News Worth Listening To
Turkey (MNN) – Last week, American Pastor Andrew Brunson was given a new indictment in Turkish court. This time he was charged with “leadership in a terrorist organization.” Prosecutors are seeking a possible life sentence. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the indictment and calls on the US government to deal with the issue. According to USCIRF, Brunson’s charges have been brought based on so-called secret evidence and a secret witness. However, the charges seem baseless. David Curry of Open Doors USA reminds us that Brunson served as a pastor in Turkey for more than two decades before his arrest. He’s been in prison since October of 2016. Curry says, “Essentially this is a hostage negotiation. This is hostage diplomacy where Turkey, which has slid so far in its international positioning since Erdogan, their president, has tried to position himself as a dictator.” As we’ve discussed previously, the government is trying to get the United States to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, someone Erdogan believes is at least partially responsible for the failed coup in 2016. “There’s an axe to grind. They’ve imprisoned Andrew Brunson, this pastor, and they’re not going to give him back unless they get their demands met. So, it’s really a diplomatic stalemate,” Curry says. It’s unlikely that the United States will concede to this request. And so, these baseless charges against Brunson continue to grow. “They’re ratcheting up the pressure and suggesting that this pastor is going to have a very long term in prison. And I think it’s their way of keeping the pressure on the United States government to release this person who they see as a key player in the attempted coup.”
Prayer, our greatest toolIn this situation, Curry says that prayer is really the very best (and perhaps only) action we can take. “There’s not a lot that can be diplomatically done by Christian churches here because we’re talking about a dictator who’s not going to respond to our pleas. And in some cases, in some ways, it may be counterproductive. So we’re going to have to be prayerful about this.” And as you pray for Brunson—for his release, courage, and perseverance—Curry says to remember others who are also facing persecution for their faith: “The thing to remember is when we hear about an American pastor who is held prisoner somewhere, whether it’s in North Korea or in Turkey, there are many, many, many other pastors who are in prison or Christians who are in prison for their faith around the world. This is just one, it’s public knowledge here in America because he is an American citizen. But we don’t pray for him because he is an American citizen, we pray for him because he’s a follower of Jesus, in my mind. He’s a citizen first of the Kingdom, and so we support our brother or sister in the Lord.” He also encourages you to stay up to date on stories like this, and to share these stories so that you’ll continue to be in prayer and keep a good focus. You can catch up on news of the Persecuted Church, here. “Even in the midst of these difficult times, amazing things are happening in the Kingdom, and we need to stay focused on keeping a balanced point of view.” (Header Photo courtesy of Spyros Papaspyropoulos via Flickr)
India (MNN) -- It has been nearly a decade since the 2008 campaign of violence against Christians in Kandhamal, India displaced 60,000 Indian Christians. Over 300 churches and places of worship were destroyed and 6,000 Christian families attacked. While this stands out as a horrific event in Christian history in India, a report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India is now calling 2017 one of the most traumatic years for India’s Christian community since Kandhamal. One account from Morning Star News tells the story of Hindu extremists who attacked a group of elderly Christians in Telangana and burned their Bibles.
Bibles Burned in TelanganaLevi MacGregor with Voice of the Martyrs Canada explains, “As I understand it, on January 21, a group of Christians associated with Gideons International had gathered some Bibles together and they were seeking to go to schools to distribute these Bibles to children. They had actually been praying and had gotten a good response from the headmaster of one of these schools. So they had delivered some Bibles to the children. The children were really happy to receive them. “As they were leaving, they had actually even distributed some Bibles to a person who ran out of the [Hindu] temple looking for some New Testaments. So they had given him about 20 copies.” Afterward, around 10 Hindus approached the Christians, demanded they stop handing out Bibles, and abused them with extremely vulgar language. The Christians got in their cars and went to leave peacefully. “One car left with four people and there was a second car behind them with another four Christians. The first one stopped and at that point, one of the same Hindus had jumped into the car and stolen one of the unopened boxes of Bibles. Then as the second car pulled up, they stopped that one and pulled more Bibles out,” MacGregor shares. “All this time, they were yelling at the Christians and they were telling them that they were useless, that they were idiots, things like this. They started tearing the Bibles apart. They tore the pages out and dumped some fuel on all of them and lit them on fire.” A police case has been filed about the situation, but according to Morning Star News, it doesn’t seem like any charges will be brought against the assailants. A counter-charge has been filed against the Christians.
