New Report Highlights Persecution of Christians in North Korea.

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Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has issued a harrowing report of religious persecution inside North Korea.

The report, Total Denial: Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief in North Korea, was made public on September 23rd, and claims that freedom with respect to religion, or any belief contrary to the state’s communist ideology, is “largely non-existent.”

Christians, who are forced to practice their faith in secret, are often the targets of persecution, and those discovered are sent to concentration camps and forced into hard labour. They are also subjected to sexual violence, torture and “extra-judicial” killings.

“Documented incidents include Christians being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges and trampled under-foot,” the report claims.

CSW’s report is not the only report to document the brutal anti-Christian regime in Kim Jong Un’s North Korea. Earlier this year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also said in its report that Christians who have participated in acts of worship, studied the Bible or possess a church hymnal” are typically jailed, or worse.”

“In prison, Christians reportedly endure harsher treatment than other prisoners. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Christians in North Korea are currently in prison camps facing hard labour or execution,” the USCIRF report said.

According to CSW, state leaders in North Korea, who demand absolute obeisance to Kim Jong Un, suppress Christianity because they believe it is solely a religion of the West and Christians are spies for the United States and other First World powers.

However, followers of other religions, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Shamanism and even the native Korean religion Cheondoism, are also frowned upon.

The CSW report also documents China’s deportation of North Korean refugees who are able to escape the country. Refugees who come into contact with missionaries are particularly ill-treated, the report said.

The CSW report concludes that North Korean officials are highly unlikely to change, given the country’s emphasis on “self-reliance” and total devotion to the Kim family.

There are an estimated 200,000-300,000 Christians in North Korea attending as many as 500 underground churches, according to the report, but only a handful of state authorised churches,  which are usually empty.

  • Pray for Christians in North Korea. Pray for their faith to grow strong in the face of the persecution and oppression they face each day.
  • Pray for North Korean Christians in prison. Pray that they will know the comfort and protection of the Holy Spirit around them and their families.
  • Pray for the North Korean Government, that many officials will encounter Christ Jesus and come to realise the truth of His Gospel and grace for themselves.
  • Pray that the Church will continue to grow in North Korea, that believers will have opportunities to meet together and encourage each other, and that the Gospel will spread through this nation to reach many lives for Christ.

Romans 8 vs 38 – 39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Source: http://christianexaminer.com/article, http://www.persecution.org

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Indian Christian Abducted after Handing Out Literature.

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Last Friday, 16th September, a 45-year-old Christian man was abducted and severely beaten by a group of men near Mumbai, in the Indian state of Maharashtra.

Persecution of Indian Christians is increasing, according to a report by the Evangelical Fellowship of India

Prashant Bhatnagar, together with a married couple and their four-year-old son, was handing out Christian literature when they were interrupted by the group. Bhatnagar was then taken by car to a secluded spot in Taloja, where he was beaten, a gun was pointed at him and he was threatened with being set on fire if he continued distributing the literature.

Jackson George, an Indian pastor, told Barnabas Fund that he witnessed Prashant Bhatnagar being taken away. He added that Bhatnagar was also urinated on and left limping and bleeding from his nose and ear following the ordeal. The married couple and their son, and Pastor Jackson George, were not injured.

According to the First Information Report that has been registered with the police, the attackers are linked to Shriram Pratishthan, a local Hindu educational institution.

A recent report by the Evangelical Fellowship of India revealed that attacks against Christians in India show no signs of abating. In fact, figures suggest they are increasing. In Maharashtra state, where the above attack took place, eight incidents against Christians were recorded between January and June 2016, compared to four incidents during the whole of 2015.

  • Pray for Prashant Bhatnagar in the aftermath of this attack, for healing for his body and also peace in his heart and mind.
  • Pray for Christians in India as they face ongoing persecution and attacks against them ad their Churches.
  • Pray for the attackers, that they will encounter Jesus Christ in life changing ways, coming to acknowledge the truth of His Gospel and grace.
  • Pray for the Indian government and authorities, to put in place measures to protect Christians and other religious minorities, and to allow freedom of worship for all people.

Ephesians 6 vs 18: “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.”

Source: https://www.barnabasfund.org/news

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Proposed New Amendments to Religious Laws in China

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The Chinese government has released a set of proposed amendments to its rules regulating religious affairs, as President Xi Jinping attempts to exert even greater control over how religion is practised.

