Ruled by Fear Issue 120
Take the Opportunity As the apostle Paul came to the end of his letter to the church at Philippi, he wrote, “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.” (Philippians 4 v10) The Philippian church may not have known where Paul was or how to get a message to him. Two lessons stand out: Paul was really encouraged to find out they cared; sometimes there are obstacles to expressing our care. In this magazine, you’ll read about the ongoing suffering of Christians in Eritrea and many of you will wonder how we can show that we care for our brothers and sisters there. We don’t have the opportunity to visit them or even to write to them in prison. However, we can let the Eritrean government know that we care. We’ve included a postcard with each magazine carrying the simple message “Release Christian Prisoners”. This is your opportunity to show that you care. All you have to do is sign the card, buy a stamp and post it. If you’d like to do more, turn to our Action Page (page 19) for details of how to order more postcards for friends in your church or group. Yours for the Persecuted,
In this issue of Church in Chains Pages 3 – 9 Pages 10 – 11 Pages 12 – 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19
Eritrea Children’s Pages – Eritrea Updates – Nigeria/Lent Prayer Project/Egypt In the Public Eye Working Together Conference Poster A Visit to Iraq Action Page – Postcard to President Afewerki
SOURCES: The main feature article on Eritrea was compiled with reference to numerous sources including Al Jazeera, BBC, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Guardian, inchainsforchrist.org, New Statesman, Open Doors, Release Eritrea, Release International, “Understanding Eritrea” (Martin Plaut), Voice of the Martyrs. COVER IMAGE: President Isaias Afewerki speaking in an Eritrean television interview. Photo Credit: Eri-TV
A Country Ruled by Fear “A Giant Prison”, “The North Korea of Africa”, “A Country with No Future” are terms that have been used to describe Eritrea in recent years – all in stark contrast to the optimism and hope in the early 1990’s when Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia. In July 2016, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for UN bodies to take urgent action on Eritrea following a report by a special UN Commission of Inquiry which found that “the country is ruled by fear – not law”. The report detailed “the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” committed by the government of Eritrea “in a climate of generalised impunity”, including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions, torture and “severe restrictions” on the freedoms of expression, thought, conscience and religion. Eritrea has never held elections and has just one political party which is led by President Isaias Afewerki, who led the fight for independence. The country ratified a laudable constitution in 1997 but it has never been implemented. In the early years of this century, President Afewerki tightened his grip on power by removing political opponents, closing independent newspapers and other media and expelling foreign journalists and foreign aid workers. All independent churches were closed down in May 2002 and senior Christian leaders were imprisoned in 2004. Ongoing repression, indefinite military service and the lack of hope for the future have led to many young Eritreans fleeing the country. Over 500,000 have fled in recent years – many risking their lives in travelling across North Africa and the Mediterranean in a bid to reach Europe. The large flow of refugees has • MILITARY SERVICE alarmed EU governments to Indefinite duration such an extent that many EU Photo: EastAFRO.com member states are considering measures that could result in refugees being sent back to Eritrea despite the terrible human rights abuses highlighted by the UN.
President Isaias Afewerki Eritrea’s President is known to Eritreans simply as “Isaias” and holds ultimate power over the country. He is now 71 years old but shows no signs of loosening his grip on power. Isaias Afewerki was brought up in Asmara (now capital of Eritrea) and went to university in Addis Adaba (capital of Ethiopia, which then governed Eritrea) where he studied engineering for a year before dropping out and • ISAIAS AFEWERKI becoming involved in the Eritrean liberation movement. Rebel fighter He and a small group of others formed a movement Photo: Madote within a movement, sealing it with an oath signed in their own blood. This group gradually took over leadership of the independence movement. Though from a culturally Christian background, Afewerki is not known for any religious beliefs. Indeed, it is believed that he was heavily influenced by a year spent in China during the Cultural Revolution when Chairman Mao ruthlessly crushed all perceived threats. After leading the country to independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a long struggle, Afewerki was universally lauded throughout • PRESIDENT AFEWERKI Eritrea and was elected President by the new Meeting public national assembly (appointed from the ranks of Photo: Mereja.com the independence fighters). However, he never took any of the standard steps towards an inclusive democratic society and it became clear that he intended to rule supreme in a one-party society. In 2001, fifteen members of his government issued an open letter calling for human rights, an independent judiciary and free elections. President Afewerki ordered their arrest in dawn raids and they were brought to a newly constructed prison and have never been seen since. President Afewerki is known for being personally vindictive. The deposing and subsequent detention of Patriarch Antonios in 2006 followed an appeal from the patriarch to Isaias on behalf of Orthodox priests who had been imprisoned. He is also known for being paranoid about his own safety and it is known that there have been at least two assassination attempts on him in recent years.
