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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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    • Praise God that local police in the village of Tehsil Summodri, Faisalabad District, Pakistan acted to withdraw false allegations of blasphemy against 31 Christians and 23 other villagers. The allegations under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (which carries a mandatory death sentence) were made on 2 September when Christians were ploughing a piece of land given to them for free by its Muslim owner to extend the local Christian cemetery. A group of Muslims accused them of desecrating Muslim graves. The police investigation revealed that the land had been a Muslim cemetery many years earlier but the graves had been moved elsewhere. They changed the charges to the lesser ones under Section 297 (which carries a maximum prison sentence of one year or a fine). It is very unusual for the Pakistani police to defend the rights of Christians in this way. Pray that others will follow their example. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 22 hours ago

    • School text-books in Turkey are still teaching that the Armenians and most other Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire a century ago were agents of enemy foreign powers such as Britain and Russia. This, the books say, was the reason for what they call the “necessary deportation” of the Christians. Turkey still does not accept blame for the deaths of at least 1.5 million Armenian and Assyrian Christians, many massacred or dying of deprivation as they were force-marched out of their homeland. Next year, 2015, is the 100th anniversary of the worst year of the Armenian and Assyrian Genocide. Please pray that the innocent suffering of these faithful believers will be recognised by every country and that the world will resolve never to let such a genocide happen again. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Pray for 27 Christians, believed to be from various Asian countries, who were detained overnight by the Saudi authorities on 5 September for worshipping at a private home in Khafji. The home had been under surveillance since a neighbour had reported suspicious activities there. Pray that the Lord will protect His people in Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal to practise a non-Islamic religion in public but supposedly permissible to do so in private. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Wao, a predominantly Christian town on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, is protesting against its inclusion in the new semi-independent Islamic region of Bangsamoro. Wao’s mayor, Elvino Balicao, is seeking exemption from the Bangsamoro government and its Islamic law and has asked that the town remain under the central government. He said that the town is 83% Christian and that local churches support exemption from Bangsamoro. Wao is in the centre of the Muslim-majority province of Lanao del Sur. Pray that the Lord will protect His people and that Wao will gain exemption from the Bangsamoro government. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Our Father in Heaven, we lift up our brothers and sisters serving sentences in labour camps in North Korea, whether foreigners like Kenneth Bae from the USA, or the far greater number of North Korean believers whose names we do not know but You do. Please pour out Your grace into their lives as they suffer hunger, exhaustion, pain and imprisonment for the sake of Christ. May they continue steadfast in their faith, loving their enemies and praying for their persecutors. May their Christ-like lives draw other North Koreans to You. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Nov 2014 00:00

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