The Chinese government has drafted new religious restrictions targeting churches across the country in an effort to stunt the growth and influence of Christianity.

The new set of amendments, released to the public on 7th September  includes guidelines on religious education, the types of religious organisations that can exist, where they can exist and the activities they can organise.

Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, emphasised the need for provincial officials to have a greater overall understanding of religion, so that they are better able to resist “foreign” religions.

The idea of resisting “foreign” religions is generally taken as an attack on Christianity, which is considered a product of the West, promoted by foreign powers with the intention of destabilising Chinese “harmony”.

The release of these amendments comes shortly after China’s broadcasting regulator announced that it is planning to curb all social and entertainment news that promotes Western lifestyles.

According to Thomas Muller, analyst at Open Doors’ World Watch Research unit, “This all fits into the current government’s efforts to ‘Sinicize’ every aspect of Chinese life – be it culture, news or religion.”

“[The] implications for Chinese Christians remain to be seen, but it might well be that these directives find their way into new regulations affecting the Church in China,” said an Asia analyst for Open Doors, who wished to remain anonymous.

“Freedom in all sectors of society [has been] shrinking since Xi Jinping came into power, and there is evidence that the government is also tightening its grip on the Three Self Patriotic Movement [the state-approved Church].”

In a recent podcast, US-based political scientist Carsten Vala said: “Christianity has attracted younger and better-educated followers in recent decades, and the Communist Party has become increasingly concerned that this may pose a threat to its power.”

However, he also said that stronger pressure on the Church has, in recent decades, always led to stronger Church growth, and that the most likely response to further pressure would be for more Christians to go “underground”.

  • Pray for the Church in China in the light of these proposed amendments to religious freedom. Pray for wisdom for Church leaders and courage for Chinese Christians to live out their faith day by day.
  • Pray for the Chinese government as they seek to control religion, and especially Christianity. Pray that many in government will encounter Jesus Christ and come to know the Truth of His Gospel. Pray too, that they will see Jesus as relevant to their culture, not just as a western God.
  • Pray for young people in china to continue to be drawn to the Gospel, especially the millions of students, who will go on to have positions of authority and influence in the country.
  • Pray that the Church in China will continue to grow, including in the more remote, and mostly unreached areas of Western China.

2 Chronicles 20 vs 6: ” ‘O Lord, God of our ancestors, are you not God in heaven? Do you not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? In your hand are power and might, so that no one is able to withstand you.'”

Source: https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org

 

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50 Years of Service Sees God’s Kingdom Growing in Vietnam.

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Fr Joseph Trần Sy Tin spent a life spent doing mission in the diocese of Kontum (west-central Vietnam) among tribal Jarai. The Redemptorist priest has lived in the area since 1969 and for almost 50 years has accompanied the local population in its journey of faith.

A few days ago, Fr Joseph met with priests, religious and faithful in the diocese, and spoke about the story of his mission.

The first village where Fr Joseph Trần Sy Tin settled was to Pleikly. Together with three other Redemptorist priests, he founded the “Group for going out” (Nhóm Ra Đi), whose purpose was to “go out” to live among ethnic minorities who have not yet known Jesus.

“When we arrived in Pleikly,” said Fr Joseph, “we had no house to stay in and did not know anyone in the village. We started to study the Jarai language and visit families to make friends. We ate with them and practised the language.”

At harvest time, “we asked the villagers if we could go into the field to work with them. Sometimes we had lunch together in the rice fields. At evening, we came back home with them and often had dinner together.”

After a period of working together, one night the village chief acknowledged them for the first time. “As we ate dinner around the fire, he told us: ‘We took care of our people for years, as regards food, clothing and housing. But no one had ever spoken of the spirit, of good and evil, of happiness. You need to tell us these things.’”

The 1970s were the hardest for Fr Joseph’s mission because the war reached the villages of Kontum. In 1971 the priest was arrested along with a companion by Communist authorities and was sent to near the border with Cambodia, where he lived with poor people suffering from malaria.

After the end of the war (1975), the priest thought that no one would follow Christianity. However, by 1988, many people from ethnic minorities began to be baptised. By 2000, Fr Joseph had baptised a thousand people in the mountains, mostly ethnic Jarai.

The new believers were unable to attend Mass regularly because the Communist authorities imposed restrictive exit permits from the villages. Yet, by 2005, beleivers were present in more than 90 villages.

