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Syria

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A funeral procession for some of those killed in the Christian towns of Saddad and Haffar

Villages besieged and massacred; believers attacked and murdered; church leaders kidnapped; women and girls raped and forced into marriage and children traumatised: the lives of our brothers and sisters in war-ravaged Syria are being torn apart. What began as a people’s revolution in March 2011 is now dominated by Islamists fighting for an Islamic state; they particularly target Christians, who now have few safe havens left.

In one particularly harrowing incident, the Christian towns of Saddad and Haffar were besieged in October 2013. By the time government forces liberated the area, 46 people had been killed, 3,000 people had been used as human shields and 2,500 families had fled. Many of the rebels’ abuses, including killing civilians and targeting churches, have been condemned as war crimes. Maaloula, an historic Christian village, was another target of a deadly invasion, in September 2013, and was attacked again in December.

Many of our brothers and sisters are engulfed by an ongoing humanitarian crisis. For example, areas of Aleppo that are home to around 400,000 Christians have been besieged by the rebels for months. Many Christians have become malnourished owing to shortages and skyrocketing prices of food and other essentials. Access to water, electricity and communications is very limited.

It is perhaps the traumatised children of Christian families who are suffering most acutely; some have lost one or both parents; many are in desperate need, and rebel forces have even targeted Christian schools.

Syria used to be one of the easiest places in the Arab world to be a Christian. Until early 2011, its churches were large (about 10% of the population), and Christians were respected by the Muslim majority. They were allowed to worship and practise their faith without much official interference.

But now, with an estimated 600,000 Christians having fled the country or lost their lives as a result of the civil war, Syrian Christian leaders are concerned that the Church may be wiped out altogether, despite its long history. “I am not very optimistic that our Christian community will survive,” said one.

The Church has existed in Syria since Biblical times. In the book of Acts it was on the road to Damascus, capital of today’s Syria, that Saul was stopped short in his mission to destroy the early Church. The risen Christ asked him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). It was in Damascus that Saul regained his sight after being struck blind, and it was here that he was filled with the Holy Spirit, was baptised and began his ministry as an apostle.

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    • Taliban militants attempted to attack a Christian-run day-care centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, on 28 March, saying it was “a church used to convert Muslims to Christianity”. The attackers mistakenly targeted the next-door building, which houses workers on an agricultural and de-mining project, instead; two Afghan civilians, one a young girl, died in the crossfi re. All five Taliban bombers were also killed in the raid on the heavily-secured compound. The day-care centre that they were attempting to target, which is used by expatriates, is said to hold Christian worship services on certain days. Ask the Lord to change the hearts of those who plan and carry out terrorist attacks against Christians and other targets in Afghanistan; pray that they will turn instead to Him. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 18 hours ago

    • “He was always a light for Christ and he had a love and commitment that he expressed for the Afghan people because of that love for Christ.” The widow of Dr Jerry Umanos, an American doctor who was shot dead at the Christian-run hospital where he worked in Kabul, Afghanistan, spoke of her husband’s faith and ministry. Two visiting American Christians, father and son Gary and John Gabel, were also killed on 24 April when an Afghan security guard opened fire on the staff he was meant to be protecting. Pray for comfort for the grieving families of the three men, and ask the Lord to safeguard the future of the hospital, which provides much-needed medical care and also trains Afghan doctors and nurses. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Jul 2014 00:00

    • “We ask all Christians and members of other faiths to reconsider their own beliefs and join Hinduism.” Krishna Hari Baskota, secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister in Nepal, was speaking about the application process for a new identity card that will show citizens’ religious affiliation. Christians and members of other minorities will be subjected to greater scrutiny before obtaining the official documents and will be asked to reiterate their faith. One Christian rights activist said that the government is trying to discourage people from converting from Hinduism. Pray that the Nepalese authorities will not discriminate against Christians but will treat them on equal terms with the Hindu majority. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Lift up to the Lord a group of Christians in Pali village, Jharkhand state, India, who were attacked by Hindu extremists on two consecutive days in an effort to force them to convert to Hinduism. On 4 March, the offenders stormed into the home of Pastor Tilas Bedia, beat the Christians present and threatened to kill them if they continued to follow Christ. The following morning, a mob dragged 15 Christians from their homes, told them to convert back to Hinduism and beat them. The pastor and two others were paraded half-naked to the outskirts of the village. Adding insult to injury, a case of forcible conversion was subsequently registered against the pastor and three other Christians. Pray that the Lord will give them all the strength to stand firm in the face of such opposition. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Pray for Christians in the village of Gudrikia, Kandhamal district, who lost their church building in the 2008 anti-Christian riots in Orissa state, India. Earlier this year, they planned to rebuild the church, and on 11 March, they took the stones they had bought to the site to start the work. But they were blocked by a group of Hindu fundamentalists, who threatened them. The previous church building had been burnt down, and the land where it once stood is now used by Hindus for farming. The latest incident highlights the ongoing hostility towards Christians in the area. Pray that the Lord will soften the hearts of Hindu extremists in India, and that they will allow Christians to practise their faith in freedom and peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Jul 2014 00:00

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