Just Released – The Story of Friends In The West and The African Children’s Choir

Please pray for Ray Barnett as he contemplates a major initiative in updating and re-publishing two books that were written more than three decades ago, but are more relevant today than ever.  

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Ray, (March 2016) enjoying a visit to one of his favourite places – Portstewart Strand, N. Ireland, a stones throw from where he was born.

By normal standards, Ray could have retired and put his feet up around fifteen years ago. Instead, he feels compelled to do what he can to bring prayer and practical support to displaced and suffering Christians around the world. These books, ‘Where The Brave Dare Not Go’ and ‘Uganda Holocaust’, are a means towards that end. They have just been released on Amazon.

Ray Barnett is well known as the founder of the African Children’s Choir, who have been the subject of a recent award winning feature documentary shown in cinemas around the US and they also played a major role in Gary Barlow’s “Sing” which was commissioned for the Queen’s Jubilee celebration. For this, they were filmed in Africa with Gary Barlow as he developed and rehearsed the song with their help. The choir also performed live at the spectacular Buckingham Palace celebration event that was beamed live around the world.

It’s a lesser known fact that The African Children’s Choir was formed as a project of ‘Friends In The West’, the first organisation that Ray founded. The original books focused on the early activities of Friends In The West, when Ray was working to help Christians who had been imprisoned for their faith in Eastern Europe. Attention was then directed towards Africa when it was learned of the plight of thousands of children who had been orphaned in fighting there. Christians were suffering and were under threat of death by the Idi Amin regime in Uganda, so that’s where Ray headed at great personal risk to his own life. It was also here that Ray experienced what could only be described as miracles and divine interventions. One of the outcomes was The African Children’s Choir, which is still doing a great work, more than thirty years later.

Born in Portstewart and raised by foster parents in Coleraine, Ray left Northern Ireland in his late teens to study at a Bible College in Canada. Although he lived in Vancouver, he has always regarded Northern Ireland as home and has frequently visited over the years. Portstewart Strand holds a special place for him since from here he can literally see his place of birth. This is a location Ray has come to in the past when he has been at one of those crossroads points, where he needed to pray and seek guidance for challenges he was facing and for the next chapter of his life.

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Ray is at one of those junctures once again. He feels he’s being called to a new phase which will be less about being the CEO of organisations, and more about sharing his experiences of the past and encouraging and mentoring a younger generation.  His greatest desire is to do everything he can to help the current crisis that affects Christians around the world who are suffering  – especially those who have had to uproot from their homes and are currently displaced. Ray believes that when things are critical as they are today, God is calling every Christian to be part of His answer.  That essentially means prayer and action, and believing for divine intervention and miracles. Ray fervently believes that miracles will happen when we are obedient to the call to “think of those who suffer as if you shared their pain”. (Heb13:3)

Friends In The West has been highlighting some of the current stories of suffering of the Christian family around the world.  Often these go unreported in the secular media, so it’s important that the Christian community is kept informed with regard to some of the things that Christians and other groups under attack are facing. This is not just for the sake of information alone, however, but that we will stand in prayer and support of our brothers and sisters who are suffering.

Ray believes the Christian community can draw encouragement from the stories in his books from events of thirty years ago. These in turn can help shape a strategy as we face difficult situations in the future. In the past, miracles solved problems that appeared to be unsolvable. Hearts were changed in the most hardened and unlikely people. Battles were won without killing anyone and without resorting to military might. Love overcome hate and good defeated evil. These are the central stories of the books Ray is re-publishing, with the underpinning message being that the difficult situations we are facing today in the worldwide Christian community, requires us to learn how situations can be changed through the power of prayer.

If you feel a burden for Christians who have been displaced and are suffering hardship because of their faith, then Ray would love to hear from you. It would be a huge encouragement just to know that there are others out there who are willing to pray and act as doors open up. He would also love to hear your story, no matter where you’re at on your journey. Maybe he could offer a word of advice or encouragement. And if you have a prayer request, we have partners who would love to pray for you.

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Why not drop Ray an email at ray@friendsinthewest.com.  Also, Ray is now available for interviews either by telephone, SKYPE, or in person at your studio or office. If you have a connection with a publication or radio or TV outlet, why not get in touch and arrange for Ray to tell his story and encourage a wider audience.  Ray will be visiting Northern Ireland during May 2016 and may be available for local meetings or to share at your church. So do get in touch. He’s looking forward to hearing from you.