Fr Joseph’s mission relies heavily on the laity whose role is a priority according to the priest. Without them, there is no real mission.

Indeed, the faithful themselves have to proclaim the Good News everywhere, accepting the risks that it entails. Over the years, Fr Tin has trained small groups of lay missionaries.

The clergyman is now the vicar of Pleichuet parish, which has 1,400 members. The Redemptorists also run mission centres in Cheoreo Tolui and Pleichuet Pleikly that, together with the parishes, have more than 24,000 believers.

  • Give thanks for the work of Fr Joseph and the other priests and local Christians in Vietnam.
  • Pray for protection for Vietnam’s believers and the Church there, as they regularly suffer persecution and oppression for their faith. Pray for perseverance of faith, and for their witness to continue to draw many people to know Jesus.
  • Pray for access to good discipleship and training materials for the Vietnamese Church.
  • Pray that God will continue to bring fruit for His kingdom through the lives of His people in this needy nation.

Acts 5 vs 14: “Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women,”

Source: http://www.asianews.it/news-en, http://www.persecution.org

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Pray for Uzbekistan in Time of Political Leadership Change.

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After the death of Uzbekistan’s president, Islam Karimov, in early September, he was buried in the historic cemetery located in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. He had been president for 25 years and his death left the country wondering who and what was next in leadership.

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Uzbekistan’s Prime Minister, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, was rumoured to be the late president’s successor, and on September 8th, he stepped into the role of President Interim.

The Central Election Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan has now reported that Mirziyoyev was nominated as a candidate for the presidency on Friday, September 16th, 2016.

According to a report by the chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Uzbekistan, “Early presidential elections in Uzbekistan will be held on December 4th.”

Christians in Uzbekistan face a great deal of persecution, with Christians facing raids, fines, arrests and threats every day. Some Muslim families go as far as placing Christian family members under house arrest, until they renounce Christ. Local believers in Uzbekistan say that the President Interim is a supporter of Christian persecution.

  • Pray for Uzbekistan at this time of political uncertainty and change.
  • Pray that whoever takes the presidential role will consider the persecution of Christians a pressing issue, and seek to bring freedom for Christians to meet and worship together, and live out their faith without fear.
  • Pray for Uzbek Christians in prison for their faith. Pray that they will know the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit around them and stand firm in their faith.
  • Pray for a move of the Holy Spirit over this nation, to turn many hearts to the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to bring transformation to communities and families across Uzbekistan.

1 Timothy 2 vs 1 – 4: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Source: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories

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Intercede On Behalf of the Nation of Syria

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Intense air strikes have pounded rebel-held areas of Aleppo city and triggered major fires, even as international powers are meeting in New York amid efforts to revive the collapsed ceasefire.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday that 14 air strikes hit the neighbourhoods of Bustan al-Qasr and Al-Kalasseh, leading to “massive fires” which killed seven people, including three women and three children.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said they were “the most intense strikes in months”, while opposition activists accused the Syrian government and its ally Russia of dropping “incendiary phosphorous bombs”.

Fresh air strikes also hit Aleppo’s Sukkari neighbourhood, the Observatory said, and fierce clashes hit the southwestern district of Ramosa, where rebel groups are fighting off a government offensive.

Even as the violence escalated, the UN said it had resumed aid deliveries, in its first operation since an attack last Monday on a humanitarian convoy killed 20 people and triggered the suspension of much-needed relief operations.

  • Pray for Syria – this nation needs our prayers and intercession now, more than ever.
  • Pray for those living in besieges areas of Syria, that aid convoys will be allowed in and deliver food and medical aid to these desperate people.
  • Pray for the ongoing negotiations for a cease fire and an end to the fighting. Pray that all parties will put aside their own agendas and truly seek the good of Syria and her people.
  • Pray for more countries to open their doors to Syrian refugees, including Christian refuges, for these people to find places of safety and healing.

Psalm 90 vs 13: “Turn, O Lord! How long? Have compassion on your servants!

Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/

 

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Pray for Iranian Believers.

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Three Iranian converts to Christianity face the possibility of being sentenced to 80 lashes, simply for taking communion.

Iranian Christians at worship

They have been charged with alcohol consumption, which is illegal in Iran for Muslims. Even though all those charged are Christian believers, their conversion from Islam is not recognised by the Iranian authorities and Christians have previously been flogged for the same offence.

