to the massive unrest. And Saudi Arabia, which feared Islamist groups as a threat to its monarchical government, was much alarmed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s progress. It is thought to have been heavily involved in Morsi’s fall, and it is bankrolling the new military government. Meanwhile, secularists in Tunisia have been emboldened by the coup and have also taken to the streets. They have demanded that the Islamist Ennahda government should step aside and make way for a caretaker government. In what had appeared to be Islamism’s new stronghold of North Africa, it has lost ground in terms of


WINDOWS ON ISLAM

Making sense of the Middle East both popularity and political power and is suddenly on the defensive, if not in disarray. These changes are likely also to impact Turkey, whose own government has been moving increasingly towards an Islamist position. Sadly the beleaguered Christians of Egypt have seen no improvement in their conditions since the fall of the Islamist government. On the contrary, they are suffering one of the worst periods of targeted violence against them in modern history. Because of their known opposition to Islamism they were scapegoated by the Muslim Brotherhood for the military takeover, and they have seen churches and other Christian institutions attacked and Christian homes and businesses daubed with a black X to mark them for destruction. Some Christians have also been killed. There are concerns that a full-scale Islamist insurgency may break out in Sinai in the north and Minya and Assuit in the south, which will endanger the Christian population still further. However, despite the persecution they are enduring, Egyptian Christians have forgiven their persecutors and not retaliated.

Saudi Arabia versus Qatar

Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most rigid, hardline and authoritarian state in the entire region, and it is working hard to preserve its monarchical regime. At the time of the Arab Spring it cracked down hard on its own Shia protestors and helped the Sunni rulers of Bahrain to suppress theirs. And although it played a key role in encouraging the populist Sunni uprisings in various other countries, it rejects political Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood that use the democratic process to gain power. Its extreme conservative brand of Islam, Salafi-Wahhabism, is inherently opposed to democracy. The small nation of Qatar has used the developing crisis in the Middle East to assume a more significant role. It has provided leadership for the international effort for regime change in Syria, and also for the Libyan insurgency and the new government’s efforts at reconstruction. But unlike Saudi Arabia, it has also maintained close relations with the main political Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood (which has its headquarters there), and supported its government in Egypt. It has also hosted various opposition governments in waiting. By these means it has hoped to avoid a terrorist threat within its own borders and also to promote a stable environment for Qatari investment abroad. However, major political changes are currently taking place in Qatar. The ruling emir has retired and been succeeded by his son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Both countries have immense oil wealth, and they are more than ready to use it to shape the society and politics of other countries and so to safeguard their own position. But this makes them rivals for influence in the Middle East, and this tension is highlighted by the conflict between Saudi tradition and Qatari reformism as described above. So although the two nations are on the same (opposition) side in the Syrian civil war, they take opposite views on who should succeed Assad. Qatar wants a

Muslim Brotherhood regime to be installed, while Saudi Arabia would see this as a threat. When the Brotherhood swept to power in Egypt, Qatar appeared to hold the upper hand; but now the Islamist government has been toppled, Saudi Arabia is in the ascendant. Anti-Christian repression is more severe in Saudi Arabia than anywhere else in the region. Non-Muslim places of worship are forbidden, and although the substantial expatriate Christian community is supposedly allowed to worship in private, they are subject to raids and arrests. Conversion from Islam is punishable by death, and the small number of indigenous Christians practise their faith in extreme secrecy. Qatar permits Christian worship in a designated area, and expatriate Christians are subject to few restrictions, except that they are forbidden to evangelise. But apostasy is technically a capital offence there too, and indigenous Christians operate mainly underground. The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is contributing to the instability and violence in both Egypt and Syria, with all its disastrous consequences for Christians. But the unchallenged dominance in the region of either country would be unlikely to enhance the freedom or security of the churches.

Ethnic and sectarian tensions

Within this regional power struggle are numerous ethnic and religious minorities that are either pursuing greater security or just trying to survive. The Kurds are one of the largest ethnic groups in the region without a state of their own. Around 30 million of them are spread across Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, and they are pressing for greater independence. In recent years they have established a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq, and they support the opposition to Assad in the hope of doing the same in northern Syria. But although their nationalist ambitions are thus contributing to regional instability, they have been generally hospitable to Christians fleeing from violence in central and southern Iraq, many of whom have found relative safety in the north. Not for the first time in their long and difficult history, the Jewish people of Israel are also threatened by the factions and volatility of their powerful neighbours to the north and south. They are largely isolated, and a strong Islamist political presence in either Syria or Egypt magnifies the danger that they face. The ousted Egyptian President Morsi was quoted as making a number of vitriolic statements against the Jews, including a call for a Palestinian state on the “entire land of Palestine”; had his government remained in power, Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty would have been under threat. Islamist rule in Syria would renew the long-standing danger the country poses to Israel’s northeastern border. As for the Christians, they are the most vulnerable minority in the Middle East. In addition to their oppression in Arabia and persecution in Egypt, outlined above, they are now facing the wholesale destruction of one of their most ancient communities, trapped in the tortured nation of Syria. Since the uprising began, Syrian Christians have been ruthlessly targeted by Islamist militants within

BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 iii


Making sense of the Middle East

WINDOWS ON ISLAM

Source: seier+seier, Flickr

the opposition; their churches have been destroyed, their homes taken over and their people kidnapped and killed. This is a grim repeat of what happened to Iraqi Christians following the US-led invasion of 2003, when hundreds of thousands were forced to flee their homes following targeted attacks by Islamist militants, who associated them with the Western powers because of their faith. The Assad regime in Syria had afforded considerable freedom and protection to Christians and other minorities; if it falls, there is some danger that the greater part of the Church in Syria will be obliterated.

Islamist movements. Similarly, in the Xinyang province of China the Uighurs are seeking independence or autonomy and are developing close links with radical Islamist and terror groups in the Middle East. Islamism in the Middle East poses a real threat to other societies, including those in the West, where radical Islamism is spreading and many Western Muslims are going to fight alongside jihadists in Syria and elsewhere, returning home to become potential jihadists themselves. Western countries are not fully grappling with this problem.

International responses

One consistent thread in Western policy towards the Middle East is its failure to support or protect the region’s defenceless Christians. Its actions have contributed to the virtual extinction of the Church in Iraq and seem set to have the same result in Syria, while Christian communities elsewhere have looked in vain for help as they groan under the yoke of persecution. In fact the intricate divisions described above have generated a surprising new alignment. While Western nations are increasingly on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi-Wahhabis and against the Iranians and other Shias, Russia and China are seen as more supportive of a liberal and anti-Islamist position and of the Shias, including Iran. As a result, Christians find themselves supported by Russia and China (not traditionally seen as friends of the Church), while the historic supporters of religious liberty and human rights in the West, which have seen themselves as Christian nations and co-religionists with Middle Eastern Christians, are aiding the radical Islamists and denying Christians their fundamental freedoms. Western governments face a major challenge in navigating the complexities of the current crisis in the Middle East. It is to be hoped that they will at last take into account the desperate plight of the region’s Christians and take action to defend and strengthen them.

The response of Western governments to the continuing crisis has been mixed. The US and UK desire to weaken Iran, and in particular to thwart its nuclear agenda. They are also hostile to the Assad regime in Syria, both for its suppression of political dissent at home and for its support for insurgents and militants abroad, especially in Iraq and Lebanon. For these and perhaps other reasons they have allied themselves with Saudi Arabia and Qatar in support of the Syrian opposition. In Egypt the US initially backed the Muslim Brotherhood as the democratically elected government, although it sometimes appeared not to recognise the movement’s essentially Islamist character and aims. For example, at a House of Representatives Intelligence Committee hearing in February 2011, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, described the Brotherhood as a “largely secular” organisation with “no overarching agenda”. But the removal of Morsi created a dilemma for America as to whether or not this constituted a coup, in which case there would be implications for its ongoing financial and military support of the Egyptian army. It appears to be waiting to see how the fast changing events work out before committing itself to one side or another, while remaining committed to the “non-violent Islamist movements” as potentially the best way of bringing stability to the region. Both Russia and China are concerned about the growth of radical Islamism, including Islamist terror groups, in the region, as they see it affecting their own countries, where they are facing similar problems. In the Caucasus the Russians face al-Qaeda and a rising tide of

Conclusion

Please turn to page 12 to read about Barnabas Fund’s petition on behalf of Christians in Syria. A petition sheet is enclosed with this magazine.

Barnabas fund hope and aid for the persecuted church UK 9 Priory Row, Coventry CV1 5EX Telephone 024 7623 1923 Fax 024 7683 4718 From outside the UK Telephone +44 24 7623 1923 Fax +44 24 7683 4718 Email info@barnabasfund.org Registered Charity Number 1092935 Company Registered in England Number 4029536

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New Zealand PO Box 27 6018, Manukau City, Auckland, 2241 Telephone (09) 280 4385 or 0800 008 805 Email office@barnabasfund.org.nz

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International Headquarters The Old Rectory, River Street, Pewsey, Wiltshire SN9 5DB, UK Telephone 01672 564938 Fax 01672 565030

Australia PO Box 3527 Loganholme QLD 4129 Telephone (07) 3806 1076 or 1300 365799 Fax (07) 3806 4076 Email bfaustralia@barnabasfund.org

USA 6731 Curran St, McLean, VA 22101 Telephone (703) 288-1681 or toll-free 1-866-936-2525 Fax (703) 288-1682 Email usa@barnabasaid.org

From outside UK Telephone +44 1672 564938 Fax +44 1672 565030 Email info@barnabasfund.org

BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013

www.barnabasfund.org


LEARNING FROM THE PERSECUTED CHURCH

From Islamist militant to soldier of the cross

The testimony of a former member of al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group in Somalia, shows how God can change the hearts of those who persecute Christians

My

name is “Bishar”, and I am 26 years old.

