Update October 2016

Hello to my subscribers but especially to those participating in prayer!

It’s been a while since our last prayer focus (praying for Greece).

If you are anything like me, our intercession really never stops; whether it is to do with personal or family concerns, concerns around our local fellowship, friends and work colleagues and the wider world. I would say, going by the fact that you are part of this group, you would qualify for all of those!

Like me, you may have participated in the recent prayer focus for the Muslim world, during Ramadan.

Presently, the focus amongst some of us has now moved to the Jewish community, as they are celebrating their New Year. I follow the “Jewish Prayer Focus” (2. – 23.10.), edited by Jill Curry, with contributions by many Messianic pastors and ministries, world-wide and in Israel. At the same time, I also have great tender concern for Palestinian Christians, who are contending with incredible spiritual odds, as well as issues of sheer physical and spiritual survival.

It saddens me that some Christians feel that they have to take sides; either for this group and against another. No, we keep our eyes firmly on our Lord and on His agenda! He is no respecter of persons, as the Bible states in Acts 10:34-35 (Then Peter began to speak: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism, but welcomes those from every nation who fear Him and do what is right…) and Rom. 2:11. When Joshua asked whether the Lord was for them or for their adversaries, the answer in Joshua 5:14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”

Injustices will always be committed by all sides and they do need to be dealt with; the interpretation of what constitutes injustice is a very contended issue and only God ultimately judges rightly.

So, keep praying, as the Lord leads and remember that it is a privilege to be co-labourers in His kingdom!

Pia

TENTS DANCING – a poem

tents dancing 

Hot, dry wind

over parched desert land,

swirling up sand,

stinging eyes and partly exposed faces,

mainly of women and children

cueing for their daily rations.

A sea of tents,

as far as the eye can see.

Makeshift homes of refugees;

once large families

with a desire to prosper

and to give a future to their offspring.

To offer shelter

to their aging parents.

To enjoy status

in their communities.

War tore them asunder;

killing, raping, maiming

indiscriminately.

Presently,

reduced to mere beggars.

A perceived burden.

A political football.

Stateless.

Homeless.

Their dignity left behind.

After the numbness of grief,

what is left

but blame?

Easy targets

for ideologies of hatred.

Usually,

towards ‘meddlers from the West’.

They came with guns and tanks

and a self-righteous demeanour.

They are usually the ones

now offering charity,

expecting gratitude.

Why not bite the hand

that once held a gun?

When hatred prevails

the truth becomes irrelevant.

Whose truth anyway?

The war may have been left behind

but is now raging

in wounded human hearts.

As quick as it arose,

the wind has died down.

The relentless heat

causes tents to dance

on waves of sand.

Pia Horan, 29 September 2013

 

 

The golden rule for living the Kingdom Life

As intercessors but also as ordinary Christians, living our daily lives, we encounter many difficulties and heartaches. It is part of the journey and walk of faith. Some of us can get unstuck during these challenging times. We become overly focussed on the problems, to the point of obsession. We lose our peace, become frantic with problem-solving, envisage and fear the worst outcomes and eventually, are in danger of losing even our faith!

Philippians 4:6-8 gives us the antidote to the above outcome; if we appropriate its contents in our daily living:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving (for the problems? No! For His ready help!), let your requests be made known to God; (consequence:) and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds (from the previously mentioned downhill slide) through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren (here comes the second part of ensuring His peace, to be practiced daily), whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praise-worthymeditate on these things.”

Note: italics and emphasis mine

Meditation is different from thinking; we obviously need to think about many things throughout our day, problem-solving on our feet, decision making etc. Meditation is what we tend to brood over and where our minds tend to dwell upon, sometimes without our conscious awareness. This is where we need to take control and ensure that it isn’t of the type described in the above first paragraph!

