Modern Day Slavery – Thoughts and Prayer

As I read in Exodus 21, about God’s directions to the Israelites regarding slaves, I realize that it wasn’t and isn’t God who instituted slavery but rather, it is a fruit of the kingdom of darkness. This fruit has plagued humanity for millenia and is particularly evil! As a matter of fact, despite the general abolition of slavery a century ago, this practice has continued covertly, unhindered!

My study into present human trafficking statistics, published on this website,  (https://worldwiderefugeeprayernetwork.com/2015/05/13/the-curse-of-people-smuggling-2/  reveals that it is at present one of the most lucrative trades in the world! I quote from my study, for those who want the facts, without having to look up the whole report (very worthwhile reading!):

“The value of the black market in human smuggling was estimated to be worth $35 Billion a year (conservative estimate, my comment), according to the IOM.”
Source: “It’s Time to Take Action and Save Lives of Migrants Caught in Crisis,” International Organization for Migration, Press Release, December 17, 2013.

My additionSome comparisons; “Human trafficking creates approximately $150 billion in illegal revenue annually” Taken from ENDcrowd website. This compares favourably with  … “the arms trade has been approaching US$100 billion annually.
[Source: Solutions, “The Arms Trade Treaty: Building a Path to Disarmament”, 2013]”

On the other hand, Microsoft’s income in the US is said to have been 22.07 Billion US$ (Statistica Website) and 76.4 Billion (untaxed) US$ in foreign earnings (Reuters 2015, quoted in Wikipedia).

Although a while ago since publishing my article and since the publication of these figures, they certainly would not have decreased, on the contrary! With refugee figures  constantly increasing, there is a lucrative connection between people smuggling and people trafficking, and these vulnerable people often end up being trafficked, against their will!

PRAYER:

Jesus’ words in John 10:10 (“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full…”) and John 8:36 (“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”) require to be prayed over this people group worldwide!

Let us pray for all those who have been forcefully enslaved; that they would come to know Jesus and that He would set them free! Amen.

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Prayer Call for Palestinians

bombed streetsDear praying friends,

Would you like to join me in praying for Christians who find themselves continuously surrounded by hateful, inflammatory speech, which in some cases has been part of generations of their families?

I particularly am thinking of Christians living in the Palestinian Territories, surrounded by but also filled with hatred for the Jewish State of Israel. Many of these Christians have put politics above the word of God. It is understandable in a way, for they are afflicted by severe poverty, often surrounded by bombed-out ruins from the last conflict with Israel and still vividly remember the bombings and the lost relatives and friends. The older ones among them may remember the houses and lands they once owned, which were taken by Israel; either assigned to them by international treaties or simply claimed. It is a potent recipe for hatred but anathema to a viable spiritual life in Christ! A tall order to ask them to forgive and even love their enemies! Matthew 5:44 (KJV) “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Nevertheless, no more difficult than to ask a victim of rape to forgive his/her abuser! It still stands and God asks us, by calling on His help, to obey His command, just like all His other commands.

I suggest therefore we pray as follows:

1) For God to reveal to Palestinian Christians the truth of His word about the need to forgive, no exceptions given.
2) That they would understand that they can only do so effectively by trusting in His Spirit’s help to do so.
3) For them to be given a sound mind, as in 2 Timothy 1:7(KJV) For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
4) For Scripture-based, Spirit-led teachers to teach rightly how to walk as a disciple of Christ.
5) For Palestinian Christians to make God their provider Matthew 6:25-34 (NET) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”
6) For protection from other Palestinians who see forgiving their enemies as treason and may well want to kill those who profess and practice forgiveness towards their enemies.
7) For peace to come to this people group and for a desisting in making alliances with terrorist groups, which has been reaping destruction and devastation for its people.

Bless you for praying in faith!

An alternative to offshore detention

An alternative to offshore detention

by Julian Burnside | Nov 4, 2015 | Asylum Seekers, Human Rights

The  present system of dealing with asylum seekers who arrive by boat is cruel (intentionally) and hideously expensive.  There is a rational alternative to the  intentional cruelty of the present system. That system reflects the attempts of both major parties at the last election to outdo each other in their promises to mistreat a particular group of human beings.

And it’s expensive.  The current system costs between $4 billion and $5 billion a year.  That’s a big number: think of it as one million Geelong chopper rides each year!

Australia’s treatment of boat people needs a radical re-think.  It is shameful that we are now trying to treat asylum seekers so harshly that they will be deterred from seeking our help at all.  It is shameful that this deliberate mistreatment of asylum seekers has been “justified” by describing them falsely as “illegal”, when in fact they commit no offence by coming here and asking for protection.  It is shameful that the deliberate Coalition lies about asylum seekers have not been roundly condemned by the Labor party.  It is shameful that, out of an alleged concern about asylum seekers drowning in their attempt to reach safety, we punish them if they don’t drown.