Pray... that God will work in the heart of President Afewerki.
Religion under Strict Control About half of Eritrea’s population is Christian, with the majority of Christians (about 85%) belonging to the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Fifteen years ago, in May 2002, the Eritrean government banned all religious groups except the Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches and Sunni Islam. The crackdown on Christians followed a Pentecostal revival, particularly among young Eritreans doing military training and service.
• SHIPPING CONTAINERS Christians from banned denominations began Used as prisons to be arrested (often at church services, Sunday Photo: VOM Canada Schools and even at weddings) and incarcerated in appalling conditions in prisons, police stations and shipping containers. Several prominent church leaders arrested in 2004 have remained incarcerated ever since, incommunicado. While thousands of Christians have been arrested, the number in prison is constantly changing as prisoners are often released to accommodate new prisoners. It is estimated that there are currently around 200 Christians in the main prison system, but as each military camp has its own prison the total number is unknown. Meanwhile, the Eritrean Orthodox Church faced growing interference. A reform movement within the Orthodox church, Medhane Alem, came under particular attack and some of its priests were imprisoned. In 2005, over 1,400 Orthodox priests and deacons were forced into military service, which led to the closure of many churches in rural areas. In January 2006, the patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church Abune Antonios was deposed by the government because he asked for the release of • ENDA MARIAM CATHEDRAL some Christian prisoners. He has been Main Orthodox church in Asmara under house arrest since then. Photo: Wikipedia/ Sailko Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians (who meet in secret) continue to face severe persecution. In May 2017, almost 100 Christians were arrested: 49 at a wedding celebration in Asmara; 35 in raids on their homes in Adi Quala; and ten in a house in Ginda.
Pray... for all Christian leaders who are seeking to lead their churches faithfully.
Pray for Eritrea’s Thousands of Christians have been imprisoned without trial in Eritrea in the prison. The prisoners featured on these pages are all long-term prisoners about each prisoner on these pages is available in the new “Prisoners”
Patriarch Antonios The Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church has been under incommunicado house arrest since January 2006. The government deposed him after he resisted its interference in the church and asked for the release of three imprisoned priests. Aged 89, the Patriarch suffers from severe diabetes.
Mussie Eyob Arrested in Saudi Arabia in February 2011 for preaching Christianity outside a mosque in Jeddah. He was deported to Eritrea in November 2011. He disappeared into the vast prison system. E v e n t u a l l y n e w s emerged that he was in Me’etr prison camp in the remote northwest, where he remains.
Mussie Ezaz In prison since January 2008. He was an evangelist and youth leader in the capital, Asmara, and worked with Youth for Christ before becoming a leader in the Kale Hiwot (“Word of Life”) Church of Eritrea. Mussie is married with three children. He is in Asmara’s maximumsecurity We n g e l Mermera prison.
Meron Gebreselasie In prison since 2004. He was pastor of Massawa Rhema Evangelical Church and worked as an anaesthetist at Massawa Hospital. The port city of Massawa is about 110 km east of Asmara. Meron, also known as Million, is not married. He is in Wengel Mermera prison.
Oqbamichel Haimanot Senior Pastor of the Kale Hiwot Church. He was arrested at a wedding in 2005 and spent ten months in solitary confinement in military camp, where he suffered a mental breakdown. He was re-arrested in 2007 and incarcerated in Barentu Prison. Married, with three children.
Tekleab Menghisteab Eritrean Orthodox priest and physician who was arrested in November 2004 because of his involvement in the Medhane Alem renewal movement. He also wrote theology books. Dr Menghisteab is diabetic. Married with four children, he is in Wengel Mermera prison.
