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    Books by Ray, republished 2016
  • Treehaven3
    Treehaven, South Africa: International Retreat and Training Centre
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    South African Students Undergoing Training at Treehaven
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    Ray Barnett, founder, Friends In The West
  • Corrymeela cross
    Prayers and practical help for those suffering through violence and war.

Monthly archives: July, 2017

WHY U.S. CHURCHES TURN A BLIND EYE TO PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS

By Jim Morgan

Please pray for Christians who are under persecution

Today we begin examining blind spots obstructing the view of churches to responsibilities clearly spelled out in scriptures. Pastors and members alike gloss over selected verses, not seeing problems outside the church as their responsibility. Instead, a topic Jesus and Paul considered among the foremost indicators of our faith and salvation – our love for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ – is almost completely ignored by nearly all churches in America.

As “church” has become redefined as a place and the Church’s “customer” redefined as members (insiders) rather than as those outside the congregation, issues outside the “4 walls” became someone else’s responsibility. Local and international needs are afterthoughts, nice things to do if we have budget and time left over beyond what’s required to run the church and placate members.

Therefore, the estimated 200 million Christians worldwide who are oppressed and persecuted receive little support from America. In fact, the budgets of the leading ministries in the U.S. that serve persecuted Christians are eerily small – starting at roughly $40 million (Voice of the Martyrs), dropping precipitously to $14 million (Open Doors), then down to $3 million (International Christian Concern), followed by a few others at around $1 million each. A ministry advocating on behalf of persecuted believers contacted the leaders of the 150 largest churches and the twenty largest Christian denominational organizations in the U.S. Only two of the denominations and three of the churches indicated that they consider support for the persecuted a high priority – with only one of those giving significantly toward that cause. Eight others indicated that they sometimes, albeit infrequently, provide some assistance to persecuted Christians.

Meanwhile, the number of Christians who are persecuted and struggling to survive has never been greater. In northern Nigeria, hundreds of thousands of Christians have been driven from their homes by the Islamic group, Boko Haram. They are living right now without food, literally starving to death. In Syria and Iraq, more than a million Christians are homeless and unemployed because of ISIS.

Helping Persecuted Christians is Not Optional

Persecution was also rampant in the early church. The New Testament frequently emphasizes the importance of churches coming to the aid of Christians persecuted in other cities and countries. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, Paul ordered the church to take up an offering on the first day of the week. This is the only biblical record of Sunday collections and its purpose was specifically to support suffering and persecuted Christians in a foreign land. 2 Corinthians 8-9 is the most comprehensive teaching and example of stewardship in the New Testament. Pastors preach on 2 Corinthians to exhort Christians to give to their church; however, it was written about raising money for a persecuted church in another nation. Yet less than ½ of 1 percent of American church collections are used to bless God’s persecuted children – the intended beneficiaries in those chapters. Even verses about extending biblical hospitality written about providing food and shelter to homeless Christians seeking refuge from persecution are routinely reinterpreted and minimized today to encourage congregants to have neighbors over for dinner.

According to Scripture, it’s our love for one other, particularly those among us who are suffering, that will:

Convince the world that Jesus is the Son of God (John 17:21)
Show we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:34-35)
Produce the fruit that will transform our culture and grow our churches (John 15:1-17)
Indicate whether professing Christians are truly saved (James 2:14-20; 1 John 3:10-20)
Be used by the Lord to separate the “sheep” from the “goats” on Judgment Day (Matthew 25:31-46)
In Matthew 25, at the culmination of the ages, Jesus will identify those who had saving faith as those who served suffering Christians. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Why did Jesus include those in prison each time in His list of the brethren He expected us to help? Were those Christians hardened criminals? No, they were believers persecuted and jailed for their faith, suffering like Jesus for putting their trust in Him. Hebrews 13:3 also references those in prison, again identifying them as persecuted Christians, telling us to remember them “as though with them” detained behind bars.

Why Few Churches Help Persecuted Christians

Given those compelling mandates, the minimal attention paid to persecution can only be explained by one (or more) of 4 possible “blind spots”. Church leaders and members are either:

Unaware of it – Our vision could be impaired by other (internal) priorities, although it’s becoming harder to stay in the dark as campaigns and attacks targeting Christians mount

Consciously or unwittingly ignoring it – Turning a blind eye to reports of Christians slaughtered mercilessly just because it didn’t happen here in the U.S.