Middle East Concern reports that the three converts charged with drinking alcohol have also been charged with “action against national security”, as has the pastor of their church, who has previously been arrested on multiple occasions.

Drinking alcohol is what is termed in Islam a hudud crime, i.e. one of six crimes where the Quran or hadith sets out a specific punishment. Any Muslim found guilty is to be given 40 lashes or more, depending which school of sharia is followed.

Other specific punishments for committing a hudud crime include amputation of the hand for theft, for a first offence, death by stoning for adultery, and 80 lashes for false accusation of adultery.

House churches in Iran are routinely targeted by the authorities, and church leaders and converts to Christianity are fiercely persecuted. The families of the five converts arrested in late August are still unsure where they are being held as they have not been officially registered at any prison in the country.

The persecution of Christians in Iran, especially converts, has been highlighted by the United Nations, the U.S. Government’s Commission on Religious Freedom and Amnesty International, who stated in their 2015/16 International Report that “Christian converts from Islam … faced discrimination in employment and restrictions on their access to education and freedom to practise their faith.”

  • Pray for the three Iranian believers and their pastor as they await the outcome of the hearing of charges against them. Pray for the peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit to be around them and their families, for the charges to dropped and for their release from prison.
  • Pray for believers in Iran, who face ongoing persecution, especially Muslim background believers. Pray for perseverance and encouragement in their faith, and for courage to share their faith with family and friends.
  • Pray for the Church in Iran, as it is growing at a huge rate. Pray for good resources for discipleship, for training of leaders and pastors, and opportunities to meet together without fear.
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to move in Iran, for many to encounter Christ Jesus and come to know His Truth and Life.

Psalm 68 vs 6: “God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing;”

Source: https://www.barnabasfund.org/news

 

 

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The Ongoing Plight of Christian Refugees.

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According to the UN, one in every 113 people on earth is a refugee, but in Lebanon, that number is 1 in 5. Lebanon is, by far, the country with the highest number of refugees per inhabitant, and second only to Turkey in accepting the highest number of refugees from Syria – currently 1.4 million.

Family home in a Lebanese refugee camp, Aug 2016

Across Lebanon’s mountainous border, there even more Syrians finding shelter before trying to leave. In the last five years, Syria has undergone the ‘largest displacement crisis globally’ says the UN – more than half its pre-war population of 22 million no longer live in their own home, with around 7.6 million Syrians being internally displaced and 4.8 million registered refugees outside of Syria. The UN estimates that of the 1.8 million Christians living in Syria before the war, only 600,000 – 900,000 remain.

Before the war, The city of Aleppo had one of the largest Christian populations in Syria but that number has dwindled to fewer than 40,000, according to Open Doors’ World Watch Research Unit. This besieged city has been on the front line of fighting between the government, rebel forces and Islamic State for much of the war.

Thousands of Christians have also left Iraq, or been internally displaced, because of conflict involving Islamic State. In 2003, Iraq’s second city, Mosul, was home to one of the largest Christian communities in the Middle East, but after being under the control of ISIL, there are now virtually no Christians left in this city.

Exact numbers of Christians to have fled Syria and Iraq are unknown, but the Open Doors World Watch Research Unit calculates that 1 in 4 refugees is a Christian. One of the problems is that many Christians refugees avoid refugee transit centres because they fear being potential targets of religiously motivated crimes.

Christians in refugee centres in Germany have frequently faced religiously motivated abuse and violent attacks from other refugees and Muslim security officials, and Muslims who have converted to Christianity are especially vulnerable.

  • Pray for the millions of Syrians and Iraqis displaced by the ongoing conflict in their countries. Pray for safe places to live, for the opportunity to work, and, ultimately, for them to be able to return to their homes.
  • Pray for Christian refugees, who are often unable to live in refugee camps or to register as official refugees due to abuse from fanatical Muslims.Pray for their protection, and for courage and endurance to stand firm in their faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Pray that more countries will open their eyes to the plight of the Christians and find safe havens for these vulnerable people.
  • Pray for the witness of Christians working in refugee camps, that many within the camps will come to know the truth of Jesus Christ for themselves and their families.
  • Pray for an end to the conflict across Iraq and Syria, for healing and restoration of hope for their people.

Psalm 10 vs 17 – 18: “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,  defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror.

