Posted on 11th June 2014

 

Greetings in the name of Jesus, the eternal Rock.

Iraqi Christians have requested urgent prayer as the situation in Mosul and surrounding areas deteriorates.

Islamist militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qaeda off-shoot group, began their violent take-over on Friday 6th June. ISIS now has full control of Mosul, Iraq's second city. The International Organisation for Migration estimated on Wednesday 11th that half a million residents had fled from the violence, many attempting to find refuge in the nearby Kurdish provinces of Northern Iraq.

Hundreds of Christian families are amongst those fleeing the area, and at least one Assyrian church in Mosul has been burned down in the recent violence. Christians feel particularly vulnerable, especially in light of the treatment of Christians in the Raqqah province of northern Syria where ISIS has also established its authority. Recall that, in February 2014, ISIS commanders in Raqqah forced Christian community leaders to  sign a contract agreeing to a set of stringent conditions. These included the payment of a special tax (known as jizya), conduct of Christian rites only behind closed doors so as to be neither visible nor audible to Muslims, and adherence to Islamic commercial, dress code and dietary regulations.

Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh plain is the traditional heartland of Iraq's Christian communities. Many Christians fled to this region when forced to leave Baghdad and other areas in recent years. Christians are alarmed at the ISIS take-over of Mosul, fearful that this will further accelerate the decline of the Christian presence in Iraq.

Iraqi Christians urge us to pray, asking that:
a.  The Christians of Mosul will know the close presence of Jesus, the guidance of the Spirit and the protection of the Father
b.  Those who have chosen to remain in the city would not be subjected to violent or unjust treatment
c.  Humanitarian assistance would  reach all who are in need, whether having been displaced or remaining in Mosul
d.  Christians throughout Iraq will know the peace and presence of Jesus each day, and will remain faithful to him and clear in their testimony
e.  The Iraqi authorities will act decisively to improve security for all citizens of Iraq.
f.  Those who are perpetuating the conflict would know the Spirit's conviction of sin and come to understand the depths of Jesus' forgiveness.
 

May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

Latest Requests

  • Syria: Destruction of monastery, update on abducted Christians

    Posted on 21st August

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    On 7th August we requested prayer following the abduction by Daesh (so-called "Islamic State" or ISIS) militants on 5th August of more than 200 civilians from the town of al-Qaryatain in Homs governorate, including at least 60 Christians.

    According to reports issued on 20th August, Daesh militants proceeded to demolish the Syrian Catholic monastery of Saint Elian in al-Qaryatain, built on the site of the 1,500-year-old tomb of Saint Elian. Reports also claim that Daesh has moved more than 100 abductees to its heartland in Raqqa province, including Christians who have been forced either to convert to Islam or be subjugated under the 'jizya' tax. It remains unclear whether those moved to Raqqa include the priest Father Jacques Mourad and deacon Boutros Hanna, who were abducted in al-Qaryatain on 21st May.

    In a separate development 22 elderly Assyrian Christians (14 women and 8 men) were released by Daesh on 11th August. These Christians were among the group of more than 230 Christians abducted from villages in al-Hassaka governorate on 23rd February. More than 180 of these abductees are understood to remain in captivity. Ransom demands have previously been made for the release of these abductees, though church sources deny that payments were made to Daesh for the 22 recently released.

    Elsewhere, Father Antoine Boutros, a Greek Catholic priest of Saint Philip's church in Shahba in Suweida governorate, was released on 15th August following a month of captivity and after intervention by local dignitaries. Father Antoine and his driver Said al-Abdoun were abducted on 12th July as they travelled to a nearby village to celebrate mass. It is not yet confirmed whether Said has also been released. Nor is it known which group was responsible for their abduction.

    Syrian Christians request prayer that:
    a. all those who are still abducted will find refuge in God in their distress, and that He will strengthen and protect them
    b. the abductors will treat their victims with compassion and set them free
    c. the Christians among those abducted will be faithful witnesses to their captors and fellow captives
    d. those who have recently been released will know the Lord's comfort, healing and provision
    e. violence will cease, peace will be restored and the clear rule of law will be applied equally for all in Syria

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Sudan: Update on pastors imprisoned for their faith

    Posted on 20th August

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

     

    On 6th August Middle East Concern reported that Pastor Michael Yat (49) and Pastor Peter Yen Reith (36) had been banned from leaving Sudan despite their release after they were unjustly imprisoned in the capital Khartoum.

     

    The pastors' lawyer has been appealing against the travel ban which had been imposed by the prosecutor. This morning (20th August) a court revoked the ban, but the National Intelligence and Security Service is appealing against that decision.