Don’t sense a responsibility to act on it – Seminary-trained biblical scholars have little justification for believing their church has no obligation to respond to biblical imperatives

Want to do something but not sure how – Some can’t imagine how their church, particularly a small one, could conceivably alleviate persecution occurring so far away

In fact, the first thing we should do is to become more aware. Knowing how important it is in the eyes of Jesus and Paul we have no excuse for remaining blind. Sharing persecution news and encouraging prayer should be priorities for every church. Following Paul’s example, taking up collections for persecuted Christians should be standard practice for all churches. Persecuted families need money because oppression typically comes in the form of loss of homes, farms, livelihoods, food and education.

Yet our redefinition of “church” and our biblical “customer” provides powerful motivation not to search the news outlets nor the Bible on the topic of persecution. If we knew more about the atrocities taking place against Christians or what the Lord says we should do to help them, we’d be forced to act. Giving dollars is a critical way we can help end the virtual slavery and genocide of fellow believers; however, our institution-centric models for running today’s churches leave little left over to help those outside the building. Allocating more funds to help those persecuted overseas would compete directly with meeting church budget needs here at home. Therefore, pastors hesitate to make it a big deal, opting instead to emphasize self-serving initiatives couched in terms like “reaching the community for Christ” by sending out mailers, building a new facility, or sprucing up the children’s ministry.

How Ignoring Persecution Brings it to U.S. Soil

Remaining uninformed and unconcerned, blinded by our modern definition of “church” to our responsibilities in our communities and overseas, is the reason why we aren’t we manifesting God’s love to a watching world. Replacing institution-building with disciple building would lead to awareness and action. Disciples study, abide, obey and love their brothers and sisters. Discipleship costs nothing, freeing up funds to aid those who are destitute as a result of their love for Jesus.

The same disobedience that causes us to ignore persecuted Christians is behind the American Church’s declining growth, impact, influence and perception. The unsaved world is looking and longing for the perfect love that comes from above. Yet they don’t see love but division among the Church in America, not united in serving each other or churches abroad. A truly global body of Christ would cause Satan to tremble. It would spark revival here in the U.S. It would shake up the Muslim world. It would stem the rising tide of persecution approaching our shores as those advocating Sharia law begin outnumbering Christians in some neighborhoods, communities and entire zip codes.

Meanwhile churches go about conducting business as usual, not any unusual business. Rather than reaching out to Muslim populations with the love of Jesus and coming to the rescue of those they persecute, pastors worry about attendance and giving. Our failure to follow Jesus’ “new command” to love one another is doing what Islam cannot – weakening the body from within, preparing the way for Muslims to twist the knife we have already inserted ourselves. Ironically, persecution usually strengthens the Church (e.g. the early church and China). But how weak will American churches be from their self-inflicted wounds of disobedience by the time persecution eventually arrives in earnest here in the U.S.?

In other words, ignoring persecution “there” is helping to bring it here. If our churches were more compassionate and engaged in society, they would still have a voice. If they made helping persecuted Christians a higher priority, investing more IN them and advocating more FOR them, our nation would be better informed of the dangers awaiting us one day. Our government would possibly step in to do what our churches cannot – take political, diplomatic or military action against leaders and nations persecuting Christians in the name of protecting the human rights our country claims to defend.

Building awareness and taking action is the Church’s responsibility. We cannot expect the government or liberal media to report on that subject. Journalists are far more interested in writing about those who are “persecuted” by Christians than about Christians who are persecuted. Our media stands in defense of personal identity and lifestyle convictions yet refuses to defend the Christian religious freedoms our forefathers held so dear. Despite all this, the Church’s silence on the persecution of Christians is deafening.

Source: Meet The Need



Sudan: Church Schools Ordered to Open on Sundays

According to reports, Sudan’s Ministry of Education in Khartoum, has issued an order to church schools in Sudan to break with a long standing tradition. The order decrees that they should observe the weekend on Friday and Saturday, operating schools for teaching on Sunday instead of Friday. Since their foundation in the country, schools have observed Sunday as a day off.

The authorities also plan to demolish 27 churches and church buildings in Khartoum. The plan has been delay due to an appeal by lawyers to the courts.

The demolished Sudanese Church Of Christ church in Algadisia had been there since 1983

The Coptic Church in Sudan, claims the authorities demolished the Catholic school of Angola one week before the start of the study. This meant the displacement of more than 500 students, who are still looking for an alternative school to enable them to continue with their education.