Christian Prisoners past 13 years. It is believed that there are over 200 Christians currently in who have been held incommunicado since their arrests. More information section on our website www.churchinchains.ie
Gebremedhin Gebregiorsis Eritrean Orthodox priest and expert theologian who was arrested in November 2004. Married with three children, he was head of the E r i t re a n O r t h o d o x Sunday Schools department and also ran an acclaimed HIV programme. He is in Wengel Mermera prison.
Kiflu Gebremeskel In prison since May 2004. He was chair of the Eritrean Evangelical Alliance and a leader in a network of Pentecostal house churches. Married with four adult children, he was a maths lecturer before becoming pastor of Southwest Full Gospel Church. He is in Wengel Mermera prison.
Futsum Gebrenegus Eritrean Orthodox priest and psychiatrist who was arrested in November 2004 because of his involvement in the Medhane Alem renewal movement. He was Eritreaâ€™s only psychiatrist and worked at St Maryâ€™s Hospital in Asmara. Married with one child, he is in Wengel Mermera prison.
Haile Naizghe In prison since May 2004. A former accountant, he was chair of the Full Gospel Church of Eritrea, a large Pentecostal network. (Dr Kiflu, with whom he was arrested, was on its executive committee.) Rev Haile is married with four children and is in Wengel Mermera prison.
Twen Theodros In prison since January 2005, when she was arrested at an underground church meeting. Twen has been in several prisons (including a shipping container with gospel singer Helen Berhane) enduring beatings and torture. Since 2009, she has been in Meâ€™etr prison. Her parents live in Asmara.
Kidane Weldou Disappeared from the streets of Asmara in March 2005. He was a senior pastor of the Full Gospel Church and was a member of the Gideons International in Eritrea. He was previously a biology teacher. Being held in Wengel Mermera prison. He is in his mid60s and is married with four daughters.
“There is no Future” Dr Berhane Asmelash (Director of Church in Chains’ partner, Release Eritrea) spoke recently to David Turner about the plight of Eritrean Christian refugees. What did you find when you visited refugee camps in Ethiopia recently? There are an average of one hundred new refugees every day. Most of the newly arrived are very young –16, 17 or 18 years old. Most of them • BERHANE ASMELASH say there is no future in Eritrea, so that’s why they Director, Release Eritrea are leaving. They cannot work, they cannot have family, they have to serve in the army for an indefinite period. In the past, the main reason for Christians leaving Eritrea was religious persecution, but now it’s because of the general repression in the country. Although Christians are targeted more frequently than non-believers, the imprisonment, the oppression, is the same for all Eritreans. Are Christians still being arrested in Eritrea? The arrest and detention of Christians is not as frequent nor as widely reported as it used to be, but still the persecution is going on. Previously, the authorities used to arrest Christians if they were found meeting together in a particular location. This still happens but more recently, a group of Christians in Asmara were arrested in their homes. It is likely that they had been followed by the security forces – most of them were very active in Christian ministry. They were sent to different prisons. As far as I know, they are all still in prison. What sort of people and situations has Release Eritrea been helping recently? Our main focus is on Christians who have been persecuted for their faith but we’ve been helping families, refugees, anyone who is suffering, not just families of prisoners. Everybody’s suffering so whenever we hear any • REFUGEE CAMP IN ETHIOPIA news about needy families, needy Home to 130,000 Eritreans people, we try to support them. Photo: Release International
Pray... for God’s provision and protection for Eritrean Christian refugees.
