Eight Years of Hell in Syria and No End in Sight!

I know that most people’s reaction when seeing events in Syria, which is entering into its eighth’ year of war, is to switch off, literally by turning off the TV, or sound, or just mentally. On the other hand, we may gasp and gloat at the increasing horror of this war, when we thought that it couldn’t possibly get any worse! As Christians, we are asked to pray and continue to pray into this situation and also to give wisely and with discernment.

Last Monday’s (19.2.) Four Corners Programme http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/four-corners/NC1803H003S00… showed the present situation in Raqqa, after the horrendous American bombing raids to successfully expel ISIS, at devastating cost to the civilian population! It featured a young Australian who is trying to help the Kurdish contingent to remove booby traps, left by ISIS in such places as inside toys, under mattresses and under gravel, where people walk. These diabolical traps continue to kill and maim both civilians and soldiers, but these brave souls continue their work at the cost of their own lives. The Syrian government, aided by the Russian lucrative weapons of war machinery, and by sinister Iran, considers them rebels and terrorists and is bombing them in Eastern Ghouta!

The UN seems to have lost its original vision and is sending BILLIONS to the Assad regime, for so-called aid, which is used in dubious ways https://www.theguardian.com/…/un-pays-tens-of-millions-to-a… The world has truly gone mad! Pray therefore like madmen! And give like lunatics! I will! I promise!

Scale of attacks preventing recovery of bodies as medics struggle to treat injured
THEGUARDIAN.COM

 

ANGLICAN SYNOD PLEADS FOR AUSTRALIA TO TAKE 12,000 MORE REFUGEES

The Anglican Church of Australia has urged the Federal Government to take another 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq, especially Christians and other minorities. The church also asked the Government, as a matter of human decency, to resettle in Australia any refugees and asylum seekers still detained on Manus Island and Nauru, and urged the Government to partner with the churches in healing and resettling the refugees. At its triennial General Synod in Maroochydore, Queensland, late last year the church affirmed the life-saving consequences of the earlier allotment of 12,000 extra places, particularly for Christians and other minorities who had been targeted by Islamic State.

The synod has urged each of Australia’s 23 dioceses to give 0.7 per cent of gross income to projects supporting sustainable development goals, and asked the Government to give 0.7 per cent of gross national income to overseas development. It also asked the Government to increase diplomatic and humanitarian efforts for Rohingya Muslims. The synod voted to oppose assisted dying, urge the government to improve palliative care resources, and to encourage Anglicans to contact their MPs.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports
Published 23 January 2018

REFUGEE CRISIS EXACERBATED BY RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION

REFUGEE CRISIS EXACERBATED BY RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION

Religious persecution plays a “central role” in the global displacement crisis according to Open Doors 2017 World Watch List. The charity noted that more than half of the world’s 65.3m refugee population come from Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria, all countries in which it has become extremely dangerous to identify as a Christian. In its supplementary report, The Persecution of Christians and Global Displacement, Open Doors said that religious persecution was a “dangerously underestimated” factor behind some people’s decision to flee their homes. The charity estimated that around half of Syria’s 1.7m Christians have left their country due to conflict and persecution. It also said that around 2.1m Nigerians have fled because of various factors, including attacks on Christians by Boko Haram jihadists.

In Asia and Mexico, Christians were driven from their villages for practising a faith differed from that of the majority. Pastor Aminu Sule from Nigeria said his congregation had shrunk from 400 to 20 as Christians fled from attacks by Boko Haram. He said: “I can’t count the number of people I have buried.” Once displaced, Pastor Sule said that Christians are often denied access to aid distributed by the local government. “They are dying of hunger and I cannot help them,” he said. Daniel, a church leader in Iraq, described how he fled from Baghdad after receiving a death threat from Al-Qaeda. His church has helped look after some of the 120,000 Christians chased out by Islamic State, but he added that many had since chosen to be resettled in “countries that respect their human rights”.

The report found some migrants were attacked after leaving their countries, and cited a Nigerian Christian who was abducted and repeatedly assaulted by a gang who had seen a Bible in his pocket. The charity urged the British government to support the right to freedom of religion and belief and to “target” nations where there is violent persecution of religious minorities. It noted that the UK Home Office claims that Pakistani Christians were not at “real risk of persecution.” The report also called on the Home Office to “increase the religious literacy of its staff” so that those who processed asylum applications could recognise instances of religious persecution. It urged the Home Office not to restrict visas for religious leaders invited to the UK to share of the suffering in their own countries.