Source: https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org

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“Whatever happens, Jesus will be with me” – Following Jesus in Iraq.

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Brother Raeed is how you might picture a monk. His gestures are calm, and silence seems to be his natural state. 15 years ago, he chose a life dedicated to prayer in a small monastery community in Iraq – Himself, four other monks and Jesus – that was it.

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But two years ago, the sound of honking cars and distant explosions disturbed the silence in the prayer room. Raeed looked out the window and saw cars lined up to leave the city. What he had feared for weeks had now come true – the ISIS army was approaching. Raeed calmly grabbed his stuff, declaring: “Whatever happens, Jesus will be with me.”

Raeed relates what happened that day: “ISIS came to our city, so we had to leave.” The monks joined in the slowly moving traffic jam of people in panic. All night, they slowly moved forward until they reached the city of Erbil, where they were thrown into the deep end as monks, taking care of the many displaced people around them. Once again, Raeed remembers his calling: ‘Follow Jesus no matter what’.

Two years later, and now Raeed leads evening prayer time in one of the refugee camps just outside of Erbil. There are so many attending the portacabin church that many have to stand in the doorway, the calm tones of a hymn filling the twilight sky.

Signing up for a life of prayer, Raeed had never expected this crowded place would be his place of service. But he doesn’t look back. This is where Jesus has led him.

Together with a group of nuns, the monks now provide spiritual guidance to this newly formed group of believers. ‘Monk Raeed’ even became ‘Father Raeed’, as the need for priests is high.

“Alone I am weak, but God guides me … in this new task. I don’t have to be anything supernatural, I just have to be here with the people in the church, because God needs me to be here.”

The lives of the believers in Father Raeed’s congregation have been turned upside down, and there are many challenges as people adjust to life in displacement. But within these shaky times, Father Raeed teaches his people to trust in the One he has learned to depend on. “It is all about Jesus. Jesus is the core of this church, He is the Rock we build on. And whatever might happen, our Rock will never disappear. He will always be here.”

He also invites Christians around the world to connect with them through prayer: “Even though I am very thankful for all the material help we get, I am most thankful that people around the world connect with God and with us in prayer for Iraq.”

  • Give thanks for the work of Father Raeed and the many others who serve alongside him in refugee camps. Pray for them, for strength, protection and physical and spiritual resources to continue to meet the needs of the people they serve.
  • Give thanks for the many Iraqi’s who have found faith in Christ through the witness and service of Iraqi Christians in the camps.
  • Pray for these new believers, for their faith to grow deep and strong, and that they will know the love and grace of their Father God around and within them each day.
  • Pray for the Church in Iraq as it comes under increasing pressure from ISIL and other Muslim factions. Pray for strong faith, and for their witness to be a beacon of hope and light to many others in this country.
  • Pray for peace in Iraq, and for the Holy Spirit to move, to restore hope and life to this nation once again.

Ephesians 6 vs 18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Source: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories

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Pray for Syria as Ceasefire is Set to End

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Syria’s fragile ceasefire started to unravel on Sunday, with aerial attacks on rebel-held neighbourhoods of Aleppo and a southern village resulting in the deadliest day since the truce began last week.

The attacks came as tensions between American and Russian brokers of the deal also deteriorated, following a deadly US strike on Syrian government forces.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the evening air strikes on Aleppo killed one woman and wounded many others. Ten people, including a child, were also killed when a pair of barrel bombs hit an opposition-held town in the southern province of Deraa, it said.

The seven-day ceasefire is supposed to continued on to midnight Sunday, according to a Syrian army statement issued last week. The US and Russia have said that, if it holds for seven days, it should be followed by the establishment of a centre for both countries to coordinate the identification of targets against ISIL and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

However, the ceasefire has been repeatedly violated by both sides, and aid convoys have still been unable to reach besieged rebel-held neighbourhoods of Aleppo, where thousands of people are desperate for supplies of food and medical aid.

  • Pray for Syria. Call out on behalf of this nation, for peace, healing and hope to be restored to her streets and homes.
  • Pray for the aftermath of the ceasefire, that the truce will continue, and warring factions be willing to seek an end to this conflict.
  • Pray for aid convoys to be given permission to enter Aleppo and deliver the much needed aid to that city.
  • Pray that many Syrians will find hope for their future and healing through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the witness of the Church in Syria, and through life changing encounters with the Risen Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 61 vs 4: “They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news

 

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