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    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
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    Prayers and practical help for those suffering through violence and war.

Category: Friends In The West

New wave of Christians fleeing Iraq friendsinthewest.com

By Ruth Sax

Growing insecurity in Iraq and on its border could lead to a fresh exodus of Christians from the country, warns a partner of Release International, which is supporting refugees in the country.

The Turkish invasion of Syria and growing protests in Baghdad could drive even more Christians out of the country, believes Jamal Liddawi, a partner of Release International, which provides aid to persecuted Christians.

There has been trouble in Iraq this week as at least three people were shot dead when protesters attacked the Iranian consulate in the Iraqi holy city of Karbala on Sunday night.

The protesters, who demanded that Iran stop interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs, climbed the consulate’s walls.

Only around 300,000 Christians remain in Iraq from a peak of 1.8 million in the year 2000. They’ve been driven out by conflict and insecurity. Many more are now anxious to leave, says Liddawi: “Most of the Christians have lost hope. Many of them are applying to leave the country, and if they can, they will.”

Jamal Liddawi is working with Release International to support refugees in Erbil, the principal city of Kurdistan, in northern Iraq.

The recent Turkish invasion of neighbouring Syria is threatening to drive a new wave of refugees into the region.

“The Kurdistan government are preparing for between 100,000 and 200,000 refugees,” says Jamal. “They’re preparing for a big number to come.”

The Release partner says the Kurdish people in northern Iraq were shocked by the American decision to pull their troops out of Syria, which precipitated the Turkish invasion.

“The Kurds feel betrayed by the US decision to take their troops out of the north. They believe it has given the Turks the right to invade the Kurdish area in Syria. Many people have been killed. This has impacted Kurdistan because even more refugees are now coming into the region. Everybody’s confused and shocked by the decision.”

The street protests in Baghdad and Karbala, to the south, are deepening that sense of insecurity.
Hundreds have been killed in continuing protests over government corruption, high unemployment and the influence of Iran in the country. As a result, many of Iraq’s remaining Christians now want to leave.

Many have already fled to Erbil, where the Kurds have given them safe haven. Some 50,000 others are said to be scattered across the plains of Nineveh, in towns and villages near Mosul, which until recently was occupied by Islamic State.

Many Iraqis have been refugees several times over, driven out by the Gulf War, insurgency and IS fighters. They’ve had enough, believes Liddawi: “For the last hundred years they have been under attack. They have lost hope. They have lost the desire to rebuild again.”

He says there are now more than 6,000 Christian families across the border in Jordan, who have been trying for up to six years to get asylum in the West. “We encourage them to go back to Iraq but their homes have been burned down, there’s no water or electricity, there are no jobs and some of their villages still don’t have schools,” he said.

The recent death of Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, will do little to allay the Christian community’s growing fears, says Jamal. Baghdadi blew himself up, along with his children, in a surprise attack by US special forces. But even though the self-proclaimed Caliph has died, his ideology lives on, believes Jamal. “Islamic State has sleeper cells. If IS is finished today, then another movement with a different name will just come and replace it. That’s why the Christians want to leave.”

Liddawi has been working with Release International in Iraq to help the Christian community support refugees, including Christian, Muslim or Yazidis refugees. Liddawi says he does so with the blessing of the Kurdistan government: “They saw the impact of what we were doing and said we want you to do more.

“They have given us a huge open door to reach the refugees, and permission to distribute food and Christian books everywhere we go. They have even given us a thank-you letter. Please pray for our protection and the continuing favour of God to help the refugees and displaced people in the region.”

Source: Premier

Muslim minibus driver saves lives of Christian passengers in Kenya, foiling Islamist hijackers

A Muslim minibus driver saved the lives of his eight Christian passengers in Kenya on 30 October when he refused to obey the orders of Islamist militant hijackers.

Around ten armed Al Shabaab militants attempted to flag down the minibus as it left a construction site in Mandera city but the driver accelerated away. When he did not stop, the militants sprayed bullets at the minibus deflating a tyre.