There are better ways of responding to asylum seekers.  If I could re-design the system, I would choose between two possible models.

A Regional solution

Boat-arrivals would be detained initially, but for a maximum of one month, to allow preliminary health and security checks.  That detention would be subject to extension, but only if a court was persuaded that a particular individual should be detained longer.

After that period of initial detention, boat arrivals would be released into the community on an interim visa with a number of conditions that would apply until the person’s refugee status was decided:

  •  they would be required to report regularly to a Centrelink office or a post office,  to make sure they remained available for the balance of the process;
  •  they would be allowed to work;
  •  they would be entitled to Centrelink and Medicare benefits;
  •  they would be required to live in a specified rural town or regional city.

A system like this would have a number of benefits. First, it would avoid the harm presently inflicted on refugees held in detention.  Prolonged detention with an unknown release date is highly toxic: experience over the past 15 years provides plenty of evidence of this.

Second, any government benefits paid to refugees would be spent on accommodation, food and clothing in country towns.  There are plenty of towns in country areas which would welcome an increase in their population and a boost to their local economy.  According to the National Farmers Federation, there are more than 90,000 unfilled jobs in rural areas.  It is likely that adult male asylum seekers would look for work, and would find it.

However, even if every boat person stayed on full Centrelink benefits for the whole time it took to decide their refugee status, it would cost the Government only about $500,000 a year, all of which would go into the economy of country towns.  By contrast, the current system costs between $4 billion and $5 billion a year.  We would save billions of dollars a year, and we would be doing good rather than harm.

A variant of this would be to require asylum seekers to live in Tasmania instead of regional towns.  As a sweetener, and to overcome any lingering resistance, the Federal Government would pay one billion dollars a year to the Tasmanian government to help with the necessary social adjustments. It would be a great and needed boost for the Tasmanian economy, and Australia would still be billions of dollars better off.

Genuine regional processing  

Another possibility is to process protection claims while people are in Indonesia.  Those who are assessed as refugees would be resettled, in Australia or elsewhere, in the order in which they have been accepted as refugees.  On assessment, people would be told that they will be resettled safely within (say) two or three months.  Provided the process was demonstrably fair, the incentive to get on a boat would disappear instantly.

At present, people assessed by the UNHCR in Indonesia face a wait of 10 or 20 years before they have a prospect of being resettled.  During that time, they are not allowed to work, and can’t send their kids to school. No wonder they chance their luck by getting on a boat.

Genuine offshore processing, with a guarantee of swift resettlement, was the means by which the Fraser government managed to bring about 80,000 Vietnamese boat people to Australia in the late 1970s.  It worked, but it was crucially different from the manner of offshore processing presently supported by both major parties.  In addition, other countries also resettled some of the refugees processed in this way.  It is likely that Australians would be more receptive to this approach if they thought other countries were contributing to the effort.

A solution along these lines would face some practical problems.  At present, the end-point for refugees who reach Australia via Indonesia is a dangerous boat trip.  You have to be fairly desperate to risk the voyage, which probably explains why such a high percentage of boat people are ultimately assessed as genuine refugees: over the past 15 years, about 90% of boat people have been assessed, by Australia, as refugees lawfully entitled to our protection.  If the end-point is less dangerous, it is obvious that a number of people will set out who are not genuine refugees.  That would cause a problem for Indonesia, and Australia would have to help Indonesia deal with that problem.  But since our current system is costing about $5 billion a year, we can probably work out some arrangement with Indonesia which suits them and us.

There is another problem.  Because we have been indelicate in our relations with Indonesia in recent years, the Indonesian government may not be receptive to an approach like this.  Their reluctance may be softened if Malaysia was also recruited for a similar role.

Both of these solutions have these features in common: they are effective, humane, and far less expensive than our present approach.  But more than that: they reflect the essential decency of Australians – something which has been tarnished and degraded by our behaviour over the past 13 years.

 

God’s promises to refugees in Psalm 107

The Israelites, thousands of years ago, found themselves to be wandering in the wilderness, cut off from their previous lives, with only God’s help as their hope and God appointed leaders to help them.

