Middle East

Pray for Tripoli and Christ the King Church

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Intense fighting between rival armed groups and militias has rocked the city of Tripoli in Libya over recent weeks. There has been indiscriminate shelling of urban areas, and according to the Ministry of Health, the fighting has killed 214 and injured 981 in Tripoli and Benghazi. The government in Libya has attempted to issue ceasefire orders, but with no force loyal to the state strong enough to take on the militias on its own, and enforce the decisions, the decrees have not had any effect.

Please pray for safety and security for the leaders and congregations of Christ the King Church in Tripoli. Rev. Ayo, one of the priests, wrote today “I was robbed of my phone yesterday evening, but glory be to the Lord for His presence which prevailed over them, because their intention was to take me away.”

Rev. Vasihar and Malini continue to serve at the church, as they feel it is important for them to be there for the many Indian church members who are still staying in Tripoli and elsewhere. Rev. Samuel and Hony were in Egypt when the violence started, and have been asked to remain in Egypt for now. Many Egyptians have left the country, and at the moment there are no Egyptians coming to the church for the Arabic-speaking services

Please pray for the whole nation and its future.

 

Originally posted at www.dioceseofegypt.org

Iraq Christians flee from Islamic militants

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Last week we shared a little about the conflict in Gaza. This week we want to draw attention to the current tensions in Iraq which are affecting thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters. As before, the tensions there have implications for those right across the Middle East, especially for our fellow believers.

One reporter has summed up the awful truth of what is happening in Iraq: “Christianity in Mosul is dead, and a Christian holocaust is in our midst” (Mark Arabo, a Californian businessman and Chaldean-American leader). For more from him watch the video here. It’s important to note that some of what is said there may not be accurate – the Gospel Coalition have written a post challenging some of the details shared by Arabo – but what we can be certain of is that many fellow believers are suffering as a result of the ISIS.

From Faith2Share:

Urgent prayers are  requested as tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians flee for their lives as Islamist militants surge across northern Iraq towards the largest city of the Kurdish region, Erbil. Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian city, has been left all but abandoned as the Islamic State group advances through minority communities in the country’s north-west. Late last night (Thursday) the UN security council condemned the attacks and urged international support for the Iraqi government. Contacts in Kurdistan say, “In general we are really impressed by the way the Kurdistan is welcoming and supporting people of all backgrounds who have suffered at the hands of the Da’ash [as the Islamic State is known by Kurds]. The Baghdad government and world powers have been deeply concerned by the offensive. The Guardian newspaper reports that US president Barack Obama has ordered targeted air strikes against the militants and airdrops to help the fleeing Iraqi refugees. UN officials say an estimated 200,000 new refugees are seeking sanctuary in the Kurdish north from the extremists who have pursued them since the weekend.

Trying to make sense of Gaza

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The following is an excerpt from a recent post made by Colin Chapman. Though not all will agree with all of his theological perspectives related to the Israel-Palestine tensions, this article gives useful background to the current conflict that should be helpful for all – at the end of the day, all believers should agree that injustice is never justified, even when it pertains to Israel. We felt it was helpful to share his reflections because he is part of our broader CMS family for many years, serving with CMS in the UK for 18 years.

Note: the views expressed below do not necessarily represent the views of NZCMS. We do, however, recognise the importance of careful reflection on issues such as these along with Jesus’ call to peace-making. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

If there’s been a cease-fire by the time this article appears, none of the underlying issues will have been resolved. Here then is a brief attempt to analyse what this recent outbreak of fighting between Israel and Gaza has been about – with four clues which help me to make sense of the big picture.

1. Most Palestinians in Gaza today are the children or grandchildren of Palestinian Arabs who were expelled from their homes in the Nakba in 1948.

Benny Morris was one of the first of the new revisionist Israeli historians who documented the process by which around 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes in the months before and after the creation of the state of Israel in May 1948. In his book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (1988) he debunked the myth that they had fled because their leaders encouraged them to do so, and described how some went to Gaza, while others moved to Egypt, the West Bank, Syria and Lebanon.

2. ‘It’s the blockade and the occupation, stupid!’

No one can deny Israel’s right to self-defence, subject to the test of proportionality, and it’s understandable that Israel should want to force Hamas to stop firing rockets indiscriminatingly into Israel. Hamas could have stopped firing the rockets as soon as the casualties began to mount and the international community called for a cease-fire. But Gaza has been described as the largest open-air prison in the world, and the rockets (which have so far killed only three civilians in Israel) have been an expression of the desperation of the Palestinians over the eight-year economic blockade imposed by Israel after Hamas seized power in 2006. Israel is clearly determined to destroy Hamas’s arsenal of weapons and the network of tunnels penetrating into Israel. But the Hamas leadership believes that it can’t afford to agree to a cease-fire without securing concessions from Israel which relieve the humanitarian crisis developing inside Gaza. The appalling numbers of civilian casualties, therefore, and the destruction of so much property are seen as a price that must be paid in order to force Israel to bow to international pressure and end its crippling blockade. Palestinians in Gaza feel that if they don’t die under the rockets, they will be strangled to death by the blockade.