The Muslim driver’s brave actions saved the lives of his Christian passengers when Al Shabaab militants opened fire on his minibus [image for illustration purposes]

Mandera County Commissioner, Onesmus Kyatha, said the driver’s “brave” actions “saved the lives of his passengers”. He added, “The driver is a local but most of the passengers were non-locals whom we believe were the target.” The passengers reportedly lay on the floor as they heard the bullets hit the minibus.

In October 2016, twelve Christians were killed in Mandera when Al Shabaab militants attacked a guesthouse. Other atrocities against Christians carried out by Al Shabaab in Kenya included the murder in September 2018 of two Christian passengers on an ambushed bus who refused the jihadists’ demands that they recite the shahada (Islamic creed), and the killing of three Christians in a primary school compound in February 2018.

Al Shabaab is fighting to establish a fully Islamic state in Somalia and neighbouring regions with significant ethnic Somali populations, such as north-east Kenya. The group has carried out numerous attacks in Kenya, and on its Christian residents, since 2011 when the Kenyan government sent troops into Somalia to counter terrorist activity.

Source: Barnabas Fund


Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done – Ray Barnett Life Story Part 2

In Part 2 of Ray’s Lifestory he tells us about negotiating hostages to be released in Lebanon…

Don't Tell Me It Can't Be Done – Ray Barnett Life Story Part 2

In Part 2 of Ray's Lifestory he tells us about negotiating hostages to be released in Lebanon…Buy his book todayhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Tell-Cant-Done-Autobiography/dp/1999489012

Posted by Life Stories at Lunch on Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Buy his book today
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Tell-Cant-Done-Autobiography/dp/1999489012 See less

11 Places Where Persecuted Christians Need Our Prayers

The International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church draw attention to China and other countries where Christian minorities have suffered blows over the past year.


Image: Ken Frayer / Getty Images

As Christians prepare for the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 3 and 10, advocates have increasingly turned their attention to China.

Christian persecution is not new in China, but it is growing. According to Open Doors—which ranked the country 27th on its 2019 World Watch List, a 16-spot jump from 2018—Chinese authorities are removing young people from church, monitoring worship via CCTV, and prohibiting teachers and medical workers from maintaining any religious affiliation.

David Curry, CEO of Open Doors, told Christianity Today that many Americans see China as a global superpower, but don’t recognize the extent of the restrictions by the Communist government . “Right now, in 2019, Christians are walking into churches where there are signs posted at the door that say ‘No Children Allowed,’ and where they are being video taped as they worship,” he said.”

Church closings, arrests, surveillance, a crippling rating system, and church demolitions are part of life for China’s 97 million Christians. In October video emerged showing a wrecking ball demolishing a church during a worship service. ChinaAid reports that authorities later detained the pastors.

Todd Nettleton, host of Voice of the Martyrs’ VOM Radio, says that while unregistered house churches have endured persecution for years, the church in the October video was a registered church, marking a new wave of religious oppression.

Over 245 million Christians live in the 50 countries ranked on the World Watch List as worst for Christians. Between November 2017 and October 2018, 4,136 Christians were killed for their faith in these countries, over 1,266 churches or Christian buildings were attacked, and 2,625 believers were detained, arrested, sentenced, or imprisoned — many of them without a trial.

Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, International Christian Concern, and other organizations have provided information, prayers, and an app to help believers pray for and connect with the persecuted church for the days of prayer held each year in November. New in 2019, Open Doors has recorded videos of 20 evangelical leaders praying for Christians around the world (a couple appear in the list below).

Nettleton said Christians can head the exhortation of Hebrews 13:3 and “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison.” For those suffering due to their faith, “this is a significant encouragement to the persecuted parts of our family because they know they are being prayed for.”  Besides China, here are 10 more places where religious persecution made headlines in 2019:

1. Algeria

Over the past two years, the Algerian government has closed 14 of the country’s 50 churches, including the 700-member Church of the Full Gospel in Tizi-Ouzou, the largest Protestant church in the North African country. Algeria ranks 22nd on the World Watch List. Though Algeria’s blasphemy laws make it difficult for Christians to share their faith, most of the new believers in the country come from a Muslim background, according to Open Doors.