The UK Home Office faced criticism last month after it denied three archbishops from Iraq and Syria visas to attend the consecration of a Syriac Orthodox cathedral in west London, on the grounds that they lacked sufficient funds to support themselves and they might not leave the UK. Open Doors UK and Ireland urged the British Foreign Office to prioritise freedom of religion and recognise championing that right as a way to combat terrorism and poverty, arguing that unchecked political oppression of a minority “creates a breeding ground for violent and radical groups”.  In India, it said, since the landslide election of Hindu nationalist President Narendra Modi in 2014, there has been “a deterioration in freedom in all aspects of Indian society, and Hindu radicals have virtual impunity from the Government”.

Source: World Watch Monitor

CHRISTIANS SEE HOPE DESPITE SYRIA’S FIVE YEARS OF WAR

Of an estimated population of 17 million in Syria, 11 million have either left the country or been internally displaced by the civil war which has entered its 5th year. For those still there, there are new beginnings with new opportunities – in both business and in living out their faith. Some enterprising Syrians in the churches are creating work and opportunities for those who stay on in the war-torn country, and others – church leaders – are adapting to the growing interest in Christianity of former Muslims in Syria and neighbouring Lebanon, where new former-Muslim believers can at times outnumber long-time church-goers. “We now have more than 20 ‘churches’ meeting in people’s houses and believe we will grow much bigger. More than 100 families are waiting for us to find them a house church,” said one pastor.

The opening of a factory usually signals renewed confidence in the economy; in Syria it’s a necessity, driven by a need to reverse the destruction caused by the civil war. Thirty people in one Syrian city which suffered terrible destruction, are newly employed in a furniture factory that recently opened. It’s hoped that a paying job will stop their families leaving the city like so many others.  The idea for the factory came from a local Orthodox priest. After drawing up a business plan he found a private partner and now its business prospects look good – the factory even has international orders on its books. In August last year a pharmacy opened in another besieged city in Syria. Again backed by church funding, it provides discounted medicines to the elderly and vulnerable.

A big challenge for people in Syria is the lack of a water supply. The water in some wells isn’t safe to drink. A church group decided to create a new well. “We got approval to dig much deeper than the usual 100 meters because deeper wells guarantee a continuous provision of water,” said a representative from the church. The well took six weeks to dig. “When we reached the required depth, a company installed the pump and filters to create water storage,” he added. The well should produce 10,000 litres of water each day, to serve 500 families, each allowed to take 20 litres of water each day. Many helping in the churches are themselves refugees and former Muslims. “I would say that 70% of our team helping refugees are refugees themselves who have come to Christ,” says a Lebanese pastor.

Before Syria’s civil war, it was unusual to find a Muslim converting to Christianity, but now you can find many former Muslims in churches in Syria and neighbouring Lebanon, where many Syrians have fled. A church leader in southern Syria thinks the war has played a part: “Muslims are open to hear from the Bible after the atrocities they’ve seen in the name of religion. “Some come because they found what they were taught about Christianity was wrong. They were raised to believe the Bible is corrupt.” Being away from family and friends has also allowed some to explore Christianity. “They are now displaced and their closest family members can’t see where they are going and what they are doing”. “So we are trying to equip them to be leaders in the future when they go back home.”

Church leaders overcome some of the challenges of former Muslims by using the language of Islam. “We give special lessons to answer their questions comparing Christianity and Islam” says one. “We say about faith that it’s “the same dish but with a different dressing”. We use some of their terms but never compromise about the truth,” says a pastor from Lebanon. Another one adds: “In my teaching I focus on the ideas that they carry from their former religion.” Church growth from former Muslims has its challenges, with long-time church members being initially suspicious. “We are cautious about their sincerity. These new believers used to persecute us. We get complaints from a few of the long-time Christian members.”

“Are these people true believers, or are they coming to spy, or because we are giving hand-outs?  I disciple them one-on-one first because of trust issues,” a pastor from Southern Syria says. “The new believers are afraid that other people will know about them because it is a scandalous thing in their community if people discover them being Christians”. One pastor in Damascus is cautious because the authorities don’t like Muslims converting to Christianity. “So we do our ministry with caution, keeping away from publicity and social media. We don’t tell anyone about the work.” All pastors say their churches have special discipleship training for these new believers. One says: “We disciple them and it changes their view of the world.  We encourage them to stay firm, despite the persecution and the trouble they face.”

Source: World Watch Monitor, published on 4 April, 2016 in the Australian Prayer Network Newsletter

Imminent new additional asylum seeker intake (2015) for Australia

Hello dear praying friends!

It’s been a while since my last posting. I had a welcome two weeks’ break and attended a four days conference to do with reconciliation in the world-wide Body of Christ. Truly inspiring!

Despite my silence, I hope that you have been persevering with praying for the needs of refugees. I certainly have!