“Which books are these?” I asked doubtfully. “I must inspect them. Please stand there and don’t move, lest I shoot you dead.”

I was recruited to the al-Shabaab militant group when I was 17, at the Islamist school I was attending. Together with many other recruits, I was brainwashed by the leaders to believe that we must defend Islam at all costs, and that whoever sacrifices his life for the sake of Islam will go straight to heaven. Also we were promised a lot of money, which we were never given.

I tore the packaging and saw a beautiful illustration. Inside were copies of a comic book, The Story of Khalil, in the Somali language. I took a copy and went through it quickly. I was amazed by the beauty of the drawings and, funnily enough, I didn’t notice anything offensive. In fact, I loved the comic book very much, as I thought it was about a faithful Muslim named Khalil. I asked the trader to give me a copy, which he did willingly.

We were sent to Saudi Arabia for vigorous training in military operations and Islamic doctrines. Then we were sent back to Somalia to strengthen al-Shabaab’s operations. I was responsible for conducting a thorough search of any person passing through a certain roadblock. Guns and Christian materials such as Bibles and pamphlets were strongly prohibited. I remember that morning in early June. I was at the roadblock when a trader arrived with his cargo loaded onto a motorcycle. I stopped him and started to conduct the search. When I opened the first load, I noticed that there was a bundle of something else in with his cargo. “What’s inside here?” I asked the trader. He replied, as if he was afraid, “Those are books.”

I told myself that that was the kind of life I had always wanted, and Islam had never given it to me. All of a sudden, a powerful impression engulfed me and I was saying to myself, “I need Jesus, not al-Shabaab” When I was free for the day, I went to a secluded corner and started to read the story. It flowed so well that it captivated my mind. Then I realized it was a Christian story. Instead of getting angry as I’d usually do, I became even more interested in it. There was this strong feeling in me that assured me that what I was doing was right.

I was able to liken myself to Khalil. My entire life has been unfulfilled. My heart has always been filled with bitterness and anger. I jealously admired Khalil when he accepted Jesus and got baptised; he looked fulfilled and peaceful. I told myself that that was the kind of life I had always wanted, and Islam had never given it to me. All of a sudden, a powerful impression engulfed me and I was saying to myself, “I need Jesus, not al-Shabaab.” I knew that if my colleagues spotted me with the comic book, I’d be in serious trouble. That night, I deserted al-Shabaab. I walked for two days, hiding in shrubs. After two weeks in a new country, I met a leader of the underground church. A new Christian friend helped me to move again, and I’ve now been welcomed by a local church. I have received a Somali Bible, which I’m reading now, and I’m happy to be baptised in the coming weeks.

I’ve found true peace in Jesus. The Story of Khalil tells the true story of a Christian-hating Egyptian terrorist who was changed from a murderous “Saul” to a forgiving “Paul” after Jesus Christ appeared to him in a dream. Barnabas funds a ministry that supports vulnerable believers in Bishar’s new location.

BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 11


ADVOCACY

FOR SUFFERING “ BARNABAS LAUNCHES PETITION

CHRISTIANS

I urgently call upon Barnabas Fund:

IN SYRIA As the long and painful trauma of Syria’s beleaguered Christians drags on relentlessly, Barnabas Fund is calling on Western governments to take action on their behalf.

S

yrian Christians are caught in the crossfire of the brutal civil war that has raged for more than two years between supporters and opponents of President Bashar al-Assad. But they are also being deliberately targeted by Islamists among the opposition forces because of their faith. They have suffered violent attack, kidnap, torture, sexual assault and murder; their homes and neighbourhoods have been taken over and their church buildings deliberately destroyed. Around 600,000 have fled the country, and even more are internally displaced.

●● to respond to the humanitarian needs of our churches, especially by providing Christians with basic needs ●● to help find an end to this ungodly war in Syria by making contacts with the superpower countries, so that Christians can continue practising their faith with full freedom and maintain their Church properties.