2. Egypt

While Christians in Egypt have had more security under Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, including the approval of 168 new churches at the end of 2018, they still experience persecution in the majority Muslim country. Islam is the religion of the state—Christians make up 8%–10% percent of Egypt’s nearly 100 million people—and its Shari’ah law is the main source of legislation. According to the State Department’s 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom, persecution has increased in Egypt. This year, Morning Star News chronicled several troubling events so far this year, including mobs converging on churches to harass Christians, threats, and arrests.

3. Eritrea

In Eritrea, the small East African nation that borders the Red Sea, more than 150 Christians were arrested this year. Christian detainees often are held in harsh conditions, without ever being formally charged with crimes. “People just get arrested, disappear into the prison system, and sometimes released, sometimes stay in for years,” Nettleton said. In August pro-government bishops expelled Abune Antonios, patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Eritrean gospel singer and torture survivor Helen Berhane met with President Trump in July to highlight the plight of Christians in the country.

4. India

Open Doors has a special prayer focus on India for the 2019 International Day of Prayer. International Christian Concern reports that on October 5 three American pastors were detained by Indian customs agents after they told officials that they were Christians. The government continues to restrict the involvement of Christian NGOs and charities, strengthening anti-conversion laws, and local believers have continued to endure attacks from Hindu extremists. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom reports that mobs go after non-Hindus based on false accusations of conversion or cow slaughtering, and local governments often fail to prosecute the attackers.

5. Iran

The 800,000 Iranian Christians face intense persecution in a country where converting from Islam is illegal. Last month, Open Doors reported that nine Iranian Christians were sentenced to five years in prison each for “acting against national security”—a charge the state often uses to prosecute Christians for their house church activities. According to a report by Middle East Concern, Open Doors, Article18, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 29 Christians were detained in 2018, but many more detentions remain undocumented. The country has also reportedly shut down houses of worship and targeted churches that worship in Persian and could attract Muslim-born Iranians.

6. Iraq

Despite the political defeat of ISIS in Iraq, Christians still suffer persecution and the lingering effects of their culture and population being systematically destroyed by the Islamic extremists. According to Open Doors, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Armenian Orthodox Church remain seriously affected by persecution in Iraq, especially from Islamic extremist and government authorities. In central and southern Iraq, Christians often do not publicly display Christian symbols, such as a cross, as this can lead to harassment or discrimination.

7. North Korea

For more than a decade North Korea has topped the World Watch List of most dangerous countries for Christians. In a country where citizens are taught to worship the ruling family, Christian teaching feels particularly threatening. “[North Koreans] are taught that the Kims are divine beings, so they cannot let Christianity come and spread freely in their country because it undermines the Kim family and the government,” Nettleton said. Experts estimate that 300,000 Christians live in the country with “the most ruthless human rights record of the 21st century.”

8. Saudi Arabia

Despite its claims of religious liberty reform, and recent meetings between U.S. evangelical leaders and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia remains one of the most difficult countries in the world for Christians, ranking 15th on Open Doors’ World Watch List. The country bans the public practice of non-Muslim religions, and there are no churches for the country’s 1.4 million Christians. Charges of apostasy are still punishable by death, and Christian symbols or meetings of any kind are illegal. In November 2018, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo re-designated Saudi Arabia as a Country of Particular Concern for its violations of religious freedom.

9. Sri Lanka

Coordinated attacks by Muslim extremists on three churches and three hotels on Easter Sunday this year killed 253 people and left 176 children without one or both parents. It is believed to be the deadliest church attack in Asia in modern history. Religious freedom advocates see the Sri Lankan attacks as a chilling example of the dangers of religious nationalism. Nearly 11 percent of Sri Lanka’s population is Christian in the majority-Buddhist country, and believers on the South Asian island experience serious persecution that continues to escalate.

10. Turkey

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sends mixed messages on religious liberty. According to World Watch Monitor, “In Turkey, Christianity is seen as a Western religion and evangelicals in particular are considered by many to have links with the USA.” The president attended the groundbreaking ceremony of a new Syriac church in Istanbul, the first new church in Turkey since 1923. At the same time, the government has systematically revoked visas for Christians. The two-year imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson has triggered increased incidents of hate speech against Turkish Protestant communities. And Syrian Christians on the Turkey-Syria border claim the Turkish government aims for their extermination.