As intercessors, especially praying for desperate situations, such as many refugee situations, we can easily become overwhelmed with the problems many people are facing. The same approach (Phil.4:6-8) applies here too. We bring those issues to Him in prayer and supplication (our hearts are engaged, not just our heads!), remembering to thank Him that He hears us and that we are working in partnership with Him. He is pleased that we are bringing those issues to Him; caring for others and not just for our own immediate circle, as many Christians, sadly, tend to do. If we become burdened and overly obsessed with those issues, we have missed the point. We need to practice v. 8 of the above Scripture, fully trusting in His dependable care and attention to the issues presented to Him. We continue to thank Him and to present new issues, which are sure to arise!

Brief overview of present – day Greece

Greece’s Economic & Political Climate:

The (Greek) economy has shrunk by a quarter in five years, and unemployment is about 25 percent.

The (EU) bailout money mainly goes toward paying off Greece’s international loans, rather than making its way into the economy. And the government still has a staggering debt load that it cannot begin to pay down unless a recovery takes hold.

The government will now need to continue putting in place deep economic overhauls required by the bailout deal Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras brokered in August (2015), as well as the unwinding of capital controls introduced after political upheaval prompted a run on Greek banks.

Greece’s relations with Europe are in a fragile state, and several of its leaders are showing impatience, unlikely to tolerate the foot-dragging of past administrations. Under the terms of the bailout, Greece must continue to pass deep-reaching overhauls, many of them measures that were supposed to have been passed years ago.

The New York Times, June 2016

 

The situation in Greece is extremely volatile! The economic crisis of the last several years is getting worse and worse without any real end in sight. Unemployment is on the rise and affecting every working age group. Incomes are decreasing; the cost of living is continuing to rise, as are taxes. All of this has created a situation that has left families devastated and unable to provide for themselves. Hope is diminishing day by day and people are continuing to respond thru protests and rioting!

The Gonzalez Gazette, Frank & Suzie Gonzalez, Athens

 

 Over the last 6 years, Greece has suffered an unprecedented exodus of young professionals, igniting the potential for a massive brain drain in the years to come. This phenomenon is due to high levels of unemployment among people under 25 years of age. Youth unemployment is now at 52%, down from 63% in 2013. High levels of youth emigration, coupled with unsustainable low levels of repopulation, could result in massive instability for future generations.

A recent study by the City of Athens Homeless Shelter (KYADA) found that 71% of all homeless population in the capital have been on the streets for 5 years or less. Of these, the great majority are Greek men aged 35-55. The latest figures reveal the destructive toll the economic crisis has taken on local individuals and families.

Pray for Greece Ministry

 

Greece’s (Muslim) Refugee Situation:  Greece is at the gateway of the Middle-East. There are some who have called it the doorstep of the 10/40 window. Due to its location and vast coastline, Greece has seen an unprecedented influx of clandestine Muslim immigrants from Africa, Central Asia and the Middle-East. These men, women and children have come here searching for a better life but have been met with great disappointment. As is typical in many situations like these; the situation has grown increasingly challenging for these refugees as they’ve been caught in the bureaucratic maze of the asylum process and face a significant degree of animosity toward them from the Greek people. However it has been amazing to see growing numbers of Greek believers and many local Protestant churches step in to help and represent the love of Christ to these suffering people.

The Gonzalez Gazette, Frank & Suzie Gonzalez, Athens

Insert: https://youtu.be/_PToQuxvZgM  (Al Jazeera’s report on Syrian refugees in Europe, Oct. 2015)

 

Greece’s Spiritual Climate:

Although Greece was the first nation in Europe to receive the gospel (Acts 16-18) it has become one of the most unreached countries in the world. Out of a population of 11 million, there are less than .02% who are born-again disciples of Jesus Christ. By law it is technically illegal to “proselytize” or share the gospel with non-believers. In Athens alone, the city we minister in, there are nearly 6 million people, but only about 50 evangelical/protestant churches.