Today, there are still millions of people in the same situation, many have never heard of the God who deeply cares for their plight. As in the psalm below, they need a revelation of the One True God, Yahweh; now revealed through Jesus Christ, the Saviour. This is one of the most important prayers to pray, on their behalf.

refugee camp

Psalm 107

1Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.
4Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
5They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
6Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.
8Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
9for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
10Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
prisoners suffering in iron chains,
11because they rebelled against God’s commands
and despised the plans of the Most High.
12So he subjected them to bitter labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
13Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
14He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
and broke away their chains.
15Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
16for he breaks down gates of bronze
and cuts through bars of iron.
17Some became fools through their rebellious ways
and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
18They loathed all food
and drew near the gates of death.
19Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
20He sent out his word and healed them;
he rescued them from the grave.
21Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
22Let them sacrifice thank offerings
and tell of his works with songs of joy.
23Some went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24They saw the works of the Lord,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
26They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
27They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
they were at their wits’ end.
28Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
29He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
30They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
31Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
32Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.
33He turned rivers into a desert,
flowing springs into thirsty ground,
34and fruitful land into a salt waste,
because of the wickedness of those who lived there.
35He turned the desert into pools of water
and the parched ground into flowing springs;
36there he brought the hungry to live,
and they founded a city where they could settle.
37They sowed fields and planted vineyards
that yielded a fruitful harvest;
38he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased,
and he did not let their herds diminish.
39Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled
by oppression, calamity and sorrow;
40he who pours contempt on nobles
made them wander in a trackless waste.
41But he lifted the needy out of their affliction
and increased their families like flocks.
42The upright see and rejoice,
but all the wicked shut their mouths.
43Let the one who is wise heed these things
and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

The Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 6:9-13, New King James Version (NKJV)

9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your Kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

And as paraphrased by Pia Horan:

Our eternal and ever-loving Father
You Who live in the glorious Heavenly Realm
May Your exceedingly great Name
Be held in very high esteem by all people on earth
Your Kingdom and way of governing be established in the earth
Your Will be done on the earth
As it is done in Your Heavenly Realm
Give us this day all that we need to sustain us
Forgive us for wrongs done
In the same manner as we forgive those who wrong us
You do not lead us into temptation
Rather our own hearts and wills do (James 1:13-14)
Therefore deliver us from evil within us
And from the evil one working in the world
For to You belong the Kingdom, the Glory and the ultimate Power
Now and forever more
Amen

Pia’s commentary as to the above:
This prayer, instituted by our Lord, needs to find its fulfilment in us first (“The kingdom of God is within, or as other translations render ‘in your midst’” [Luke 17:20-21] ). It is wherever Christ is exalted and allowed to rule. We are exhorted to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33) and this is of paramount importance in the life of the believer. Neglecting it falls under the dilemma of “our hearts and wills being led into temptation”. Seeking first the kingdom of God is our daily discipline and part of our faith walk. It entails our willingness to daily die to self (Gal. 2:20). The paradox is that as we attempt daily to live according to God’s guidance in His word and in the power of His Spirit, we experience love, joy and peace; immeasurably precious to our souls!

Christian Leaders in Refugee Camps

“Many of the 43 million forcibly displaced people in the world today identify themselves as Christians. In my 30 years of serving refugees, I have found that there are many active pastors, priests and Christian leaders serving among them. I have also discovered that few of us are aware that these brothers and sisters and their churches even exist.

It had never crossed my mind that there were refugee-led churches in refugee camps until I was introduced to pastors serving in the Kakuma refugee camp in north-western Kenya back in the year 2000. I was surprised to hear how these churches were actively planting churches among the diverse population in the camp. They shared that in the mid-1990’s there were only 4 churches in the camp of 80,000 refugees. By the year 2000, there were over 50. My surprise was compounded when they told me that they were also planting churches in the villages surrounding the camp.

…when they voiced their greatest challenges and needs, several spoke of difficulties related to church planting among the unreached villages surrounding the camp. They are only able to plant churches within a 15 kilometer radius from the camp because that is as far as they can go by foot. They tithe their cornmeal rations in order to support their mission initiatives.

I have learned to expect to find churches and fellowships among refugees. Like the first generation of Christians, they have not let forcible displacement extinguish their passion to pursue the missional calling of the church.

“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4)

The refugee church needs to be on our radar. Not only because they are isolated and forgotten by much of the non-displaced church – but because they have much to teach and offer us. Indeed, we need each other.

In spite of her circumstances and limitations, the refugee church is alive and well. She doesn’t need our pity. She needs our friendship and solidarity. She needs our help. And we need her.