The future of the Church in Syria, which dates from New Testament times, is now hanging in the balance. Barnabas has launched a new petition that calls on Western governments: ●● to recognise that the Christians of Syria are a significant but highly threatened minority in the current crisis, noting that Christians are facing unprecedented levels of violence from both the general conflict and targeted anti-Christian attacks from some factions;  ●● to put the plight of Christians and other minorities at the forefront of their humanitarian aid programmes, ensuring that there are pro-active policies in place to guarantee equitable delivery to all communities;  ●● to work towards and support only those outcomes in Syria that allow freedom, equality and justice for all without discrimination, recognising that core human rights including freedom of religion and belief are the only basis for a stable society. A copy of the petition is enclosed with this magazine. Please sign it yourself and promote it within your church and community. You can obtain additional copies by contacting your local Barnabas office (addresses on back cover) or by downloading them from www.barnabasfund.org/syriapetition. You are also welcome to photocopy the sheet.

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The sectarian war in Syria has left behind only death, destruction, poverty and displacement. Christians have been killed, their churches burnt and destroyed, and they themselves forced to convert to Islam or leave their homeland.

Metropolitan Eustathius Matta Roham Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Jazirah and Euphrates, Syria

On behalf of my community and all Christian societies in Syria, we urge Western authorities to take the measures necessary to protect our Christian civilians in the country. We ask them to shift their thoughts towards increasing financial support to our Christian societies and communities because of their dire need at this time. We ask your governments sincerely and seriously to take into account the plight of our Christian societies and communities in Syria and continue your support to hundreds of thousands of Christian refugees here and beyond the borders.

Dr Jany Haddad, senior Baptist church leader in Syria, Professor of Surgery, Founder and President of the Armenian Christian Medical Association, Founder and President of Living Hope for Families ministries

On behalf of Syrian Christians and other minority communities, we plead for peace in Syria, and we are ready to work through our people and churches to maintain peaceful coexistence among all peoples and faiths in the region. We entreat Western governments to alleviate the suffering of our people by providing urgent humanitarian aid, as our communities are in dire need. The majority have been displaced from their homes with hardly anything to subsist on; most are jobless, homeless, and in danger of abduction and assaults by radical militants.

Mrs Rosangela Jarjour, from Homs, Syria, General Secretary of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches 


ADVOCACY

Proclaim Freedom petition presented B arnabas Fund’s UK Proclaim Freedom petition, signed by 35,940 people, was delivered to the European Commission and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 17 September 2013. Versions of the

freedom of religion for everyone to be promoted through international policy-making and diplomatic ties, and appeals also for justice for all, especially that those who persecute Christians be held accountable for their crimes.

Barnabas Fund’s UK Proclaim Freedom petition was signed by 35,940 people same petition, with signatures from the US, Australia and New Zealand, are also being presented to their respective governments. The petition highlights the unprecedented levels of persecution currently faced by Christians, calling for governments to put their plight at the forefront of their relations with the countries concerned. It asks for

Barnabas Fund appreciated the welcoming response by both offices and valued the opportunity to represent the support of the thousands of people who have backed the campaign. Please pray as the petition is now considered by ministers in Brussels and London. Thank you to all the supporters who signed the petition.

Barnabas Fund staff bring the petition to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Barnabas assists government review of asylum policy

T

he “Christian Converts in Crisis” Spotlight article in the July-August Barnabas Aid magazine included some critical analysis of Western governments’ treatment of Christian converts who seek asylum in the West to escape persecution. Following recent meetings between Barnabas Fund and the Home Office, we are pleased to report that the approach of the UK asylum authorities to Christian converts seems to be improving. Barnabas Fund is now involved, along with other partner groups, in assisting officials to evaluate their policies and re-write the guidance notes for staff. The Home Office appears to have taken on board some of the criticisms levelled against it and to have consigned to the past some of its errors, such as those highlighted in the Evangelical Alliance report All Together for Asylum Justice, mentioned in our article. Yet further mistakes are inevitable, and we are committed to ongoing engagement with their work to promote continued improvement in their dealing with converts.

A Home Office official commented to us that the “Government is committed to providing protection for those individuals found to be genuinely in need, in accordance with our commitments under international law… Asylum will always be granted when a claimant’s fear of persecution on account of their religious beliefs is considered to be wellfounded.”

“Asylum will always be granted when a claimant’s fear of persecution on account of their religious beliefs is considered to be well-founded.” The Home Office now actively wants to engage with interested parties to help ensure that the information and guidance given to their staff is as comprehensive and as helpful as possible. Barnabas is collaborating in a review of Guidance Notes for case workers and interviews and is commenting on the Code of Conduct for translators. We have pushed strongly for greater recognition of anti-Christian persecution around the world and of the acute dangers that many Christian

converts can face, especially (though not only) those who have left Islam. We have underlined the need for more sensitive and accurate analysis of convert cases. We are also making additional information available to Home Office staff who prepare the country profiles for the asylum system. Thank you to all those Barnabas supporters who have written to their MPs on this subject. We continue to pray that the UK will be a place of safety and refuge for Christians, especially converts, who are escaping violent persecution in their home countries.