The Gonzalez Gazette, Frank & Suzie Gonzalez, Athens

 

Despite the fact that the European Union constitutionally guarantees the freedom of worship and religion, only a few historic mainline protestant and episcopal churches operate with a valid church license in Greece today. Non-Orthodox Christian churches face many roadblocks in order to legally exist. This situation also affects missionaries and other religious workers who face tremendous opposition when requesting visas. Prayer can be an effective tool in policy changing.

Church planting and growth in Greece has remained largely stagnant over the last 50 years. Optimistically, it is estimated that the average church attendance is between 15-30 people. The situation became exacerbated since the economic crisis began, which weakened many local communities and forced others to close their doors. However, it is also encouraging to see a fresh push for new church planting in Greece today.

Pray for Greece Ministry

 

Opportunities for the gospel: As hard as this climate is getting, it is our prayer that God would use it to create opportunities for the gospel and to open people’s hearts to Jesus. God has been doing a incredible work among the refugee population, especially those from Iran and Afghanistan. Many of them have had visions of Christ who appeared to them personally and told them about Himself. Many others have responded to the gospel and embraced Christ as their Savior. Please pray for these open doors to increase!

The Need for Workers & Churches: In light of all that is happening we ask you to pray that God would send laborers out into His harvest field. We also ask you to pray that God would establish healthy churches where those being saved in this nation, regardless of their origins, will find a spiritual home. Finally we ask that you pray for God to strengthen the churches that are already here, give wisdom, vision and grace to the pastors and leaders, and that He would stir up the believers to reach out to the nation around them and to the foreigners being brought to their shores.

The Gonzalez Gazette, Frank & Suzie Gonzalez, Athens

 

 

Prayer for Greece

(Compiled from prayer requests by previously mentioned Christian ministries,

including Prayercast, a Ministry by OneWay)

 

Economy/Political Situation

 *Pray for economic stability and patience throughout the country and God’s peace to overcome anger.

*Pray for the political leaders of Greece: President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipris.

*Pray for the financial meltdown to drive people to Jesus for lasting peace and security

*Pray for job creation and innovation in this time of crisis.

 

Spiritual Situation

*Pray for the Church to be purged of any heresy, syncretism, or division.

*Pray for the right of non-Orthodox Christian institutions to exist and work freely.

*Pray for the future of independent churches in Greece.

*Pray for breakthroughs in non-Orthodox/Orthodox relations.

*Pray for existing churches to be strengthened through this time of crises.

*Pray for local churches and workers throughout Greece.

*Pray for new leaders to arise (and for those requiring entry visas to be given such quickly – added by Pia).

*Pray for young people in Greece.

*Pray for a revival among young believers, building a strong church for many years to come.

*Pray for a clear presentation of the Gospel to reach a nation where very few have heard the Truth.

*Pray for believers to be provided for as they trust God in ministry.

*Pray for Operation Joshua; a collaborative effort led by Hellenic Ministries aiming to sow God’s Word into every home in Greece:

*Pray that God’s Word will take root throughout the land.

*Pray for lasting fruit that leads to further evangelism and discipleship.

*Pray for staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to facilitate this massive effort.

P.S. (added 18.8.16: sent following proclamation to claim, to our intercessors: Ezekiel 37:4-5 Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’5“Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.…).

UN COMMITTEE SAYS TAKING CHILDREN TO CHURCH VIOLATES THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS

Making your child attend church could be a human rights violation, according the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The report issued by the U.N. panel shows concern about childre…

Source: UN COMMITTEE SAYS TAKING CHILDREN TO CHURCH VIOLATES THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS

The Upcoming Australian Election (can be applied to any election; anywhere!) – My thoughts

Let’s be those who prayerfully consider the present needs of our precious country of Australia and make the effort to carefully consider the responsibility before us to appoint worthy representatives in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Are they representing our struggling and often forgotten farmers, those most vulnerable in our society such as old people, the unborn and children, mothers and children fleeing from abusive partners, the mentally ill, those in the grip of addiction, refugees and their children, left without hope and ill treated, the sale of our land and houses for mere profit, to those who don’t care for our country or its people and are robbing young couples of what used to be and still should be the great Australian dream? I am sure, you can think of other, presently neglected but vital issues which need to be revived and protected.

