• Books by Ray, republished 2016
  • Treehaven, South Africa: International Retreat and Training Centre
  • South African Students Undergoing Training at Treehaven
  • Ray Barnett, founder, Friends In The West
  • Prayers and practical help for those suffering through violence and war.

ICC Helps Build a “Miraculous” Church in Indonesia

By ICC’s Indonesia Correspondent

(International Christian Concern) – On December 8, 2013, seven churches in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia were forced to close by government officials. For years, these churches operated without disturbance or objection, until radical Islamic groups gained influence in the government operations of the region.

Pastor Oferlin Hia’s church was one of the seven closed churches.

“The government questioned our legal standing as they said we do not have license to operate as a church,” he told International Christian Concern (ICC). “That is not true because nationally we have license and legal standing in the government.”

One church in particular experienced a terrorizing day on December 8, as radical mobs surrounded the house church yelling curses and threatening to kill the young family housed inside.

Pastor Mangupal explained what happened when hundreds of Muslims besieged his home.

“They were angry [and] carrying sticks, machetes, stones and shouting, ‘Burn the house! Kill them!’” he recalled. “It was really, humanly speaking, the scariest moment in our [lives]. My children were crying; my wife was shivering knowing what could happen next.”

The family prayed to God for protection, knowing that there was nothing they could do to stop the raging mob outside. God answered their prayers with a phone call from a neighbor promising that help was on its way. Shortly after, police and army officials arrived to disperse the mob.

Pastor Mangupal founded his church in 2004 after experiencing a radical transformation in his life. Before coming to faith, Mangupal led a life of drugs and crime. It was while he was serving a multi-year prison sentence that the Lord touched his life. After being released from prison, he went on to Bible college and planted his church in Ciranjang shortly after. He operated the church from his home until 2013 on the day of the incident.

“The following day, another six pastors and I were summoned by the government,” Pastor Mangupal told ICC.

The authorities informed all seven pastors that their church operations were to cease.

“At first we all protested, questioning the government’s reason on this decision, but finally we could not do anything else but oblige to the government decision,” Mangupal explained. “We knew [the government] was pressure[d] by the radical Islamic group called GARIS.”

Since December 2013, Mangupal’s church has moved from place to place. The congregation has worshiped in restaurants and members’ houses. It was a trying time for the small group. All the while, they prayed for continued church growth, which they saw, and an official reopening of their beloved congregation…which eventually they also saw.

One miraculous day, the Indonesian government granted licensure to Pastor Mangupal’s church. Not only were they allowed to reopen, but they were also given permission to build a new church building according to the blueprints that the government set out for them.

When he heard the news in late 2015 Pastor Mangupal was beside himself.

“Our God never sleeps and slumbers,” He exclaimed, “He heard our cry and prayer! Thank you Lord.”

Pastor Mangupal, after enduring so much with his flock, would finally have a true church building. The licensure was a miracle, but God had more in store for the faithful.

Financially, the church did not have the means to fully renovate and rebuild their gathering place. As one body, the church prayed and fasted. It was at this time that ICC heard of the project. Thankfully, we were able to provide some funding for this “miracle building project.”

“It is a miracle building project because my life [has] changed with a great miracle. Getting the church’s license after being closed down was a miracle,” Pastor Mangupal continued. “And getting help from ICC was indeed a miracle too.”

When asked about the miracle of the licensure, Pastor Mangupal explained that the persistence, faith, and good works of his church were rewarded with good favor, both from the Lord and the community in which they live.

“[We have been] involved in the community building of our vigilance, hence when our church was closed down by the government due to the pressure from the radical Muslim group, our neighborhood and community were the one[s] that helped us to talk to the government,” he told ICC.

Be encouraged by this good news of Pastor Mangupal’s church in Indonesia. The Lord is busy at work changing the hearts and laws of the nation. But remember to also pray. Many churches remain closed and rootless. Pray for another miracle from the Lord. He provided for Pastor Mangupal. May he provide for the many nameless pastors still faithfully leading their flocks in the midst of great persecution.