Freedom of Christians probed by EU.

In mid-March, the European Union Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief, Jan Figel, visited Sudan to inquire about the situation of Christians and the demolition of churches in the country.

At the National Assembly, the chairman of Sudan’s Legislation and Justice Committee, Ahmed El Tijani, told the visiting Jan Figel that the freedom of belief is sanctioned by the Sudanese constitution. He claimed that the state does not impose any religious belief or practice on its citizens, and that the churches were being demolished for land-ownership reasons.

Christians in Sudan request prayer for Rafat, chair of the Evangelical Community Council – a committee of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) responsible for managing SPEC properties.

Rafat attended the Criminal Court in Omdurman with his lawyer Mr Adam Mosa Abu Anja as scheduled on 17th July, but the judge postponed the defence hearing and witness examinations until 31st July and 15th September. The reason for the postponement was that the judge was busy with other things.

friendsinthewest.com



South Sudan: Amnesty International reports ‘thousands in mental distress after Sexual violence on a massive scale’

Amnesty International has released a new report this week in which it reveals that thousands of South Sudanese women and girls, and some men, are battling mental distress and stigma, after having been raped in ethnically-charged sexual attacks in the ongoing conflict.

The report, “Do not remain silent”: Survivors of Sexual violence in South Sudan call for justice and reparations, is the result of a joint research project between Amnesty International and 10 South Sudanese human rights defenders who cannot be named due to fear of reprisals.

According to the report, perpetrators come from both sides of the conflict, pitting the government forces of President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, against opposition forces of Riek Machar, a Nuer, and their respective allied armed groups.

“This is pre-meditated sexual violence on a massive scale. Women have been gang-raped, sexually assaulted with sticks and mutilated with knives.” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“These indefensible acts have left the victims with debilitating and life-changing consequences, including physical injuries and psychological distress. Many survivors have also been shunned by their husbands and in-laws and stigmatized by the wider community.”

Amnesty International’s researchers interviewed 168 victims of sexual violence including 16 men, in cities, towns and villages across four states in South Sudan – Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity – as well as in three refugee settlements in northern Uganda. In some cases, the attackers killed the women after they had raped them.

Many victims are now suffering common symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – nightmares, loss of memory, lack of concentration, and many had thoughts of revenge or suicide.

Christians and church-goers haven’t been exempt from these brutal acts. One young woman who has been named Nyagai in Amnesty’s report,(name changed for security) was gang-raped by government soldiers in Juba in July 2016. She told how she stopped going to church and does not pray anymore. “Satan went through me the day I was raped,” she said.

Many of the victims were targeted because of their political allegiance to either the government or the opposition.

In most cases Amnesty International documented, Dinka men attacked Nuer women and Nuer men attacked Dinka women. But there are also cases, as in Unity State, where pro-government Nuer men have raped Nuer women they consider pro-opposition. In other cases, government forces have targeted women from non-Nuer communities.

Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes is Muthoni Wanyeki. He concluded: “The South Sudanese government must take deliberate measures to halt this epidemic of sexual violence, starting by sending a clear message of zero tolerance, immediately ordering an independent and effective investigation into the attacks that have taken place and ensuring that those responsible are held to account in fair trials.”  “It must also deter sexual violence, including through removing suspects from the armed forces until allegations against them are independently verified or dismissed. Victims must be provided with justice, medical care and reparations.”

“Opposition forces must prohibit sexual violence in their ranks as well, put in place robust mechanisms to monitor the conduct of their fighters, and cooperate with all investigations and prosecutions of their members under international law.”

It’s very clear that many victims have been left severely scarred, both mentally and physically. They also have the added stress of having had to leave their homes to seek refuge elsewhere. Understandably, even many Christians like Nyagai whom we’ve mentioned, have been left feeling contaminated by Satan, and are struggling with their faith. They cannot simply continue going to church as if nothing had happened. Please pray that through time they will be restored and delivered. May they know that ‘nothing can separate them from the love of God’. (Romans 8: 35 – 38).

Ray Barnett (centre) on a recent trip to the Adjumani refugee camp in Northern Uganda, visiting with long time friends, Gary and Louise Short, who run programmes for refugees there.

Ray Barnett has recently visited Adjumani Refugee Camp in Northern Uganda, which has had to accommodate more than 170,000 refugees from South Sudan.The involvement of Friends In The West and Ray Barnett in Southern Sudan stretches back decades, long before the South became an independent country.