The time is now to take responsibility; next week it will be too late!

I wanted to watch a movie last night; instead I felt compelled to do my homework and to plow through the confusing array of choices. Prayer helps in this process!

Ultimately it comes back to one issue: “Hallowed be your Name. Your will be done on earth (as it is in heaven)!” Amen.

A Just Australia campaign

The A Just Australia campaign is managed by the Refugee Council of Australia. The core mission of the campaign is to campaign for positive changes to government policy on refugee and asylum seekers. By working together with prominent Australians and community groups and thousands of concerned individuals, A Just Australia aims to achieve just and compassionate treatment of refugees, consistent with the human rights standards which Australia has developed and endorsed.

Exercise your right to be heard
In 2001, as Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers was rapidly deteriorating in the weeks after the Tampa incident, no one knew that significant change would come three years later from within the government’s own ranks. The situation today is similar: a government pushing ahead with harsh treatment of asylum seekers in the name of deterrence, supported by many in the Opposition, but with a small number of MPs and Senators in different parties publicly or privately expressing misgivings about policies which punish people seeking Australia’s protection from persecution. In thinking about when and how change might come, we can be sure that change will not come if Australians who oppose current policies remain silent.

In 2002, a group of Australians began a campaign, A Just Australia, to encourage Australians to speak up for just treatment of asylum seekers. Today, the Refugee Council of Australia is keeping this campaign alive by inviting Australian citizens and residents to exercise their right to be heard. We want you to let your local MP and the Senators who represent you know how you feel about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.

Participate in our “Write To Be Heard” campaign
We would like you to join us in our new “Write to Be Heard” campaign. The aim is to write to the MPs and Senators who represent us (by email or post) to let them know that we and many other fair-minded Australians oppose policies which punish and harm people who have sought Australia’s protection from persecution.

At least once a month, we will invite you to consider a current issue of concern to asylum seekers and refugees and to write to your political representatives about it. Our first request for your support is on the issue of Temporary Protection Visas.

Don’t underestimate the influence you can have. Every elector in Australia is represented in Federal Parliament by one member of the House of Representatives and either 12 Senators if they live in a state or two Senators if they live in the ACT or Northern Territory. The territories have Coalition and Labor Senators while each State has Senators from the Coalition, Labor and the Greens and one or two of the minor party or Independent Senators who hold the balance of power. The politicians who represent you will probably include people who strongly support current government policy, others who openly oppose and some who toe the party line but have misgivings or only limited knowledge of the issues.

Release all children from immigration detention
At the end of October 2014, 726 children were in immigration detention facilities.
We know the damaging effects of detention on young people’s lives.
The Government doesn’t have to detain children – there are community-based alternatives at its disposal.
The Write To Be Heard campaign is asking you to urgently write to MPs and demand the release of all children from immigration detention facilities.

The Refugee Council of Australia has produced a one-page background briefing on the issue which is available here.
We have developed a sample letter which can be used to develop your own letter. Please forward the campaign details to friends and like-minded people. Email, postal and telephone contact details for all MPs and Senators are available here.

Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill will harm vulnerable people
The government’s Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill is currently before the Senate. If passed it will have a devastating impact on some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Write To Be Heard is asking you to contact the cross-bench Senators and urge them to vote against the Bill. Find out how here.
If passed it will:
• Give the Minister for Immigration extraordinary powers during interception and turnback operations while limiting review by the courts or Parliament.
• Reintroduce harmful Temporary Protection Visas and remove pathways to permanent protection, condemning people to constant uncertainty.
• See asylum seekers ‘fast tracked’ through the visa application process where they will have to navigate complex legal systems without support or legal advice.