3. The Israel-Palestinian conflict is a conflict of two nationalisms, with two peoples claiming the same piece of land for different reasons.

Theodore Herzl spelled out his vision of political Zionism in his book The Jewish State in 1896, and the following year he convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel. Having concluded that the emancipation of Jews in Europe in the nineteenth century had failed, he believed that the only way for them to feel secure in the modern world was for them to return to their ancestral homeland in Palestine and create some new kind of Jewish polity there. At the time when he wrote the book, Jews were no more than 8% of the total population of Palestine. The remaining 92% of the population – Palestinian Arabs – were aware of nationalist movements in Europe and were beginning to develop their own dreams of Arab nationalism and independence from Ottoman rule. One of the ironies of history, therefore, is that Jewish nationalism (Zionism) had the effect of stimulating Arab nationalism. …

Palestinians today need somehow to understand that European anti-semitism, which culminated in the Holocaust, created the longing for a homeland in which Jews could feel safe and secure. By the same token, Jews in Israel and elsewhere need to understand that Jewish nationalism and Arab (and especially Palestinian) nationalism have developed side by side during the last century, and that the biblical understanding of justice is that we should seek for our neighbours what we seek for ourselves.

While Hamas has maintained its Islamist stance, it’s thoroughly misleading to say that Palestinian enmity towards Israel is motivated primarily by Islam. Palestinian Muslims are bound to turn to their religion to find motivation in their struggle. But the root cause of the conflict is dispossession rather than religion. …

If some Palestinians have not been supporters of Hamas and blamed it for the escalation of the fighting in the last two weeks, the ferocity of Israeli attacks on Gaza has probably had the effect of rallying widespread support for Hamas and its demands. One of the lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process was that there was no significant breakthrough until all parties – including those regarded as being extreme – were brought into the political process. …

As we watch this terrible tragedy unfold, therefore, we should be praying for all who, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, ‘hunger and thirst to see right prevail’ and seek to be peace-makers.

Colin Chapman has worked with CMS in the Middle East for 18 years and in his last post he was teaching Islamic Studies at the Near East School of Theology. He has taught at Trinity College, Bristol, and was principal of Crowther Hall, the CMS training college in Selly Oak, Bristol. He is now enjoying semi-retirement in Cambridge. His books include Whose Promised Land?, Whose Holy City? Jerusalem and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict, Christianity on Trial (Lion), Cross and Crescent: responding to the challenges of Islam (IVP), and “Islamic Terrorism”: is there a Christian response? (Grove).

To read the full article visit www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/articles/trying-to-make-sense-of-gaza

Another useful document is by David P. Gushee and Glen H. Stassen at www.newevangelicalpartnership.org/?q=node/139

Tensions in the Middle East

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The following is an update from Bishop Mouneer. Our Mission Partner Rosie works under Mouneer in Egypt. Here he captures the feelings that many believers throughout this region are experiencing.

My dear friends,

The Middle East is groaning.  You hear about what is happening in Iraq and the many Christians who are being forced to leave their homes and also those who were killed by ISIS (Daash).  Over 1500 have been killed in Gaza and 8000 were injured in the recent days because of the fighting between Israel and Hamas.  Syria is suffering greatly, and we are receiving many Syrian refugees here in Egypt.  Libya is struggling with tribal wars and conflicts, and Christ the King Anglican Church in Tripoli is in the midst of this.  South Sudan is torn again by fighting and hundreds of thousands are fleeing to neighboring countries, including Ethiopia.  Here in Egypt, every other day we hear about a violent and terrorist attack, especially in the Sinai where military and police officers are targeted. What a region, full of flames and blood.

In the midst of all this, many people are saying “Where are you, God? Why are you allowing this to happen to your people?”  It reminds me with the cries of King David in Psalm 77 when he said, “Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?”  We find the answer to all these questions in the same Psalm, “I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.”

Indeed, we need to think of how God was faithful to his church in this region in the last 2000 years.  Just as the blood of the martyrs became the seeds of many churches throughout this region, we trust that this current turmoil will turn into something good.  We don’t understand now, but one day we or the next generation will.

We don’t have any way to heal the situation, except by prayer.  One of the good outcomes of this very difficult time for Christians in the Middle East is that last week all churches in Egypt gathered together in the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral to pray.  This was a very special time and we felt united in Christ through prayer.  We prayed for our fellow Christians and Muslims throughout the region, and we remembered what King Jehoshaphat said in 2 Chronicles 20: “For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”  We also remembered the words of St. Peter “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4).

Do pray for peace in our region and grace for us.