Source: ukhomeoffice, Flickr

BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 13


NEWSDESK

Unprecedented anti-Christian violence rages

This burnt-out church in Egypt was just one of many Christian targets

Egypt – Supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi have subjected Christians to unprecedented violence in which at least 16 believers have been killed. One commentator observed that 14 August, the day on which the military cleared the proMorsi sit-ins, was the worst for antiChristian violence in Egypt since the 14th century. The Muslim Brotherhood is unfairly blaming Egyptian Christians for the Islamist leader’s fall. At least 60 church buildings have been destroyed, as have 11 Christian schools, a Christian orphanage, a Christian hospital and countless Christian homes and businesses,

in incidents too numerous to detail. In one particularly distressing act of aggression, Islamists broke into a Christian school in Beni Suef, looted it and replaced the cross on its gate

In Minya, Christian properties were marked with black “X”s to single them out for destruction and to distinguish them from Muslim ones, which were marked with red “X”s that

Christian properties were marked with black “X”s to single them out for destruction and to distinguish them from Muslim ones with an al-Qaeda-style flag before setting the building on fire. Two female Christian members of staff were sexually assaulted as they tried to escape, and the Islamists paraded three nuns on the street, in the words of one of them, “like prisoners of war”.

14 BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013

kept them safe. Christians in Dalga in Minya province are amongst those suffering most acutely; around 40 Christian families were forced to flee as Islamists, who took over the town on 3 July, tightened their grip. The Islamists vandalised churches and

Christian property in the town. Minya and Assiut are both Islamist strongholds and home to Egypt’s largest Christian communities. Wahid Jacob, a young Christian from Assiut, was kidnapped on 21 August and subsequently tortured and murdered when his impoverished family were unable to pay the exorbitant ransom demanded by his captors. Christians in the Sinai Peninsula, where the Egyptian government is already fighting a militant Islamic insurgency, have also been repeatedly attacked. Three Christians have been killed in Sinai since July.


NEWSDESK

Islamist rebels attack Christian villages Central African Republic – The Islamist rebels

people and looting property. In general the rebels, who are a coalition of who seized control of the Central militants from CAR, Sudan and Chad, African Republic (CAR) in a bloody have targeted Christian villages and coup in March have continued to spared Muslim ones. Their campaign target the country’s Christians. At has displaced over 200,000 people least 15 believers were killed when inside the country, and a further the rebels raided 14 60,000 have fled CAR. Christian villages in Militants threw Christians are Bouar in early August. the bodies of also under pressure Eye-witnesses reported the murdered, from the authorities that the militants threw who included a in the new regime. A the bodies of the five-month-old senior Christian leader, murdered, who included baby, into a river the Rev. Nicolas Guerékoyamé, was a five-month-old baby, arrested in Bangui for into a river. At least 1,000 people were displaced by the criticising the government during a raids. sermon. Mr Guerékoyamé has been Since the rebellion began, the outspoken about the regime’s failure Seleka rebels have been rampaging to protect civilians from the rebels’ through the country, killing and raping abuses.

Children interrogated in raid on Christian children’s camp Uzbekistan – Children

at a Christian children’s camp in Mironkul village, Samarkand region, were subject to questioning by law enforcement officers who raided the camp on 23 July. Four bus-loads of officials, including police officers, riot police and members of the Fire Brigade, descended on the camp and collected statements from all those present, including small children. After the questioning process, which continued for six hours, everyone present was taken to the police station. Although the Christians were eventually released, it is thought that charges will be brought against the four organisers of the camp under Uzbekistan’s harsh laws regarding

religious activity. A number of items were confiscated from the camp and from the homes of the four organisers, including Bibles, other Christian resources and computers. Christian children’s camps are also under threat elsewhere in Uzbekistan. The Baptist Union in Bostanlyk district, Tashkent, is embroiled in a legal battle with the authorities, who are trying to seize land on which the Christians hold summer camps. The authorities claim that the Christians purchased the land “illegally” in 2000. This claim follows other forms of harassment: in the past the camps have been raided, fined and subjected to a media hate campaign, and pressure has been put on children and parents.