Standing in Solidarity In mid-May, protesters from Ireland and Britain joined Eritreans in a vigil at the Eritrean Embassy in London calling for the release of Christian prisoners in Eritrea. The vigil, which has become an annual event, marked the 15th anniversary of the Eritrean government’s decision to close down all churches in the country apart from Orthodox, Lutheran and Roman Catholic (which operate under strict government control). This year’s event, which was held in heavy and persistent rain, was jointly organised by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Church in Chains, Human Rights Concern Eritrea, Medhane Alem Eritrean Orthodox Church and Release Eritrea. The programme included speeches, prayers, Bible readings and praise songs. For the first time at the vigil, the names of 28 Christian prisoners known to have died in Eritrean prisons were read aloud by Dr Khataza Gondwe of Christian Solidarity Worldwide. She emphasised that these names were only of those whose deaths had been verified and that it was likely that many more had died in Eritrea’s prisons. The vigil culminated in the delivery of a letter from the sponsoring organisations to the Embassy by Dr Berhane Asmelash (Release Eritrea), Fr Shenouda (Eritrean Orthodox Church), Mervyn Thomas (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) and David Turner (Church in Chains). Though embassy staff were visible from the street, they refused to answer the intercom or open the door to receive the letter. Consequently, it was posted through the letterbox. The letter, addressed to Ambassador Estifanos Habtemariam Ghebreyesus, expressed deep concern about Christians imprisoned in Eritrea and urged the Ambassador to: “convey to your government our appeal for swift and positive action to ensure the release of all prisoners of conscience, regardless of their creed and to restore the rule of law, particularly with regard to arbitrary arrest and detention”.
Pray... for all the organisations seeking to support Eritrean Christians.
HEY KIDS – Let’s Who’s in charge? Isaias Afewerki is the president. He went to university in Ethiopia, which ruled Eritrea, but dropped out to fight for Eritrea’s freedom. In 1991, he led Eritrea to independence. His people saw him as a hero, but he became a dictator. He has a huge army in case of war with Ethiopia, and controls Eritreans tightly for fear they’ll turn against him. In 2001, fifteen government members wrote a letter calling for human rights. President Afewerki put them in prison and they haven’t been seen since. Then he closed independent news media. The organisation Reporters Without Borders says Eritrea is the worst country in the world to be a journalist.
Can Eritrean Christians go to church? President Afewerki only permits three kinds of church: Eritrean Orthodox, Lutheran and Roman Catholic. In 2002, he banned all other churches. Police started to arrest members of banned churches at meetings and even weddings. The permitted churches have problems, too. In 2004, the government arrested three Eritrean Orthodox priests who ran popular Bible studies and put them in prison. They’ve never been released. Their leader, Patriarch Antonios, asked for them to be freed and refused to shut down the Bible studies. The government put him under house arrest and stopped him being Patriarch. He has never been released.
Why are Christians in prison? President Afewerki wants to control Christians because he’s afraid they won’t obey him and will turn against him. He seems especially worried that young Eritrean soldiers might refuse to obey orders – lots of them have become Christians. Members of banned churches often get arrested. They spend weeks, months or even years in prison. Leaders of banned churches are locked away for many years – some have been in prison since 2004. None has been charged with any crime or been brought before a court, and they are held in bad conditions and not allowed to see their families.
Pray FOR ERITREA Why are there so many Eritrean refugees? Every month, about 5,000 Eritrean refugees escape from what is one of the worst dictatorships in the world. They feel they have no hope for the future in Eritrea. Most refugees are fleeing from military service – all men and unmarried women must do military service from their late teens for many years, badly treated and paid little or nothing. Many refugees seek asylum in Europe, especially Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. Others flee to neighbouring Ethiopia and Sudan. The route to Europe takes refugees through the Sahara to Libya and then, crammed into dangerously overcrowded boats, across the Mediterranean to Italy.
What does the United Nations say? The United Nations (UN) is an organisation of 193 member countries. It started in 1945 after World War Two to get countries to work together peacefully and prevent war. The Human Rights Council (HRC) is a UN group to protect people’s rights around the world. The HRC set up a Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea to investigate what’s going on. It reported back in June 2016. Its report said the Eritrean government is carrying out many “crimes against humanity” including slavery, unfair imprisonment and persecution. In July 2016, the HRC said these crimes were “widespread and gross” and called for the UN to take urgent action on Eritrea.