After Pastor’s Wife Buried Alive, Chinese Church Wins Land Battle

Officials decide that bulldozed property does belong to Protestant house church after all.
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra

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Nearly two weeks after a Chinese pastor and his wife were buried alive defending their church from destruction, local authorities have ruled in favor of the Protestant house church’s claim to its land.

After a local business wanted to take over the property that Beitou Church in Zhumadian sat on, a government-backed demolition crew was sent to destroy the church. And when the pastor, Li Jiangong, and his wife, Ding Cuimei, stepped in front of a bulldozer, it didn’t stop.

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Ding’s son stands next to where her body is being stored. China Aid

“Bury them alive for me,” a member of the demolition team said, according to China Aid which reported both the tragic incident and the ensuing legal victory. “I will be responsible for their lives.”

The couple were shoved into a pit and covered with dirt, according to China Aid.

Li manage to free himself. But before he could dig his wife out, Ding suffocated.

The demolition crew is being detained while their actions are being investigated, the local police station told China Aid.

While criminal charges are still pending, a government investigation has concluded that the land belongs to the church.

“This is a definite legal victory for the church,” stated China Aid. “The task force concluded the investigation [by] stating … that pastor Li Jiangong’s church has the sole authority for the usage of the land as a religious site and should belong to the church for use. It rules no individual or other organization should claim the land from the church.”

“While we are glad to see and commend the local authorities under international pressure acted swiftly and fairly to resolve the church’s land with this right decision, we are still deeply concerned about the justice for this family of martyr which is still not done,” stated Bob Fu, China Aid’s president.

The incident took place in Henan province, which has one of the largest Christian populations in East Asia. The province is west of Zhejiang province, where authorities have removed hundreds of crosses from church buildings, jailed a megachurch pastor for protesting those removals, and jailed (and then released) one of the leading legal defenders of those churches.

Source: Christianity Today

Persecution in Kenya Destroys Lives, Tears Families Apart

04/28/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Patrick Macharia knows what it means to suffer for bearing the Name of Christ.

In July 2015, he was 29 years old, a new father in the physical prime of his life, and he had a solid job. He was working in the quarries near Mandera, Kenya in the country’s northeastern corner, just miles from the Somali and Ethiopian borders.

That all changed drastically on July 6. Overnight, militant Islamist terrorists from al-Shabaab attacked the quarry workers’ sleeping quarters with assault rifles and explosives. They were hunting for Christians and they murdered 14 people.

Targeting Christians

Chaos erupted around 1:00 a.m. when the attackers breached the gate to the compound with explosives and sprayed indiscriminate gunfire throughout the bedrooms.

“That fateful night will forever be on my mind. When they attacked the house, we were all sleeping. I managed to escape through the window with the intention of [seeking] protection from the landlady, who was a Muslim,” Patrick told International Christian Concern (ICC).

“Before I could enter her house I was shot in the back. I fell down on my stomach and the pain was unbearable. I could hear the Muslim landlady conversing with the assailants; she was pleading with them to stop shooting at us.”

Patrick told ICC that gunmen murdered the landlady and her unborn child at gunpoint.

According to CNN, after the attack, an al-Shabaab spokesman claimed that the assault killed “Kenyan Christians.”

The raid resembled a similar attack from December 2014 when Al-Shabaab fighters slaughtered 36 quarry workers in their sleep in Koromey, approximately seven miles from Mandera.

A Long Recovery: the Ongoing Effects of Persecution

Although Patrick survived the 2015 attack, he was left permanently disabled. Patrick and the other injured workers were evacuated by the Kenyan Red Cross and flown to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi where he was discharged after two weeks.

“I was shot at the back near the shoulder, and the bullet made two huge holes in the right side of my chest,” Patrick told ICC, “Some bullet covers got stuck in my body and I [had] a surgery to remove them. Thanks to God, I am [gradually] recovering.”

Since his operation, Patrick’s life has taken a difficult turn because he can no longer handle the physical demands of his previous work. He can now only work light jobs, which are competitive to get in the village.