Ray has Christian friends and contacts from way back, some of whom are now carrying out mission work among the refugees in Uganda. Friends In The West is currently supporting projects there and we’re currently collating reports which will be shared in the near future.

Please return soon for updates, but please also consider making a donation since the need is great and Christians in the Adjumani camp need to know that their brothers and sisters in the West, care about the plight they’re in.

friendsinthewest.com



More than 300 murdered monthly throughout the world because of their Christian faith.

More than 300 people are murdered monthly throughout the world because of their Christian faith.

Christian Freedom International would like to thank the Washington Times for remembering the persecuted in an editorial that ran yesterday.

Here are excerpts from the Washington Times editorial.

“Persecution of Christians continues in certain parts of the world, mostly in the Middle East and throughout South and Southeast Asia, but it rarely gets much attention even in the Western media. Even many churchmen in the West turn a blind eye.”

“The persecution statistics are horrific: More than 300 people are murdered monthly throughout the world because of their Christian faith. Two hundred houses of worship are destroyed monthly. Almost 800 incidents of violence are committed monthly. These are truly hate crimes, though rarely prosecuted as that.”

“The Pew Center, an American secular research organization, estimates more than 75 percent of the world’s population lives in areas of rampant religious persecution, mostly against Christians.”

“The State Department keeps an accounting of more than 60 countries where religious discrimination is practiced and encouraged. In many of these places, Islam is the dominant and sometimes official religion, and affiliated Muslim organizations persecute religious minorities, sometimes Jews and particularly Christians.”

“The Middle East, the cradle of the three great religions, has the highest toll of martyrs. On Palm Sunday, preceding Easter by a week, two suicide bombings by Muslim fanatics killed 45 persons and injured many more in two Egyptian Coptic churches. Egypt, with the largest Christian minority in the region, counts the largest number of victims.”

Source: Christian Freedom International



Al-Shabaab Militants Kill Seven Christian Men in Eastern Kenya

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that in early July, al-Shabaab militants led a series of attacks in Kenya’s Lamu County. Between July 5 and July 8 2017, militants raided three villages, Pandanguo, Jima, and Poromoko, killing three police officers as well as seven Christian men: Said Mbigo, Matei Mlatia, Peter Mburu, Teresio Munyi, Mwangangi Muneni, Katana Karisa Chai, and Musyoka Maithya.

On July 5, over 200 militants raided Pandanguo village in Lamu County, killing three police officers posted at the Pandanguo police station, looting homes and the local dispensary. On July 8, 15 of the militants returned and attacked the nearby villages of Jima and Poromoko.

According to locals contacted by ICC, the militants went door to door in Jima and Poromoko, killing seven Christian men. Schools in the three villages were closed and Christian families have evacuated to a church in Witu town.

The attackers have been targeting Christians living in Lamu County especially farmers in the interior areas where small-scale agriculture thrives,” Pastor Henry Divayo, head pastor of the church in Witu town, told ICC. “[The militants in Jima] were asking the villagers to produce their identification cards and if you were found to be a Christian you would be shot or slaughtered.”

Victims have been evacuated to camps where food and security is provided by [the] government and the Kenya Red Cross,” Divayo said. “We are hosting more than 200 people in our church and we expect the number to increase as more families are evacuated from Boni Forest.”

The government has been in the forefront in giving security to churches but a lot more needs to be done,” Divayo continued. “We need more well equipped police officers in churches, schools and hospitals.”

Since 2011, Kenya has been aiding the fight against al-Shabaab in Somalia. In retaliation, al-Shabaab and its supporters have targeted Christians across the border in Kenya. On July 5, 2014, al-Shabaab attacked a Hindi village in Lamu which left nine dead. Militants also attacked Garrisa University on April 2, 2015, where 148 Christian students were killed. On June 12, 2016, the Islamic terrorists attacked Mpeketoni, Lamu County, killing 48 who couldn’t recite Quaranic verses.

ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Nathan Johnson, said, “The Kenyan government must provide safety and stability to all of its people. They must end al-Shabaab’s reign of terror that has been thriving on the border with Somalia. We pray for the families of the deceased and for peace to come to a region that has seen such violence towards Christians. We hope that Kenya’s government can take effective action to rid Kenya of these terrorist actions.

Source: International Christian Concern (ICC).