I have felt greatly encouraged by Pope Francis’ clear exhortation to show more mercy to the plight of refugees and have spent some time reading through some people’s blogs about this issue. It is truly a divisive one in people’s minds. That’s when it is good to refer back to what God says in His word about how to treat the stranger and trust Him with the outcome, as we obey His word. Otherwise we become stuck with indecision, as many nations seem to be at present. That’s why it is good to have such an outspoken spokesperson on the issue as the Pope! May God bless him for it!

I feel that we now need to pray, in anticipation of the imminent new intake of extra refugees; that Australia – its authorities and population (us), would be ready to offer welcoming and warmth to the newcomers.

Attached find an article which explains in (hopefully) helpful detail what the new intake means. Julie Bishop has since confirmed this undertaking, despite the recent change of leadership.

Blessings to you!

Asylum seeker intake explained: Who will come to Australia under the Government’s plan?
By political reporter Anna Henderson and political editor Chris Uhlmann from the ABC
Updated 9 Sep 2015

The Federal Government has announced it will accept 12,000 extra refugees affected by conflict in Syria and Iraq.
Those accepted will be eligible for permanent resettlement in Australia.
But who will come, when will they get here and is Australia prepared for the new arrivals?

WHO WILL BE ELIGIBLE?

This is a one-off intake of 12,000 refugees displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq. This additional quota is on top of the existing 13,750 places already set aside for this financial year.

Displaced women, children and families will be prioritised from camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Single men are considered best able to look after themselves.

There will be a focus on persecuted minorities.

Unaccompanied minors present a very difficult task in terms of both identification and resettlement because the Government has to become their guardian.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE SEEKING REFUGE?

There are 630,000 Syrians in Jordan who have already been registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. There are 81,000 people in the Zaatari refugee camp. The situation in Lebanon and Turkey is less well ordered.

WHAT CHECKS WILL PEOPLE HAVE TO UNDERTAKE TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR REFUGEE STATUS?

Applicants will have identity, health, character and security checks. The identity checks will include taking biometric data.

Those chosen will have to complete an Australian values statement that pledges allegiance to the national way of life and laws.

Once they have been selected, there will be a final health check by one of the International Office of Migration’s panel doctors and a final security assessment.

There is no English language requirement and applicants could be assessed in the refugee camps or via video conferencing.

The refugees will be given permanent visas and will come to Australia on commercial flights.

WHEN WILL THE FIRST REFUGEES START ARRIVING?

It is hoped that the first group will arrive before Christmas, but the department already has a considerable caseload which includes the 13,750 people from the existing program and the 30,000 asylum seekers who have attempted to reach Australia by boat.

ARE AUSTRALIAN AUTHORITIES PREPARED?

The Immigration Department has a regional office in Dubai and an office in Amman. Other officials will be dispatched from Australia soon and a second wave in a month.

Immigration already has “intimate contact” with the UNHCR and a good knowledge of its systems.

CAN FAMILIES SPONSOR RELATIVES FOR THE POSITIONS?

Families that are already here cannot sponsor their family members under this program, but permanent residents can use existing family reunion programs to try and bring relatives to Australia.

HOW MUCH WILL THE 12,000-PLACE INCREASE COST?

The “conservative” estimate of the cost of this will be $700 million over the forward estimates. There is no quota system for states to share the burden and where people end up is yet to be sorted, but the Department of Social Services has a good idea of where the existing communities are.

WHY PUT AN EXTRA $44 MILLION INTO AID?

What the UNHCR wanted was money. The $44 million will help support 240,000 people through winter and into next year. The money comes from the emergency fund in DFAT’s Overseas Development Aid budget, which is used to respond to emergencies like tsunamis and earthquakes.

Prayer Points for The Refugee Situation in Europe (2015)

Father God, we lift up the refugee situation in Europe.

As wars and the threat of terror posed by many rogue terror groups increases all across the Middle East and the African Continent and as wars and rumours of wars become the norm (Matt. 24:6), we pray that the hearts of Europe’s leaders and its inhabitants would not grow cold (Matt. 24:12).

We pray especially for organisations that profess your Name to show leadership in caring for the stranger (Lev. 19:34; Ex. 22:21 and others).

Once again, we thank you for the leadership shown by such organisations as the UNHCR in trying to advocate on behalf of refugees.

We ask that you would soften and humble the hearts of those who act as advisers and policy makers to the EU, that they would recognize that the problems posed by the continuous floods of refugees seeking a new home in Europe are very great and that godly wisdom is the only lasting solution to this problem. May they show willingness to consider the welfare of individuals involved before economic considerations.

Some very damaging and impacting decisions have already been taken, due to a hardening of hearts, at the expense of further loss of life amongst fleeing refugees. Such measures have increased the hardship of the most vulnerable and eroded the notion of justice and mercy in Europe.

May the call to justice and a love of mercy go out all over Europe, especially across the Body of Christ. (Micah 6:8)