A Prayer for Eritrea
Dear God, Please bless Eritrea. We ask that President Afewerki would have a change of heart and rule his people with kindness. Please strengthen the church and encourage and protect Christians. We pray for those who are suffering in terrible conditions in prison, and ask that they would be freed and healed from injury or illness. Please bless and help those who have fled as refugees and keep them safe. We pray that the United Nations will take action to bring freedom and justice to Eritrea, and that the nation will be healed. Amen
82 Chibok Schoolgirls Released d a t e s
On 6 May, Boko Haram released 82 more of the Chibok schoolgirls. They were part of the group of 276 girls (mostly Christian) kidnapped in Chibok, Borno state, in April 2014. The Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross helped to mediate negotiations, and it is understood that the young women (now aged between 19 and 21) were released in exchange for five Boko Haram commanders.
The women, dressed in hijabs, were handed over to the Nigerian government in Banki, northeast Nigeria, near the Cameroon border. They were picked up in Red Cross vehicles and later flown in military helicopters to the capital, Abuja, where they had medical checks and met President Muhammadu Buhari. They appeared tired and sombre but reasonably healthy. One had a wrist injury, one was on crutches and one had a young child with her. The future is not yet clear for the women. Security services are questioning them about their time in captivity, and they will require trauma counselling, rehabilitation and the opportunity to resume their education. The 21 who were released in October 2016 are still in Abuja, ostensibly for counselling, and have not been allowed home. Rights groups have criticised the government for keeping them so long in the capital, 800 km â€˘ JOYOUS CELEBRATIONS from Chibok. Some believe the Meeting parents government is reluctant to allow Photo: Getty Images them freedom because it doesnâ€™t want details of how they were treated in captivity to become known. On 20 May, the government organised a reunion celebration in Abuja, with music and dancing. Parents travelled from Chibok by bus through the night. The BBC reported that the young women were already dancing when their parents got off the bus and raced towards them. A few days later, the parents went home without their daughters. It is thought that some of the remaining 113 abductees are dead or have been radicalised and do not want to leave their Boko Haram husbands. The government has pledged to work to secure their release.
Lent Prayer Project Update ASIA BIBI (PAKISTAN)
ALIMUJIANG YIMITI (CHINA)
KIM DONG CHUL (NORTH KOREA)
In late April, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar turned down a request from Asia Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, that her Supreme Court appeal (against the death sentence under Pakistan’s blasphemy law) be fixed for the first week of June. No reason was given.
There is no recent news about Alimujiang. In Xinjiang province (where Alimujiang is in prison) five Christians were jailed for 3-5 years in April for taking part in a Bible study held in one of their homes. The Christians plan to appeal the harsh sentences.
While there has been no recent news about Kim Dong Chul (a naturalised US citizen), North Korea said in May that it was its sovereign right to “ruthlessly punish” US citizens it has detained for crimes against the state. This was said after two other US citizens were arrested.
EBRAHIM FIROUZI (IRAN)
YKLAS KABDUAKASOV (KAZAKHSTAN)
TWEN THEODROS (ERITREA)
In late March, it was announced that Ebrahim’s appeal against the additional five year sentence had been rejected and he must remain in prison till January 2020. He has also been refused medical leave to visit his elderly sick mother, who is unable to visit him in prison.
There is no recent news about Yklas, who is due for release later this year at the end of his two year sentence. Meanwhile, Baptists in Kazakhstan have spoken of a “new wave” of police raids against their communities. About 20 Baptists have been fined large amounts since the beginning of 2017.
There is also no recent news about Twen, who has been in prison since January 2005. Like many other Christian prisoners, she remains in prison because she refuses to renounce her Christian faith. It is believed that there are currently over 200 Christians in prison in Eritrea.
Almost 80 Egyptian Christians Killed in Attacks On 26 May, armed militants opened fire on a convoy of buses carrying young Coptic pilgrims along the desert road to the Monastery of St Samuel in Minya, 135 km south of Cairo. Ten gunmen in military uniforms fired at the Christians with automatic weapons, killing 29 and injuring 25. It is believed a cameraman with the terrorists filmed the • AMBUSHED IN DESERT IN MINYA PROVENCE attack. Islamic State claimed One bus in aftermath of attack responsibility, stating through Photo: AP its media outlet, Amaq: “A security team of caliphate soldiers set up an ambush for dozens of Christians as they headed to the church of St Samuel.” The terrorists scattered leaflets among the bodies extolling the virtue of fasting during Ramadan (due to begin the next day) and fled the scene in three SUVs. The wounded were brought to three Minya hospitals, where there were frantic scenes as hundreds of people arrived seeking news of missing relatives.