Source: international Christian Concern



Shelter “urgently needed for displaced from Syria’s Aleppo” (Podcast)

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UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said the UN is boosting its presence in western Aleppo. Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

 

Some 30,000 people who fled fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo in recent days are getting humanitarian aid, but hundreds of thousands more need help, the UN has warned.

Speaking in Geneva on Thursday, UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura said that 400,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Aleppo so far.

In eastern Aleppo, humanitarian workers are still unable to reach those where opposition forces remain.

Daniel Johnson has more.

UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters a significant threshold has been reached regarding the number of people internally displaced by the violence – otherwise known as IDPs:

“Today in Aleppo there are 400,000 IDPs, 400,000, can you imagine, this is basically the equivalent of Syrian refugees in all of Europe.”

The latest influx of around 30,000 people to government-held western Aleppo and the Kurdish-controlled city of Al-Qamishli comes amid an upsurge in violence in recent weeks.

These new arrivals are now receiving aid from the United Nations and partners.
In addition, Mr de Mistura said that the UN is moving what he called a “substantive team” into Aleppo to help with aid delivery, but also to prevent against “mishandling” of the displaced as they move across the front line.

On Wednesday, the UN’s humanitarian chief warned that Aleppo risked becoming “one giant graveyard.”

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 0’59″



Copts under the Gun in Egypt

Meet the New Persecutor, Same as the Old One

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JOHN STONESTREET

The end of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt meant big changes. But just not for the country’s beleaguered Christians.

Sadly, news about the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is nothing new. In parts of Iraq and Syria the situation has gotten so bad that the Obama administration declared ISIS’ actions to be “genocide.”

But a recent story about the persecution of Christians in the region didn’t come out of the Levant, but instead, out of Egypt.

Now if this story sounds familiar, that’s because, sadly, it is. For years we’ve been talking on BreakPoint about the plight of Egypt’s native Christians, known as the Copts.

As I said back in 2013, “Egypt [is] central to the birth of Christianity.” It’s right there in Scripture: it was to Egypt that the Holy Family fled from Herod. And Egypt produced some of Christianity’s greatest minds such as Origen and the great defender of orthodoxy, Athanasius. The father of monasticism, Anthony, was also Egyptian, and for much of the Church’s early history, Alexandria was the mind and soul of the faith.

“Egypt was Christian for six centuries before the coming of Islam,” and the people we call “Copts” are the descendants of those who kept the faith in the face of enormous pressure to abandon it.

Those pressures continue to this day. Even under non-Islamist governments, Copts are, at best, second-class citizens. They’re harassed at every turn. For instance, repairing their churches, never mind building a new one, requires overcoming huge obstacles.

And that’s under relatively “friendly” regimes. When the Muslim Brotherhood took power following the “Arab Spring,” they faced what Nina Shea called “jihad” in which it was “open season” on them and their institutions.

Many thought that the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s government in 2013 might bring some relief. But as the Washington Post reported recently, any respite has proven to be short-lived.

The Post quotes a Coptic Bishop’s assessment that a “‘disturbing wave of radicalism’ has emerged from the uprising and changes in government and as the economy has worsened.”

In Minya, which is 150 miles south of Cairo, where “unemployment and illiteracy are high,” and “government services are limited,” radical Islamists “have filled the void, influencing people with anti-Christian rhetoric.”

The result—a series of attacks on Christians and a failure or unwillingness to punish the perpetrators. Instead, according to Christian activists, “Local officials often pressure Christians into mediating disputes instead of going to court and coerce them into changing their testimony.”

As the local Bishop told the Post, “These kinds of reconciliation sessions replace the rule of law.” This, in turn, emboldens other would-be assailants since “the community knows they can get away with attacking Christians.”

It’s gratifying to see the Post’s coverage of this important story. Would that the rest of the mainstream media did the same.

