Persecution & Prayer Alert

"There was a lot of talk of needing to get Christian refugees to
the West and to safety. And yet...if the Christian community leaves
the Middle East, then it's an even more hopeless situation. So there
needs to be a strong Christian presence that remains, and our role
then is to come alongside and strengthen what remains...."
~ Anthony Rhodes, VOMC's VP of International Projects


Syria: Churches Serve as Enemies Threaten

Source(s): Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin


Saint Elias Cathedral in Aleppo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Fede Ranghino

President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, has said about the Battle for Aleppo: "This is beyond doubt one of the most devastating urban conflicts in modern times." Around 250,000 people remain trapped in Aleppo's rebel-held east. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu describes them as "hostages," unable to flee because the rebels have mined the humanitarian corridors and manned them with snipers. Meanwhile, more than a million citizens -- including some 40,000 mostly Assyrian and Armenian Christians -- remain in Aleppo's government-held west.

Despite the dire situation, western Aleppo's churches continue to serve and minister. The deputy director of the public assistance department at Aleppo's Orthodox Sunday schools, Samir Samaan, reports that Aleppo's Saint Elias Cathedral is caring for about 4,000 newly displaced families -- half of them Muslim, half of them Christian. Similarly, Jesuit priest Father Ziad Hilal said the churches are working to feed those left in Aleppo, regardless of their religion. "We give about 7,500 meals every day."

"On one side things are dark, things are sad," the church leader continues. "On the other hand, we see the activities of the church and how the people, especially the Christian associations, are helping. They are providing a sign of hope. Our mission is important there." Father Ibrahim describes it as "a miracle," noting that all the while, Christians in Aleppo are fasting and praying that "the will for peace" shall prevail "over the will for war." In essence, may the light of Christ overcome the darkness so that many more Syrians will discover the way of God's salvation.

Pray that the Lord of hosts will intervene in Aleppo to "preserve all who love Him" and "frustrate the way of the wicked" (Psalm 145:20; Psalm 146:9). Intercede that the Spirit of God will subvert the rebellion so the "will for peace" shall indeed prevail over "the will for war." May the Lord provide for Aleppo's churches, ensuring that they are equipped with the necessary funds, resources and workers to continue serving and ministering as lights in the darkness (Matthew 5:14-16).

Algeria: Behind Bars for a Facebook Post

Source(s): World Watch Monitor, Middle East Concern, Premier Radio


Slimane Bouhafs
Photo: World Watch Monitor

A Christian in Algeria has been sentenced to five years in prison -- the maximum term -- and given a heavy fine for blasphemy against Islam and its prophet in a social media post. Slimane Bouhafs, 49, appeared before a judge on August 7th in the eastern town of Setif within the Kabylie region, home to most of Algeria's tiny but fast-growing Christian minority.

Slimane was arrested on July 31st for posting a message on social media about the light of Jesus overcoming the "lie" of Islam and its prophet. He also published photos showing the execution of a civilian by an Islamist terrorist. Such material is judged by the authorities as an insult to Islam, the state religion in Algeria according to its Constitution. The penal code allows for a penalty of three to five years in prison, along with a heavy fine, against anyone convicted of insulting Islam and its prophet Muhammad.

The news of Slimane's sentence was a shock for his family who denounced what they called a "sham" trial. His daughter, Afaf, describes her father as a man who has always defended the interests of his country from a young age. She says he is known for his commitment to democracy and religious freedom through all of his writings published on Facebook.

Slimane's family members are deeply concerned, as he suffers from a chronic illness and his health may deteriorate in prison. According to his daughter, he suffers from inflammatory rheumatism, a disease that typically worsens under stress. The president of the Protestant Church of Algeria says its lawyer will be appealing the verdict.

Ask God to minister to Slimane and his family, while mediating on his behalf throughout the appeal process. May the Lord's peace and protection be experienced by each one, including the representing lawyer, as they seek His wisdom and ultimately place their trust in Him regarding the outcome. Also intercede on behalf of Slimane's health concern, asking the Great Physician to grant him needed physical strength and healing.

Niger: Equipping Persecuted Christian Workers

Source(s): VOM USA

Pastors and other Christian workers, who are facing increased persecution in this Muslim-majority nation, were able to attend VOM-sponsored training sessions this past June. At the request of local Christian leaders, 12 conferences were made available throughout Niger. As a result, 120 churches have received practical training and resources to help them respond to persecution and spread the Gospel. Please join us in praying for these pastors and Christian workers as they continue to plant churches, evangelize, and educate Christians on how to live as effective Christ-followers in a predominantly Islamic society.

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