“My wife left me because I could not put food on the table. Life became hard and we went for a day or two without food. She could not bear the kind of life our family was living, so she decided to go back to her maternal home together with our two-year-old baby,” Patrick told ICC.

While Patrick’s father helps him financially, he perseveres today while persecution has ripped his family apart. Though he survived the attack, his story shows how persecution creates lasting hardships and enduring tensions.

14 other families tell a tragically different tale.

The quarries in dangerous Mandera offer higher salaries than the ones near Patrick’s home of Nyeri, Kenya, so the majority of the men who died in July 2015 are Patrick’s personal friends.

While he thanks God for sparing his life, Patrick dearly misses his friends who were murdered. Their families are left without their primary breadwinners and are also struggling to survive.

Moving Forward in Faith

ICC has stepped in to try to support these suffering families in Nyeri County. Rather than having to rely on dangerous or physically demanding quarry work, we are working with two families to establish dairy cow businesses.

Thanks to God and the generous support of our donors, survivors such as Patrick can support themselves and their families by selling milk.

“The Lord is good. May my wife hear all this and come back to me. We shall have a cow for milk. This is good news to me,” Patrick told ICC.

No measure of financial success can replace a loved one lost, or restore a debilitating injury. But as the New Testament commands us as Christians to support brothers and sisters under persecution, we look forward in hope that the Lord may show Himself to be their Provider.

“I hope one day life will become good and my wife will come back to me,” Patrick said.

Source: (International Christian Concern)

Canadian hostage held for seven months murdered by Islamists in Philippines

By Harriet Alexander, New York and Philip Sherwell, asia editor (The Telegraph)

A group of Islamist terrorists have killed a Canadian businessman in the Philippines after a deadline to pay a ransom expired.

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John Ridsdel, a 68-year-old semi-retired mining consultant, lived in the Philippines and was seized in September with three others in Mindanao.

On Monday Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, confirmed Mr Ridsdel’s death.

A severed head was found on a remote Philippine island, hours after a ransom deadline issued by terrorist group Abu Sayyaf expired. The Philippine army has not confirmed if it belonged to one of the captives.

Abu Sayyaf pledged allegiance first to al-Qaeda and now Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). They set a deadline of 3pm on Monday for ransoms of £4.5 million to be paid for the other two Westerners – Robert Hall, a 50-year-old Canadian, and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56.

The fate of the third person seized with them from their boat in a marina, Tess Flor, a 48-year-old Filipina, is unknown.

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John Ridsdel, a 68-year-old semi-retired mining consultant

Mr Trudeau described Mr Ridsdel’s death as “an act of cold blooded murder.”

“I am outraged by the news that a Canadian citizen held hostage has been killed,” he said.

On April 15 Abu Sayyaf had released a video demanding payment of the ransom, which they said was the “final absolute warning”.

The group has made similar threats to kill Western captives in the past, but released them after ransoms were reportedly paid. But it has also beheaded local captives – most recently two Filipinos this month and a Malaysian hostage in November.

They are believed to be currently holding over a dozen people, including citizens of Indonesia and the Netherlands.

Source: The Telegraph

MUSLIMS IN UGANDA KILL CHRISTIANS’ LIVESTOCK, DEMOLISH CHURCH

Muslims in a village in eastern Uganda last week killed Christians’ pigs and tore down their church building.

By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (jeremyreynalds@gmail.com)

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Workers sift through rubble of demolished church building in Nalugondo, Uganda. Morning Star News

According to a story by Morning Star News quoting area sources, a Muslim mob demolished the building of the 450-member Nalugondo Church of Uganda building at about midnight on April 12, shouting, “We cannot live together with neighbors who are infidels. We have to fight for the cause of Allah.”

Nalugondo village is near Bugade, Mayuge District, 93 miles east of Kampala.

Two days earlier, sources said, a group of Muslims slaughtered a church lay leader’s pigs, a key source of income.

Singing praises to Allah and shouting, “Allah only is to be worshiped, and Muhammad is his prophet,” the group led by area Muslim Kambo Daudo killed Samuel Kijali’s pigs at 4 p.m. on April 10, as Kijali’s wife watched helplessly.

A few weeks before the slaughter, Morning Star News said Kijali had received text messages, saying that church members must stop raising pigs.