• MOURNING THE DEAD
On Palm Sunday, suicide bombers attacked two Coptic churches, killing 49 people and injuring over 120. Islamic State claimed responsibility for both attacks. The first attack occurred when a bomber blew himself up near the altar in St George’s Coptic Church in Tanta, 90 km north of Cairo, killing at least 27 people and injuring 78. Copts expressed anger that police had not increased security despite a warning of an attack.
Coffins in Tanta church Photo: Reuters Two hours later, an attacker detonated his bomb outside St Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria, when police guards stopped him entering the building. The congregation was leaving at the end of the service and at least 22 people were killed, including four police guards who have been hailed as heros. Another 48 people were wounded. Pope Tawadros had been leading the service, but was not injured.
In the Public Eye Dáil Debate on Christians in the Middle East
The Topical Issues debate, held just before Easter, was sponsored by Kevin O’Keefe (Fianna Fáil) and three Independent TDs – Mattie McGrath, Michael Collins (pictured) and Noel Grealish. Kevin O’Keeffe stated that Ireland should be doing more on the ground in the Middle East to ensure that Christians are protected in order that they can survive in their own homelands, which constitute the birthplace of Christianity. Mattie McGrath spoke of visiting refugee camps in Lebanon with Noel Grealish and Senator Rónán Mullen. He recalled meeting an elderly Catholic couple who told of how their home town in Syria was overrun by Islamic State forces who marked all the Christian homes with a cross and they had to flee for their lives. Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan responded by stating that Ireland has consistently condemned religious persecution and frequently raises the issue of the persecution of Christians through our bilateral contacts in the region.
TDs call for Government to recognise Genocide
In late April, a group of 21 TDs and Senators wrote to the Government, asking it to recognise as genocide what is being perpetrated by Islamic State against minority communities including Iraqi and Syrian Christians and Yazidis. The group included Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fail Foreign Affairs spokesman, Darragh O’Brien, and Fine Gael Seanad spokesman on Foreign Affairs, Joe O’Reilly (pictured above). The letter was drafted by The Iona Institute, Aid to the Church in Need and Church in Chains. The full list of signatories was: Senator Victor Boyhan, Joan Burton TD, Jim Daly TD, Michael Fitzmaurice TD, Noel Grealish TD, Brendan Howlin TD, Senator Kevin Humphreys, Alan Kelly TD, Senator Tim Lombard, Catherine Martin TD, Mattie McGrath TD, Darragh O’Brien TD, Kevin O’Keeffe TD, Senator Joe O’Reilly, Senator Grace O’Sullivan, Jan O’Sullivan TD, Willie Penrose TD, John Paul Phelan TD, Brendan Ryan TD, Eamon Ryan TD and Senator Sean Sherlock. The TDs and Senators pointed out that the UK House of Commons, the US House of Representatives and the European Parliament passed similar resolutions.
Praying in the Midlands “At some stage it hit me that this persecution of Christians was real and, being so, I would have to do something about it.” This is how Seán Ó Cluaid describes the origins of the Midlands Regional Prayer Group. Seán and his wife, Margaret, based in Athlone, found that their concerns were shared by John and Rita Vogan in Mullingar and the two couples began the group in 2005. Now, the meeting (held on the second Monday of each month) circulates around a circuit including Longford, Mullingar, Tullamore, Birr, Banagher, Ballinasloe and Roscommon, with Athlone in the middle. Seán prepares the programme and circulates a reminder email to keep everyone informed about the details of the next meeting. Sometimes the attendance may be made up of just the organisers and people from the host fellowship, but often people travel from other towns. There are usually three information / prayer sessions (usually led by Seán but sometimes by others including visiting speakers) and each evening ends with a cup of tea. Contact Seán Ó Cluaid to find out when the next meeting is on in your part of the Midlands (090 647 5410).