Islamists take over historic Christian village Syria – Islamist rebels seized

the Christian village of Maaloula on 4 September, in what is yet another blow to Syria’s beleaguered Church. After a suicide bomb attack targeted a government checkpoint, the rebels invaded the village. Militants from the al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) entered every Christian home and destroyed all evidence of the inhabitants’ Christian faith. At least seven Christians were killed and around 15 kidnapped. The bodies of the murdered Christians were left lying in the streets. The siege forced most of Maaloula’s 3,000 inhabitants to flee. Only around 30 elderly couples remained; the village became a ghost town. The funerals of those killed had to be held in Bab Touma, Damascus,

because of ongoing fighting in Maaloula. This aggravated the distress of the bereaved. Christians who had fled to Damascus from Maaloula said, “Let history record that Maaloula is crying today.” Barnabas Fund is providing aid to Christians affected by the violence

in Maaloula, which is a famous and historic centre of Christianity and one of the few places in the world where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken. The siege comes after a mass killing in the predominantly Christian area of Wadi-al-Nasara (Valley of the

A winter view of Maaloula in peaceful times. The village was invaded by Islamist rebels on 4 September

Christians) on 17 August. Islamist fighters killed soldiers at a checkpoint and proceeded to shoot dead around 15 Christians who were holding a celebration at a hotel. Two young men who helped distribute Barnabasfunded food to needy Christians were amongst those killed. This is the first time the Wadi has been targeted; it was previously a relatively safe area for Christians, and around 90,000 believers have fled there from other parts of Syria. As Islamists continue to take over territory, threatening Christians in areas they seize, recognition is growing of the dangers posed by some groups. On 16 August, the British government made membership of the al-Nusra Front a criminal act.

BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 15


NEWSDESK

Deadly violence displaces Christians Nigeria – Ten days of violence by

Islamic extremists in June devastated the Langtang Local Government Area of Plateau state in the Middle Belt and

forced thousands of Christians to flee their villages. At least 30 Christians were shot dead and over 100 homes destroyed in the attacks, which began

A church in Kano state that was destroyed in earlier violence. Barnabas helped to rebuild ten churches in Kano last year

Islamists demand removal of Christian local official Indonesia – Islamists in a

Muslim-majority area of West Java are calling for the removal of Susan Jasmine Zulkifli, a new sub-district head, because she is a Christian. Mrs Zulkifli was appointed by Joko Widodo, the Governor of Jakarta, in June. Her opponents claim that she should not hold the role because as a Christian she cannot take part in Islamic prayers and ceremonies. The Islamists presented a petition on 26 August, calling for her dismissal and apparently including 2,300 signatures; doubt has been shed on the reliability of this document because only 1,500 photocopied ID documents were presented with it. Two days later, around 100 people took part in a demonstration that was held outside the sub-district office. The protestors called for Mrs Zulkifli to be moved to an area with a Christian majority. Mrs Zulkifli, who has many Muslim staff who could attend

Islamic ceremonies in her place, has responded graciously to the opposition. She said that everyone has the right to “make their voices heard in a peaceful manner”. Mr Widodo has said that he will not move her to another area, stressing that appointments are made on the basis of performance and achievement. It has been suggested that the hostile reaction to Mrs Zulkifli’s appointment is part of general opposition to Mr Widodo and his deputy, Basuki Tjahaha Purnama. Mr Purnama, who is also a Christian, made Indonesian electoral history in 2012 by taking one of the country’s highest posts. But the effective partnership Mr Widodo and Mr Purnama have formed has attracted opposition from those who resent Muslim and Christian leaders working together. Mr Purnama’s inauguration ceremony, in October 2012, had to be delayed by a week.

16 BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013

on 27 June. A Christian source in the area said that the death toll may in fact be as high as 70. More than 6,000 people in total were displaced. The authorities initially said that the Christians had been attacked by Fulani herdsmen but later said that it was not an ethnic conflict and that most of the attackers were foreign. This is the latest in a series of antiChristian attacks in Plateau state; deadly violence also took place on 18 June and 18 July. Over the last six months, around 60 Christian communities in the Wase area alone have been targeted; 20 Christians

have been killed, several women raped and at least 100 church buildings destroyed in the area. Elsewhere in Nigeria, at least 45 people were killed and a number of others injured in coordinated bombings. The attacks targeted churches in the predominantly Christian area of Sabon Gari, in Kano state in the North. Four bombs exploded on the evening of 29 July as Bible studies were being held at two churches. Christian-owned businesses were also damaged in the attack. Source: Morning Star News

Convert to Christianity sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment Iran – The Iranian authorities