“Let this be known to your church members that pigs are extremely unholy and an abomination before Allah, very outrageous and shameful,” one text read. “They are haram (forbidden) and unlawful, as our holy Quran does prohibit them.”

Sources said Muslims also sent a text message to church member Kamaala Yokosani reading, “We are soon coming for the heads of your pigs,” before killing eight on April 5.

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Christians in eastern Uganda protest the ongoing violence against them.

Ugandan Christians protesting persecution in UgandaYokosani was elected chairman of the Bugade zone in May 2015, and then later he began raising pigs.

A Christian witness said a Muslim neighbor of Yokosani, Kupoota Amisi, 60, went to his home with about 15 other Muslims.

“I saw Amisi with a group of people enter Kamaala’s farm with knives, only to hear the following day that his pigs had been killed,” the witness said.

About 85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim, with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations. However, Muslims now outnumber Christians in Nalugondo.

“It is quite difficult to resist these militant Muslims, because they have outnumbered us the Christians and are accusing us that we are defiling their faith,” Morning Star News reported Kijali said.

The church’s 450 members are now without shelter as the rainy season descends, sources said. Musical instruments, more than 500 plastic chairs and other property were destroyed, a church leader said.

For more information visit www.morningstarnews.org.

Islamic State ‘forced out’ of key Libyan city of Derna

Militants from so-called Islamic State (IS) have been pushed out of the key eastern city of Derna, a rival Islamist group has said.

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IS “have all left Derna – they have no presence here anymore”, Hafeth al-Dabaa, a spokesman for Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC), told the BBC.

The al-Qaeda linked DMSC is an umbrella group for local militias.

Derna has seen a three-way conflict between IS, DMSC and forces loyal to Libya’s eastern government.

Since 2014, Libya has had two competing governments – one in the capital Tripoli, and another in the eastern city of Tobruk.

A new UN-brokered unity government is trying to restore peace in the country, which has been ravaged by conflict since the fall of Col Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

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The DMSC’s claim has not been independently verified.

Mr Dabaa said that five DMSC fighters and six civilians had been killed in fighting in Derna’s Fatayiah area in the past 24 hours.

Pictures on social media websites have been circulating since Wednesday, showing Derna residents celebrating in the port city.

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“Things are calm today (Thursday), and life feels normal, the only real problem is there is no cash in banks,” one Derna resident told the BBC.

“It was intense yesterday in Fatayiah with the DMSC battling IS, and there was also some bombardment by the air force in the city – today the DMSC can be seen manning checkpoints throughout the city.”

The resident was referring to overnight air strikes carried out by the forces loyal to the eastern government.

Mr Dabaa said the city prison that held suspected IS militants had been bombed. The spokesman added that some of the inmates had managed to escape but most of them were later recaptured.

Army spokesman Abdulkarim Sabra said the air strikes had targeted the DMSC in Derna’s Sayeda Khadija neighbourhood and at Bishr prison, Reuters reports.

IS established a base in Derna in October 2015 and fully controlled the city until June that year.

Derna was a jihadist stronghold in the 1980s and 1990s during the insurgency against Col Gaddafi.

Analysis: Rana Jawad, BBC North Africa correspondent

The developments since Wednesday mark the fall of what is believed to have been the last IS foothold on the outskirts of Derna. If this holds, it is a significant development and will be seen as evidence of the group’s faltering presence in Libya.

Despite the alarm bells ringing over IS expansion in the country in recent months, many observers believe the extremist group remains a minor player in Libya’s bigger picture of armed groups.

Today, IS fighters only have full control of the central city of Sirte and a stretch of territory on its outskirts.

However, its members and affiliates pose a violent threat in other parts of the country.

Libya’s rival armed groups largely agree on the need to fight IS, but each side is fighting on, and for, its own turf – they have not been able to unite in the battlefield.

In a separate development, the UN mission to Libya (UNSMIL) called on all warring parties in Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi “to ensure that civilians are protected” as fighting continued.

UNSMIL head Martin Kobler urged rival groups “to allow and facilitate the safe and immediate exit of all civilians who are trapped in areas affected by fighting and wish to leave”.

Much of Benghazi fell to the army and loyal militias in late February, but IS fighters and other Islamist groups still hold some areas.

 

Source:  BBC News