But in the end, we can’t count on this happening. If the story of what’s going on in places like Minya and in the rest of Egypt is going to be told, it’s going to be up to us. As I said three years ago, if the media aren’t “urging our leaders to protect Egyptian Christians . . . we have to. We cannot stand by in silence while yet another ancient Christian community is threatened with extinction.”

We’re all the beneficiaries of the courage and wisdom of Egyptian Christians since the beginning of the faith. It’s long past time to return the kindness.

Please call or email your newly elected representative and senators in Congress. We’ll soon have a new president in the White House. Make sure he knows that the U.S. must speak out and condemn the persecution of Egyptian Christians.

And come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary. We’ll link you to the article in the Washington Post.

And of course, as always, please pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt.

Source: The Colson Center for Christian Worldview



Nigeria: 400,000 children at risk of famine

After army advance against Boko Haram in the north, many people found on brink of starvation amid humanitarian crises.

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A girl displaced by Boko Haram rests at a camp for internally displaced people in Yola [Afolabi]

Fati Adamu has not seen three of her six children nor her husband since Boko Haram fighters attacked her hometown in northeast Nigeria in a hail of gunfire.

Two years on, she is among thousands of refugees at the Bakassi camp in Maiduguri, the city worst hit by a seven-year-old conflict that has forced more than two million people to flee their homes.

Famine in Nigeria threatens thousands

The United Nations says 400,000 children are now at risk from a famine in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – 75,000 of whom could die from hunger within the next few months.

A push against the fighters by the Nigerian army and soldiers from neighbouring countries has enabled troops to enter remote parts of the northeast in the last few months, revealing tens of thousands on the brink of starvation – and countless families torn apart.

“I don’t know if they are dead or alive,” Adamu, 35, said of her missing relatives.

There is a renewed threat of Boko Haram attacks. The start of the dry season has seen a surge in suicide bombings, some of which have targeted refugee camps, including one at Bakassi in October that killed five people.

The World Food Programme said it provides food aid to 450,000 people in Borno and Yobe. About 200,000 of them receive $54 each month to buy food, soon to rise to $73.

READ MORE: Boko Haram attacks with children ‘suicide bombers’

At least 15 camps, mostly on the outskirts of Maiduguru, the Borno state capital, are home to thousands of people unable to return home and surviving on food rations.

Nigerian children are going back to school

At one known as New Prison, women and children visibly outnumber men, many of whom were killed by Boko Haram or are missing.

One man – Bukaralhaji Bukar, 45, who has eight children from his two wives – said the food he buys with the monthly stipend finishes within two weeks.

“We are suffering. It is not enough,” said Bukar, who begs on the street to make money.

In the centre of Maiduguri, life seems to be returning to normal. Food markets are bustling but soldiers in pick-up trucks clutching rifles are reminders of the need for vigilance.

Malnourished children

In a ward in Molai district near the Bakassi camp, the air is filled with the sound of crying babies and the gurgle of those who lack the energy to cry. Some, whose skin clings tightly to their bones, are silent – too weary to even raise their heads.

“Many of them are malnourished, which is already bad enough, but they also develop things like malaria which further worsens their illnesses because they cannot eat and start vomiting,” said Dr Iasac Bot, who works at the unit overseen by the charity Save the Children.

Children have conditions ranging from diarrhoea and pneumonia to bacterial infections and skin infections.

Hauwa Malu, 20, fled with her husband and their two-week-old daughter, Miriam, from her village in Jere after Boko Haram fighters burned the farming community to the ground and took their cattle.

Miriam, now aged 10 months, has suffered from fevers, a persistent cough, and is malnourished. Her mother said they have been left without a home or livelihood.

Tim Vaessen of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said a failure to restore their ability to farm would in the long term mean displaced people would depend on expensive food aid.

“They would remain in these camps, they would become easy targets for other armed groups and they might have to migrate again – even up to Europe,” he said.