This is the second time that Mostafa have sentenced Mohammed-Hadi has endured official harassment for Bordbar (known as Mostafa), a his faith. In 2009 he was arrested for convert to Christianity from Islam, to leaving Islam, and, although he was serve ten years in prison. Mostafa released, the conviction that remained was found guilty of membership of on his record has made it difficult for an “anti-security organisation” and of him to earn a living. gathering with intent to commit crimes Another Iranian convert to against Iranian national Christianity, Ebrahim security. These charges Mostafa Firouzi, was sentenced are considered to be admitted in court in August to serve a pretexts for punishing that he had left year in jail followed by Mostafa for leaving Islam to follow two years in exile in a Islam and for his Christianity remote border town. Christian activities. and considers Ebrahim’s conviction Court documents evangelism was for his evangelistic reveal that Mostafa his duty activities; he was admitted in court that he accused of starting and had left Islam to follow directing an evangelism Christianity, considers evangelism group, launching a Christian website, his duty and has distributed 12,000 distributing Bibles and Christian pocket-sized Gospels. The papers literature and attending house also refer to Mostafa’s baptism and churches. The judge described such involvement in a house church, and activities as “propagating against the the discovery of 6,000 Gospels and Islamic regime”. other Christian resources at his home.


NEWSDESK

MPs call for Christian converts to be executed Afghanistan – Converts

from Islam to Christianity have been threatened in parliament by several MPs, who have called for them to be executed for apostasy. The matter was raised in debates on 15 and 17 July that centred on a group of Afghan converts who have fled to India. In the first debate, MP Abdul Sattar Khawasi said that the government should put pressure on the Indian authorities to provide a list of Afghan converts in Delhi. He argued that the Christians could then be arrested and punished if they ever tried to return to Afghanistan, and said that the Quran calls for the death penalty for those who leave Islam. Around 250 Afghan

converts have sought refuge in Delhi, fleeing persecution by the Afghan authorities and the Taliban, and a church is growing and thriving there,

that are happening in India. His was not a lone voice; the parliamentary speaker also ordered the country’s national security services to take

MP Nazir Ahmad Hanafi called for all Afghan converts to Christianity to be hanged despite the fact that the refugees have very limited rights in India and are at risk of hostility from Afghan Muslim refugees. Mr Khawasi referred to the church’s evangelistic activities in his comments. Then, in the second debate, MP Nazir Ahmad Hanafi called for all Afghan converts to Christianity to be hanged to stop the conversions

serious steps to stop the spread of Christianity. Several MPs attributed the spread of the Gospel to the 2001 US invasion, claiming that the US has a long-term plan to change the culture and religion of Afghanistan and that the conversions are part of this plan. A vitriolic campaign in the Afghan media followed these events. For ten consecutive nights, the photograph

of the leader of the Afghan church in Delhi was broadcast on two television channels, along with calls for his execution. After a similar sequence of events in 2010, also involving comments from Mr Khawasi, around 25 converts from Islam to Christianity were arrested in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is one of the few countries in the world where apostasy from Islam is judicially punishable by death. Two Christians, Abdul Rahman and Said Musa, faced the death penalty in 2006 and 2010 respectively, and both escaped it only after international pressure secured their release.

Anti-conversion law in Indian state to be strengthened India – Christians and other

religious minorities are increasingly at risk from India’s expanding anticonversion laws. Eight Indian states have introduced anti-conversion laws that prevent, on paper, conversions by “force, fraud or allurement”, but which are in fact used to prevent legitimate Christian evangelism and to make it difficult for Hindus to convert to another religion. Currently, the laws are in force in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, Gurjarat and Chhattisgarh, and the existing law in Madhya Pradesh is now being strengthened. An amendment passed in Madhya Pradesh on 10 July requires both converts and ministers to obtain permission from the authorities at least one month in advance of any conversion ceremony (a baptism, for example). Those who fail to comply could face a fine and up to three years’ imprisonment, rising to four in cases involving converts who are minors,

Indian Christians are threatened by anti-conversion laws

women or from Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes (the lowest levels of hierarchical Indian society). The bill still requires a signature from the state governor before it can be enacted; it is possible that opposition from Christians and other minorities could block the law. Anti-Christian violence by Hindu

extremists has become a frequent occurrence in parts of India in recent years, and the anti-conversion laws provide a pretext for this. Seven pastors were severely injured when a group of around 50 militant Hindus attacked a prayer meeting in Hyderabad on 4 June. Armed with sticks and rods, the assailants

accused the pastors of forcibly converting people to Christianity and dragged some of them outside before brutally attacking them. In Tamil Nadu, a pastor was locked up for two days for baptising a woman on 18 July; he was also accused of forcibly converting her. The BJP, the political wing of the Hindu nationalist Hindutva movement, is behind the introduction and strengthening of these laws. The law in Arunachal Pradesh is yet to be implemented, while Rajastan’s anticonversion rules require the state governor’s signature before they become law. The law in Tamil Nadu was withdrawn in 2004 after the defeat of the BJP in the state elections. A fourth attempt to table a similar bill in Maharashtra state is currently underway, and the party has also pledged that if it were to gain power in the next general election, it would introduce national legislation to curb missionary activity.

BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013 17


IN TOUCH

A Prayer for the Suffering Church Almighty and most loving God, the Father of mercies and God of all consolation, whose compassion never fails, save Your persecuted people. As they pass through the waters of adversity, may the rivers not overwhelm them. As they walk through the fires of affliction, may the flames not consume them.

Give them:

Your aid, for they are needy, Your strength, for they are helpless, Your hope, for they are in despair, Your deliverance, for they are in danger.

O God,

make them firm in their faith, make them joyful through hope, fill them with your love, protect them from the wiles of the devil and the conspiracies of men.

Join us in praying for the persecuted on 1 November

As part of Suffering Church Action Week, Barnabas Fund is inviting believers to unite with us in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters on our Day of Prayer on 1 November. Suffering Church Action Week 2013-14 focuses on the needs of Christian children, and a Prayer Guide for the day, which can be ordered for free, is available on this topic. Our brothers and sisters in Syria are suffering particularly acutely (see pages 8-10 and 15). Please also pray for them at this time. You may like to use “A Prayer for the Suffering Church” (below), written by our International Director, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo.

So that, passing through the waters, they may come at last to the land of everlasting life, there to reign with You forever. In the Name of the allpowerful and triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Amen

© Patrick Sookhdeo, 2013

Regular giving, tailored to you tever way

de in wha Any gift you are able to give, ma difference to our suits you best, will make such a . But if you are able to persecuted brothers and sisters a regular basis, this commit to giving any amount on urgent needs, to to allows us to respond effectively e our overheads. imis plan ahead effectively and to min to give regularly. s way And there’s not just one but two

Direct Debits

no ongoing effort on Gifts made by Direct Debit require it is set up, a regular your part. Once your Direct Deb red to Barnabas sfer tran amount set by you will be at an interval of t, oun acc Fund from your UK bank up by filling set be can your choice. Direct Debits your nearest from le ilab out a paper form that is ava back cover), by calling Barnabas office (addresses on w.barnabasfund.org/ 024 7623 1923 or online at ww direct-debit.

nation Recurring credit card doyour credit card, from You may prefer to give regularly up a recurring set To ty. ibili flex to allow for greater intervals, simply visit credit card gift at one of various s and select www.barnabasfund.org/donation “Donate Online”.

Displaying compassion

Chatham Evangelical Ch urch in Kent, UK, has fou nd a wonderful way to highlig ht the prayer needs of persecuted Christians. This display, which show s pictures from Barnabas Fund publications, provid es the congregation with ite ms for prayer and praise from around the world. The cro ss marker is used to ind ica te the country being especia lly prayed for each week : in this case Kazakhstan. Co uld such a map be a he lpful aid to prayer in your churc h?

Rememberin g persecuted at the Christmas The Christmas gr eetings that you sh

This p included rayer is also w in bookm ith this magazin e ark form . To orde further fr r ee book marks, please c on Barnaba tact your neares s office. t

18 BARNABAS AID NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013

are with your frien could also be a bl ds and loved ones essing to our pers ecuted brothers an d sisters in Christ. Barnabas Fund wo rks in partnership with Just Cards Di Christian organisa rect, a tion that supports the work of Chris agencies. Just Ca tian aid rds sells handmad e cards and gifts as well as a wide from Africa range of other attra ctive products. Th purchased using ese can be the form included with this magazin justcardsdirect.com e or at www. . Barnabas Fund receives 10% of to our supporters sales made ; just select “Barna bas Fund” at paym ent stage.


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Order your free Suffering Church Action Week resources today! It’s not too late to get involved with Suffering Church Action Week! The suggested dates for the week are 27 October – 3 November, but it can be held at any time that suits your church calendar.

Children of Courage: Raising tomorrow’s Church A free Children of Courage Inspiration Pack is now available. The pack can be ordered from your nearest Barnabas office (addresses below) or from www.childrenofcourage.org. Some resources can also be downloaded from this website.

Inspiration Pack includes: ●● A3 poster ●● Children of Courage DVD, which includes a short video and PowerPoint slides ●● Day of Prayer resource ●● Children’s resource ●● Barnabas Aid September/October 2013, which includes further resources and ideas ●● Being Brave for Jesus children’s magazine ●● Children of Courage stickers and balloons ●● Prayer bookmark

Barnabas Fund International Day of Prayer - Friday 1 November Please join with us on Friday 1 November as we lift up our suffering brothers and sisters in prayer and remember persecuted Christian children in particular. Last year believers in at least 36 countries took part in the Day of Prayer.

Don’t miss out!

Additional quantities of most items can be ordered for free. Additional balloons - £1.50 for a pack of ten Lapel pin badges - £1 each

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Barnabas Aid November December 2013