Middle East: Finding Christ during Hostility, Turmoil
The Middle East is in turmoil. Civil war in Syria, a battle against the Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria, refugees flooding Lebanon and Jordan, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) fleeing to safer areas in Syria or Iraq. That is the negative side, but the other side looks more positive: Muslims finding Jesus in all of these four countries.
During church services in Syria and in Lebanon there are amazing scenes taking place. Take for example on one recent Sunday morning in a Lebanese church, a transformation continued. Early in the morning, busses stopped in front of the church. Groups of Syrian refugees jumped from the busses and walked into the building. The pastor even started a second service on Sunday mornings to have enough room to accommodate refugees and his own church members.
During the services veiled women sang praises to God. Shortly later their children sang two moving songs with all their hearts while making the gestures, filling the building with joy and painting many smiles on their parents’ faces.
In Lebanon a miracle has happened. Previously many Lebanese Christians hated the Syrians because of the actions Syrians carried out during the occupation of Lebanon less than a decade ago. Now they embrace many of them.
Many former Muslims have entered the church buildings in other countries such as Syria. Recently a young Christian woman from Syria even said: “Thank God that we have gone through this crisis. We as a church became stronger because of it.”
India: Glimpses of Holistic Transformation in Kandhamal
Kandhamal district in Odisha is home to thousands of tribal Christians who suffered severe persecution during the riots in 2008 which led to the death of numerous Christians and the destruction of an estimated 1,400 Christian homes and more than 80 places of worship. Even today, these people face discrimination by the local villagers and also receive threats from the Maoist guerrillas — a violent rebel group in India. Illiteracy, poverty, discrimination and social boycotts have closed many opportunities for development of the Christian communities in these areas.
Open Doors projects such as cell groups (money saving initiatives and prayer groups), adult literacy centers, bridge schools, rehabilitation centers and other income generating projects are being carried out in Christian communities of Rajikakhol, Badabanga, Ditumaha, and Bandabaju in Odisha. The prime motive behind these projects within these communities has been the holistic transformation of the exploited, downtrodden and neglected Christian population.
Cell groups have been created in each village and the members meet every week for prayer and discussion as well as participate in self-help groups focusing on money management. In this self-help group, members make small savings contributions over a few months until there is enough capital to begin lending; funds may then be lent back to the members for various purposes. Through these projects, 36 houses have been constructed and provided to people in these Christian communities.
Since spiritual development is a primary emphasis for Open Doors in these regions, the team has established a women’s prayer group for the women. This has encouraged the women to become rooted in faith and to bring up their children in the fear of God.
Kenya: Pastor Killed during Protest by Muslim Youths
Muslim youths protesting a police raid at two mosques in Mombasa, Kenya, have killed four men, including a local pastor named Joshua Muteti. Five men were injured in the Monday incident.
The attack took place in the slums of Kisanuni, known for being a hotspot for Muslim radical activities. From media reports, it appears the 10 young men, armed with machetes and other crude weapons, attacked people who were at a bus station before disappearing into the slums. There are conflicting reports about the number of fatalities – some reports indicated three men died.
Witnesses told the Daily Nation local newspaper that the youths ordered their victims to recite the Shahada (Muslim profession of faith) during the attack. Some said they heard the attackers say, “Muslims, calm down, we are looking for those pagans.”
Fanuel Mogesani, one of the injured, told the Daily Nation: “I was a few steps from my house when I was surrounded by a group of men. They told me to say their prayer, but since I am a Christian, I could not. That is when I felt something like a metal hit my head.”
Police raided the two mosques suspected of links to radical Islamic elements in the early hours of Monday morning and recovered numerous hand grenades, guns, knives, materials that can be used to make bombs as well as an assortment of jihad training materials on CDs. During the raid they shot dead one man and arrested over 200 people.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.