Source: Christianity Today

Iranian Christian prisoner with broken health begins “exile” after release…

Ebrahim Firouzi, an Iranian Christian convert in a weakened state of ill health, was released after six years in Rajai Shahr jail on 26 October and is expected to serve a two-year period of internal exile in Sarbaz, a deprived area in Sisten-Baluchestan Province.

Since his conversion from Islam to Christianity, Firouzi has endured numerous arrests and periods of imprisonment on charges including “plotting against the Islamic regime” which is typical of those faced by Iranian Christians actively engaged in ministry.

His imprisonment included terms in the notorious Evin prison, where he suffered interrogations and beatings and was repeatedly denied medical and dental treatment. His dental problem was so severe at one point that he could not eat properly.

Ebrahim Firouzi was finally released from an Iranian prison in a very poor state of health

Firouzi was refused permission to attend his mother’s funeral in December 2018. He went on a ten-day hunger strike in July 2017 to protest the unjust prison terms and refusal of access to Christian literature or contact with fellow Christian prisoners, one of whom was his church leader, Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz.

In August 2013, Firouzi was arrested and later convicted of plotting against the Islamic regime, evangelism, connections with enemies and foreign “anti-regime networks”, and launching a Christian website. He was sentenced to one year in prison and a further two years of exile in Sarbaz, a remote town near the Iran-Pakistan border. Although he completed his sentence on 13 January 2015, Iranian authorities continued to hold him in Rajaei-Shahr prison. Firouzi was charged again in March 2015 with “acting against national security, gathering and collusion” and sentenced to an additional five years, upheld by the Iranian Court of Appeal in December 2016.

Source : Barnabas Fund


Ray Barnett, who overcame incredible obstacles in his own life before launching the world-renowned African Children’s Choir back in 1984, is on a mission to inspire the next generation of Christian pioneers through his autobiography ‘Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done.’

The book tells the heart-breaking story of how as a young boy he struggled to find his way through immense poverty, family secrecy, learning difficulties and war-time suffering that gripped his life in Northern Ireland.

But it was his dramatic conversion as a young teenager that turned his life around:

“When I became a Christian at the age of 13, I was inspired by the ministry of David Livingstone. But the first time I attempted to preach I fainted.  The next day I read in the Bible that with God nothing is impossible. So, I never let anything stop me for pursuing my dream to help others because I always believed God could do anything.  I want to encourage people through this book that with prayer and action they can accomplish anything in their life.”

The book begins in a very tense moment in Ray’s life in 1987 when he was meeting with a notorious leader of Hezbollah while seeking to negotiate the release of hostages in Lebanon.

This dangerous work was part of Ray’s Christian human rights organisation he’d established in 1972 called Friends In The West. Through this organisation, he was able to coordinate many vital aid missions and secure the release of countless persecuted and imprisoned believers throughout the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa.

In 1984 while seeing the extreme famine and conflict devastating millions of children in Africa, Ray was inspired to launch the African Children’s Choir. He stepped out in faith to do what no one had ever attempted before – even his closest friends told him it couldn’t be done. His vision was to take a group of these deprived and orphaned African children, train them to sing as a choir, then physically transport them to countries like the US and Canada to perform concerts and share their stories in churches.

The African Children’s Choir through Music for Life has now educated over 52,000 children in seven African countries.  Hundreds of thousands of lives have been impacted by Music for Life’s international relief and development programmes over the last 30 years.

Ray concluded by reflecting on the legacy of launching the choir 35 years ago and how he hopes his story will inspire the next generation of young people to overcome their own obstacles in life:

“Many of those founding choir members are now doing great work across Africa and beyond as doctors, lawyers, teachers and UN workers.  I hope this book will inspire many more African children to fulfill their God-given potential and never give up on their dreams.”


To find out more go to: www.raybarnett.com

For any media enquiries contact Peter Wooding: peter@gna.news  +44 7500 903067