     

    As the procedure to lift the ban was taking longer than expected, the pastors sought other ways of leaving the country. They succeeded in departing from Sudan yesterday, travelling first to their home country South Sudan and then onwards from there.

     

    Please pray:
    a. that Pastor Yat, Pastor Reith and their families will know the Lord's clear guidance and provision
    b. that there will be no repercussions for others arising out of the pastors' departure from Sudan
    c. for the lawyer, who is facing charges in a related case
    d. that church leaders in Sudan will know the Lord's wisdom in the face of increasing pressures against them
    e. that all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     

     
  • Israel: Christian schools threatened with closure

    Posted on 10th August

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.
     
    Christians in Israel have requested prayer about risks to the continued existence of Christian schools in the country.
     
    Christian schools have a long history serving the Christian community in Israel, but recent government cuts in subsidies received by these schools, as well as restrictions in the amount of school fees which may be collected from parents, have created an impasse and in a press communiqué on 9th August the General Secretariat of the Christian Schools in Israel announced that Christian schools may not be able to open for the coming school year.
     
    There are 47 Christian schools in Israel associated with different denominations and serving mainly the Israeli Arab community of Christians and Muslims.
     
    The General Secretariat has a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin and Education Minister Naftali Bennet scheduled for the end of August to discuss the situation.
     
    Christians in Israel are asking for the Christian ethos of the schools to be protected and the significance of the schools for the Christian community to be recognised and supported by the Israeli government.
     
    Please pray that:
    a. the meeting with the President and Education Minister will be successful in finding a way forward out of the present crisis
    b. the Israeli government will recognise and support the useful role of these schools in society
    c. God will give wisdom to the General Secretariat of the Christian Schools in Israel in their discussions and the way they present the issue to the media
    d. none of the schools will have to close through the present financial pressure
     
    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Syria: Christians abducted, village attacked

    Posted on 7th August

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    Prayer is requested for a group of at least 60 Christians abducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Syria.

    According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 230 civilians were taken on Thursday in the town of Al-Qaryatain, which ISIS jihadists had captured late on Wednesday. They included at least 60 Christians, many of whom had previously fled from Aleppo province in Syria’s north to seek refuge in Al-Qaryatain.

    A commentator for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said those abducted were wanted by ISIS for “collaborating with the regime”, and their names were on a list already prepared by the jihadists as they occupied the town. This has serious implications for those people and their lives could be in danger.

    According to sources related to the Assyrian Orthodox Metropolitan in Homs, while Al-Qaryatain was being attacked another attack by ISIS was concentrated on the town of Hawwarin 10km away. This is an Assyrian village and approximately 2,000 Assyrian Christians were forced to flee.

    Recent developments suggest that ISIS is again starting to target local Christians in Syria. In May masked men abducted Syrian priest Jacques Mourad from the Syriac Catholic Mar Elian monastery in Al-Qaryatain near the ancient city of Palmyra, after it was captured by ISIS. Father Mourad, who helped both Christians and Muslims, was preparing aid for an influx of refugees from Palmyra and his whereabouts are still unknown. Pope Francis mentioned him specifically in public prayer on 26th July.

    Prayer is requested that:
    a.    those abducted will find refuge in God in their distress and that He will strengthen and protect them
    b.    the abductors will treat their victims with compassion and set them free
    c.    the Christians among those abducted will be a faithful witness to their captors and fellow captives
    d.    those who have fled from Hawwarin will find refuge
    e.    Father Mourad will be restored to freedom

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Sudan: Travel ban for pastors

    Posted on 6th August

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus.

    After they were released from prison yesterday, Pastor Michael Yat (49) and Pastor Peter Yen Reith (36) travelled to the airport to leave Sudan this morning.

    However, they were not allowed to fly out due to a travel ban that is still in force.

    Their lawyer has returned to the judge to ask for the ban to be lifted.

    He was told to come back on Sunday (after the Sudanese weekend) to file a petition.

    However, the judge will only have jurisdiction if the travel ban was instituted by the prosecutor as part of the legal proceedings.

    If the travel ban was instigated by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) the judge will have no jurisdiction and the lawyer will have to petition the NISS to have it lifted.

    This would be much more difficult.

    Middle East Concern is hopeful that the two South Sudanese pastors will be able to travel early next week.

    Please pray:
    a. for Pastor Yat, Pastor Reith and their families
    b. that the two pastors will be able to travel as soon as possible
    b. that church leaders in Sudan will know the Lord's wisdom in the face of increasing pressures against them
    c. that all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.