A Persistent ChurchWhile this situation is one example, harassments and attacks against Christians throughout India are becoming more frequent and violent. But MacGregor says our Indian brothers and sisters in Christ are not withering in the face of persecution. “Indian Christians have been passionate about seeing the unreached people groups in their own country know the Lord, and when they look into the faces of their persecutors such as these Hindu extremists, they see potential brothers in Christ. “I can guarantee you that these Christians we’ve been talking about in Telangana who had their Bibles stolen and burned, they would do it all over again because they value proclaiming the Gospel over their own lives.”
The Paradox of PersecutionThe paradox of persecution is this: wherever there is persecution meant to stamp out the Church, often it is there the true Body of Christ strengthens and grows. “Persecution is something promised to us by God in his Word,” says MacGregor. “It can be used by God for great revival. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of Voice of the Martyrs, once said, ‘If you don’t want Christians in restricted nations to be persecuted, then don’t give them Bibles. If you do, they are going to use them and they will be persecuted.’ “The reality is we’re not going to see an end to persecution here on earth because all those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. That’s what the Bible says. Author Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, however, does note that we can combat persecution and the best and deepest way to do that is to make mature disciples of Jesus.” Making mature disciples of Jesus Christ is exactly what VOM Canada encourages through their ministry support in India and around the world. VOM Canada also supports children who suffered as orphans of the Kandhamal violence in 2008. You can support this ministry through VOM Canada’s Families of Martyrs Fund here. MacGregor reflects, “The encouraging thing, I think, for us Western Christians is that the same God that is sovereign over everything that happens in India -- he loves and cares for persecuted Christians there and gives them strength to continue in the face of opposition -- is the same God that not only cares about our own Western daily struggles but is available and powerful enough to help us in them and give us boldness to proclaim his name here too.”
Middle East (MNN) – SAT-7, a Christian satellite TV ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, is helping provide supplemental education for refugee children. How? Through its channel, SAT-7 Academy.
SAT-7 AcademyBy providing education, SAT-7 is helping be the hands and feet of Jesus to this lost generation. Some kids have been out of school since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. Others never had a chance to go to school because they came of school age during the civil war. And while SAT-7 Academy can’t replace the education or experience of a physical school, it can at least give these kids a fighting chance and a ray of hope for a better future. “We teach Arabic. We teach English. Arabic as in grammar and syntax. English because any child that learns English anywhere in the world, it’s the universal currency now. It helps them in employment. It helps them take care of themselves later in life. Mathematics and sciences are where we are right now,” SAT-7’s Rex Rogers shares. SAT-7 Academy is one way SAT-7 is addressing the needs of this potentially lost generation now. And in doing so, these kids are given tools to take care of themselves now and in the future. Because of this, education is a spear to the heart of extremism.
Education's PowerA lot of young teenagers are targets for extremist recruitments in the Middle East and North Africa. For the kids targeted, often times they’re struggling and their families are struggling. Maybe their dad is gone and a 13 year-old-boy is left to take care of his mother and younger siblings. If he has little to no education, and few ways to help make ends meet—being handed a gun, a wage, power, food, and status by an extremist recruiter is enticing. There’s a future. But, with an education, this same teenager has hope for more hope outside of extremism for a future. “Education allows a young man or young woman to understand other ways and alternative views about how they can take care of themselves or how they can move forward in a positive way in the world. They don’t have to go that route [of extremism],” Rogers says. In other words, education is an important tool, alongside sharing Christ, in giving the Middle East a chance for good change. Furthermore, Rogers shares how education in the Middle East is focused on rote learning, or memorization. Critical and analytical thinking isn’t taught as much. Because of this, SAT-7 Academy aims to help give teachers and parents this other model of teaching besides the idea of rote learning.
The Difference of Christ“We could be investing now for the kids who lead these countries in the next 25-30 years, and who knows what God will do with that. Because if one or two of those kids, or a bunch of them, understand tolerance of the right kind as in love your neighbor as yourself and respect for other human beings, they create a space for minorities,” Rogers explains. “And if there’s no space for minorities in the future, there’s no space for Christians. There’s no space for the Church or anybody that’s different or marginalized in the future of the Middle East. But if you create a different view of that, then you can produce leaders and eventually influence a culture-- that can dramatically change the conditions of this area.” And with an education from a Christian point-of-view, who knows how God will use that. Today, there’s more openness to the Gospel and Christ in the Middle East than there has been since WWII. But there’s no knowing how long this door will stay open for ministries like SAT-7 to invest in the people there. With that said, SAT-7 Academy is an investment in these kids. Will you help invest in SAT-7 Academy too? Pray for this generation of refugee children, and for Christ to impact the Middle East with his love and Gospel message. And as with any project, there are necessary funds to making and keeping a vision alive. So please, will you help fund SAT-7 Academy and these kids’ futures? Learn more about the heart behind SAT-7 Academy and how to give here!