Source: Aljazeera



Syria conflict: Clown of Aleppo ‘dies in air strike

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Ahmad al-Khatib, a media activist in Aleppo, circulated this photo of Anas al-Basha

A Syrian man who worked as a clown to bring comfort to children in a rebel-held part of Aleppo is reported to have been killed in an air strike.

Anas al-Basha, 24, was a centre director for the civil society group, Space of Hope.

Government forces have been pounding rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo as they continue an all-out assault to regain full control the city.

About 250,000 people are living under siege, among them 100,000 children.

There are no functioning hospitals left, and official food stocks are exhausted.

What’s happening in Aleppo?

Mr Basha died in an air strike on Tuesday in the Mashhad neighbourhood, the Associated Press news agency reports.

“He lived to make children laugh and happy in the darkest most dangerous place,” Mahmoud al-Basha, who identified himself as Anas’ brother, wrote on Facebook.

“Anas who refused to leave Aleppo and decided to stay there to continue his work as a volunteer, to help the civilians and give gifts for the children in the streets to bring hope for them.”

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Mahmoud al-Basha wrote on Facebook that Anas “lived to make children laugh”

Mr Basha’s parents left the city before the government began its siege of eastern Aleppo in July, according to AP. He married just two months ago, and his wife remains trapped in the rebel enclave.

The government offensive has brought unprecedented shelling and bombardment in recent weeks, reportedly leaving hundreds of civilians dead and prompting more than 25,000 to flee their homes.

On Wednesday, a top UN official warned that the city risked becoming “one giant graveyard”.

Mr Basha’s supervisor, Samar Hijazi, told AP she would remember him as a friend who loved to work with children.

“He would act out skits for the children to break the walls between them.”

“All of us in this field are exhausted, and we have to find strength to provide psychological support and continue with our work,” Ms Hijazi added.

Source: BBC News



Syria war: Aleppo risks becoming giant graveyard – UN

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The Syria Civil Defence posted a photo of the aftermath of an attack on one rebel-held district on Wednesday

A top UN envoy has warned the Syrian city of Aleppo risks becoming “one giant graveyard” as the government advances on rebel-held areas.

Stephen O’Brien pleaded with UN Security Council members to protect civilians “for the sake of humanity”.

At least 34 people died in the latest shelling of government and opposition-controlled areas, reports say.

Troops and militiamen have retaken more than a third of the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo since the weekend.

Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s humanitarian affairs chief, made the comments as the Security Council met for an emergency session to discuss the crisis in the city.

“For the sake of humanity we call on – we plead – with the parties and those with influence to do everything in their power to protect civilians and enable access to the besieged part of eastern Aleppo before it becomes one giant graveyard,” he told the council.

An estimated 25,000 people have been displaced, he added, while for those inside opposition-controlled areas some are so hungry they are reduced to scavenging.

In an apparent reference to the rebels themselves, he said there were reliable reports that “non-state actors” were preventing civilians fleeing.

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Aleppo was Syria’s largest city and its commercial and industrial hub before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011.

For much of the country’s civil war the city has been divided into government- and rebel-held areas.

But this year Syria, with the help of Iranian-backed Shia Muslim militias and Russian air strikes, has broken the deadlock, launching an all-out assault in September.

On Wednesday, at least 26 people died when government shell-fire hit the rebel-held Jubb al-Qubbeh area, a UK-based monitoring group, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reports.

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Activists said many of those killed in Jubb al-Qubbeh were displaced civilians

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Troops and militiamen have taken control of the entire northern half of the rebel enclave

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Aid agencies are mobilising resources to help civilians crossing the frontlines

The Syria Civil Defence, whose rescue workers are also known as the White Helmets, put the death toll at 45.

Eight others were killed by rockets that hit government-held areas, according to Syrian state media.

Syrian and international aid agencies operating in those areas meanwhile tried to mobilise resources to help civilians crossing the frontlines in search of safety.

The Russian military said it was ready to escort aid convoys into recently recaptured eastern districts, where it estimated more than 90,000 people were living, but that the UN had not yet indicated it was willing to accept.

Source: BBC News