Thank You for Matching-Up Thank you to those supporters who took up the offer of a generous donor to match all new standing orders of €25 or more per month (set up before the end of March) for the rest of 2017. The initiative will mean an additional €3,400 in funding in 2017 (€1,700 from new standing orders + €1,700 in matching funds). Once again, thank you to our generous donor.
CHURCH IN CHAINS CONFERENCE Sat 9 September 11am – 4pm Clarion Hotel Liffey Valley, Dublin “Michael” (Egypt)
(pseudonym used for security reasons) “Michael” is a leader in a national ministry in Egypt with many contacts in the Coptic Orthodox and Evangelical Churches. He travels throughout Egypt to strengthen local churches and encourage pastors.
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“All we have left is God” In March, Peter Ross, a vegetable grower from West Cork, travelled to Northern Iraq with a small team led by Church in Chains partner, Steadfast Global. The team, which included a doctor and nurse, held clinics in refugee villages scattered throughout the mountains and also distributed aid. Peter writes of his experiences:
• MAKING FRIENDS IN IRAQ
“The plight of Iraqi Christians has been on my heart for many years. Steadfast Global is a small mission but with big, open hearts responding to the needs of the displaced Christians alongside the local church. Their vision really struck a chord in my heart as they are not only meeting physical needs but also looking ahead to how best to provide a hope and a future for the many Christians who want to stay in Iraq to be a witness and a light in the country.
“Many people showed us pictures of their destroyed former homes and churches. Every cross in sight was broken. One man told me 100,000 Christians fled Mosul in 24 hours thankful to escape with their lives. “The clinics were among Yazidi, Christian and Muslim refugees. Everywhere we were greeted with smiles by people grateful and thankful to God for the love and respect shown to them by those from Scotland and Ireland who have prayed and given to bless them. In one village, we asked one man, ‘Are you angry with God for what has happened to you?’ His reply was, ‘No, when we lived on the plain we had everything, we were rich and needed nothing, we forgot God. Today we have lost everything and all we have left is God. He has reminded us of how much we need Him.’ “I didn’t hear any Christians complain or • FULL STEAM AHEAD blame God, only a growing realisation of After fixing tractor what really matters in this life... a strong and healthy relationship with God and a faith that will meet their needs.” So far in 2017, Church in Chains has sent €6,120 to support Steadfast Global’s work in Iraq.
Speak Up For Eritrean Christians As the persecution of Christians in Eritrea continues, it is important that our support for them continues. You can play a part in reminding the Eritrean government that Christians in Ireland and the UK continue to stand with Eritrean Christians by simply sending off the postcard enclosed in this magazine. You will find a postcard addressed to either President Isaias Afewerki or Estifanos Habtemariam Ghebreyesus (the Eritrean Ambassador to the UK and Ireland, based in London). By sending off your postcard, the call to “Release Christian Prisoners” will be conveyed to all who see it in Eritrea and the UK – including postal officials and civil servants.
Order extra postcards Could you spread the word about the postcard campaign? • Ask your church leader to announce it one Sunday and have postcards available for people to use • Bring some postcards to your small group • Encourage your family and friends to send off postcards
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Supporting Eritrean Christians Church in Chains has a long-standing commitment to providing support for persecuted Christians in Eritrea, especially the families of Christian prisoners. We recently passed on a gift of € 2,270 to our partner, Release Eritrea, for use where most needed. If you would like to send a gift for Eritrea’s persecuted Christians, post it to Church in Chains, PO Box 10447, Glenageary, Co. Dublin, Ireland, noting that your gift is for Eritrea.
An independent Irish charity that encourages prayer and action in support of persecuted Christians worldwide.
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Church in Chains is entirely supported by voluntary donations. Gifts are used to pay for all the necessary expenses, including salaries, associated with our campaigning work and to distribute grants to overseas partners in China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Syria and Turkey. Cheques etc should be made payable to Church in Chains. Bank Details: IBAN : IE22 IPBS 9906 1020 1759 05 BIC : IPBSIE2D Details about standing orders, legacies and tax-efficient giving available on request.
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Published on Jun 13, 2017
The severe persecution of Christians in Eritrea is detailed in this issue which describes country ruled by fear. President Isaias Afewerki...