Other measures will replace the internationally-accepted definition of refugee status with the Government’s own interpretation. Even the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, chaired by Liberal Senator Dean Smith, says the Bill breaches Australia’s core human rights commitments.

The Write To Be Heard campaign is asking you to urgently write to MPs – in particular cross-bench, Greens and Labor Senators – before it’s too late. Let MPs know that we will not support a Bill that strips refugees and asylum seekers of the few rights they have.

Please forward the campaign details to friends and like-minded people.

We have developed a sample letter which can be used to develop your own letter. Email, postal and telephone contact details for all MPs and Senators are available here.

Stop the forcible return of asylum seekers to Afghanistan
Last week, Refugee Council of Australia President Phil Glendenning wrote to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, urging the Australian Government to suspend forcible returns of asylum seekers to Afghanistan. Phil’s pleas followed revelations in The Saturday Paper that an asylum seeker Zainullah Naseri, who was returned in August 2014, was subsequently abducted and tortured by the Taliban.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison said he would investigate the circumstances surrounding Zainullah’s case. Write to Mr Morrison and urge him to immediately suspend the forced return of asylum seekers to Afghanistan. We have developed a sample letter which can be used to press the case for suspending returns.
Please send a copy of your letter to Shadow Minister for Immigration Richard Marles, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Palmer United Party Federal Leader Clive Palmer, your local MP and Senators in your State.

Temporary Protection Visas
Federal Parliament is expected to push for the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs). There is still time to write to Members of Parliament – in particular the Senators from the minor parties and independents – and let them know why the TPVs must be rejected.
We have developed a sample letter which outlines the case against TPVs and a series of key points you can use to write your own letters.
How to contact your MPs and Senators
Email, postal and telephone contact details for all MPs and Senators are available here.
Feedback is encouraged
Please share any responses you receive through your advocacy work. Send any feedback to writetobeheard@refugeecouncil.org.au

Join us on Facebook – look for ‘RCOA’
Follow us on Twitter – OzRefugeeCounc #WriteToBeHeard

Tips for writing letters
• Keep your letter short by raising only one or two key issues.
• Ask a question on those issues that require a personal response (refer to our sample questions for inspiration)
• If you are emailing your letter, write it in a word program and attach it as a document to the email rather than place it in the body of the email. Many electorate offices do not reply to emails as they are often not considered official communications.
• Use the correct title of the person you are addressing
• ‘Mr/ Mrs/Ms/Dr First Name Last Name MP’
• ‘Senator First Name Last Name’.
You are likely to get a wordy or evasive answer. Read it carefully. If it does not actually answer your question, write again pointing out politely that they have not answered the question. Repeat the question and ask for an answer. Repeat this process as often as necessary.

Sample questions on different topics
Use these to help as inspiration for your letters to elicit a personal response and reflection from your representatives.

As the elected representative in my electorate of XX, I would like to know your position in the following matter:

Asylum seekers:
• Do you believe that Australia should accord to refugees and asylum seekers all their rights and entitlements under relevant international laws? Are you aware that current laws and policies violate these rights?
• Do you believe that people commit an offence by arriving in Australia without permission and seeking asylum? If Yes, what offence do they commit?
• Do you agree that all refugees should be treated equally regardless of how they arrived in Australia?
• Do you agree that asylum seekers not afforded protection in Australia should only be returned in safety and dignity, and never to a place of danger? Do you agree that where there is credible evidence this does not occur, Australia has a responsibility to investigate our methods and locations of forced removal?

Employment:
• Do you believe that work rights should be afforded to asylum seekers holding bridging visas?

Detention:
• Do you agree that children should not be detained?
• Do you agree that refugees and asylum seekers should not be detained indefinitely?
• Do you agree that no refugee or asylum seeker should be subjected to any human rights violation in order to deter others from seeking asylum in Australia?