Bishop Mouneer

Refugees in Gambella

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I spent 10 days in Gambella (in the west of Ethiopia) in April. Since the war broke out in neighbouring South Sudan, 150 000 new refugees have arrived and the number could rise to up to 300 000 by the end of this year. The total population of Gambella before the conflict was 380 000 so this is a huge strain on the already scarce resources of this region.

As many of the refugees are from Anglican churches, we have new congregations in the camps. I joined Bishop Grant and Wendy to visit Akula refugee camp. As we entered in a landrover, I felt like an outsider – viewing poverty from behind a glass window. But as I joined the church service, I became a member of God’s family worshipping together. ‘Church’ was a large tree around where 3000 Christians from many denominations were gathered. The camp, then only one month old, already sheltered 33 000, with more arriving daily.

Glimpses of the stories and thoughts of those who have fled here for shelter:

“My sister died on the way. Her children were suffering from dehydration so they were brought here for medical care without being registered. Now they are with me, but they are not registered, so I cannot get food ration cards for them. Pray that I can get rations to feed them”

“My husband Jacob has been missing since December 15th. I can get no news. I pray to know if he is alive or dead.”

“We should not be surprised at the calamity which has fallen upon us. It says in the Bible that these things can happen. But be encouraged, for nothing, not even this, can separate us from the love of God.”

“It was quarreling that brought us here. We must forsake quarreling.”

“Let us greet one another, and when Jesus comes, we will all love one an-other.” “Let us kneel together before our Jesus”

Bishop Grant was invited to preach: “Jesus hates suffering and death. He wept at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. A couple of weeks later, he gave him-self to die on the cross and to rise again, de-feating suffering and death. Because Jesus rose from the dead we know that one day there will be no death, there will be no suffering – God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. And on that day people from every tribe will be together around the throne – white people and Chinese and Arab and Nuer and Anuak and Dinka and Murle – so we should get used to being together now!”

Many of our partners have given generously to the newly arrived refugees, and spoken out about the situation which is lost in the world news. See this video for more info about the situation in Gambella and South Sudan: anglicanaid.net/south-sudan-appeal

New Prison Ministry in Alexandria

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The Anglican Church recently started a new prison ministry in Alexandria, on the north coast of Egypt. This new ministry is co-ordinated by Nabila, a member of the St Mark’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral in Alexandria.

There are 8 regular volunteers from different denominations. There are also 4 students from the Alexandria School of Theology joining the prison ministry for the practical component of their training. The team visit Borg el Arab Prison and Hadra Prison. Borg el Arab is located 45 kilometres south-west of Alexandria. It is a men only prison, and there are 8 foreigners and 250 Egyptians. The conditions in which the men live are very poor. The cells are underground and have only small windows. Many men share the same rooms and there are no beds, only mattresses on the floor. Skin diseases are common. As most of the Egyptian men are from other areas of Egypt, they receive few visitors and no one else provides for them except this ministry.

One of the challenges facing the men and women at El Kanater Prison is the lack of health care and medicine. The prisoners asked if we could bring non-prescription medicine for them such as cold/flu medicine, bandages and painkillers. We bought some one time through a pharmacy, but it was expensive and it is difficult for us to afford extra expenses, as we only just cover our running costs. It was therefore a great blessing when Harpur Memorial Hospital in Menouf offered to provide the medicine for free. Harpur Memorial Hospital is another ministry of the Anglican Church, founded more than a century ago with a mission to serve the poor. It is wonderful that our ministries can support and serve each other!

Impressions from Visitors

“I recently joined the prison visit knowing it would be an experience, just not sure what kind. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I spoke with three men from the prison – one from Europe, one from the Africa, and one from Central America. For me, there was a huge disconnect between the joy that I saw in them, and the length of their sentences. At times it was hard holding back tears. I came away thinking that I had seen something on Christ in meeting them.” Andre

“After my first visit to the prison my heart was so warmed by how God can meet people at their lowest point, I was super excited that I couldn’t sleep nor get the prisoners out of my head and prayers. I was also a very humbling experience to see myself not better than any of them, I could have been in their place easily if wasn’t for God’s grace.” Silvia

Air Tickets Saving Lives

There are many Eritrean refugees at El Kanater Prison. Many are victims of human trafficking. They are either kidnapped, or promised a better life and pay a high fee to leave Eritrea. They arrive in the Sinai region of Egypt, one of the most notorious routes for human trafficking in the world and well documented abuse. Many are tortured, raped, and cases of organ harvesting have been reported. There is also extortion, where desperate families will pay large ransoms for the freedom of their loved ones.

Often, the traffickers will call the Egyptian authorities, and the prisoners are rounded up and brought to Egyptian prisoners. Our Prison Ministry has in the past supplied basic needs to these prisoners. There are currently 5 Eritrean men who can return to their families. We have funds for three air tickets, and need to raise funds for the remaining two.

If you’re interested in helping getting these men home, please email jon@nzcms.org.nz