“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself…” (Leviticus 19:33, 34)”

The Church On the Refugee Highway, Tom Albinson | International Association for Refugees

“…here we were sitting in a room with about 50 Congolese refugees who use this book (“Healing Wounds of Trauma”, put out by the American Bible Society) to lead healing groups in one of the most trauma-impacted areas of the world with Harriet Hill, the woman who had a dream over a decade ago to develop the material. It was extremely moving. Leaders/facilitators gave testimonies about the groups and about personal healing, and presented questions they had. One person shared, “We are all traumatized…This material heals us and then we can help others heal.” Another shared, “During the genocide, so many of us – on both sides of the conflict – had hearts like animals. The Bible takes away our animal hearts.” Not all of these testimonies were ones of “arrival,” however. A few shared how they are still in the midst of the long healing process.”

Heather Drew, Musings of a Christian Psychologist, 15.8.2014

“…a native ministry leader working in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Those working with him spend the majority of their days sharing Christ with the destitute masses crowding the refugee camps. The workers go from tent to tent, sitting down with frightened families who have fled ISIS, the merciless Islamic terrorist group that succeeded last week in purging all non-Muslims from every town and village in the Nineveh region.

For those people without shelter, ministry workers organize “sleeping groups,” where a large number of families gather together to sleep in one area for safety. “The Lord’s hand is clearly upon us and protecting us from evil,” reported the leader. “Even though some of us are going through trials, we believe strongly that the Lord is taking us to another level of faith and a higher place of blessing”.

…one ministry leader reported an “army of volunteers from local churches and house churches are ready and willing to help.” These workers, he said, are all born again, evangelical believers with at least basic Bible training, most of whom he has worked with previously. In addition to their need for prayer and spiritual strength from the Lord, the workers have personal needs. At the end of the day when they return to their homes, they have to take care of their own families,” a ministry leader told the director.

Long after foreign aid agencies leave the region, these native workers will remain to continue their outreach to the many broken people, hungry for hope and truth. “In a crisis like this, we are experiencing a time of revival and awakening everywhere,” reported a ministry leader. “God is not just moving people geographically, He is moving in their hearts, as well.”

God is using native missionaries in Iraq to share the saving message of Jesus Christ with those who have been forced from their homes. But the needs are great! Gospel workers want to meet physical needs, as well as spiritual needs, and they require our help to do so.”

By Amie Cotton, APR/ Assist News, August 15, 2014

“It is over; we can’t get back what we lost,” said one discouraged Christian refugee here in Jordan. “It will never be the same anymore for me or my family! We’ve lost hope.” He said he had to flee with his family at night, because anti-Christian persecution in Syria is becoming a steadily growing reality. “I had my own business. I ran a supermarket, and we were financially stable. Unfortunately, that’s not the case anymore; our dreams vanished when a group of terrorists threatened to kill my family, burn our house, and set fire to the store if I didn’t pay them $7,000. I paid the amount, hoping that they would leave us alone, but they did not. Instead, they kidnapped me for a whole week. They only let me go on one condition: that each month I would pay them the same amount! What do you think I could do? I fled. I packed our stuff, taking only the basics. I took my family and came to Jordan. My son Omar has one year left to finish his bachelor’s degree, but now his dreams have vanished as well. I was a business owner . . . but now I am a laborer barely able to provide the day to day needs for my family!”

Another older woman told native missionaries, “I was talking with friends next to our building when suddenly, from every direction, we heard gun shots. At the same moment I watched my friends fall in front of me dead! I lost my friends in one second. I was also hit by a bullet. It fragmented my knee, and now I can’t walk normally.”

Many victims have come to Syrian refugee camps in the northwest towns of Jordan. The economic and social demands of this crisis has put a great strain on the communities; health care and education systems are both overloaded by the influx of new patients and students.

Jordanian missionaries are visiting Syrian refugee families and listening to their stories, as well as distributing food packages, blankets, mattresses, and other aid. “Here at our mission,” said one leader, whose work is being helped by Christian Aid, “we view this refugee crisis as an opportunity to share the love of Christ. It is God who opened the door for us to minster to these refugees, and we cannot abandon our brothers and sisters. We believe that if we are faithful, this may be a time of harvest among the Syrian refugees. God is sovereign, and He cares. We must care too, for we are ambassadors for Christ and must reflect God’s love. As we show compassion for their pain and grieve with them, we also try to show respect as well. We distribute New Testaments and Christian tracts – particularly to those who have not begun to follow the Lord. After each visit we receive blessings from the refugees’ reactions – one family told us that they had been visited by other charity organizations, but they know that we are different because we respect them and make them feel loved and welcome”.

A church being used by the missionaries has kept its doors open 24 hours a day for the refugees since the crisis began. The needs are huge. Many are unable to find jobs or ways to support them. Others are injured, struggling with broken bones, disabilities, and illness that need medication.”

Christian Aid Mission, April 19, 2012.