Prayer for Houston

As this video shows, Houston, Texas, was dealt a devastating blow by Hurricane Harvey. To everyone affected, our hearts and prayers go out to you. To those of us viewing these pictures from outside and hearing obout the struggle people are going through, we recognise that our attempt to convey comfort through words seems so inadequate at this time. We can just send our love and pray that somehow you will find the strength to come through this.

Please continue to pray for the people of this 4th largest city in the USA as they come to terms with their loss, and face the task of recovery for the future.

Below is comment and prayer from John Stonehouse of the Colson Center

“The images coming from Houston, south Texas, and Louisiana are absolutely staggering. We must pray for them, that God would protect those in danger. That He would provide shelter, clothing, and food to all those in need. Pray for the police, firefighters, the National Guard, and all the volunteers. Pray for local and state and federal officials that are coordinating relief efforts.

And please pray for churches in Houston and the surrounding areas and states, that they’ll do what Christians throughout history have always done in the face of disaster—run into it, and not away from it.

Even now, let’s pray: God of compassion, You hear the cries of all those who are in trouble or distress; accept our prayers for those whose lives are affected by storms and flooding: strengthen them in their hour of need, grant them perseverance and courage to face the future and be to them a firm foundation on which to build their lives. This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Pastors Arrested in Sudan as Government Moves to Take Over Church

Seven leaders interrogated, released on bail.

The Rev. Kwa Shamaal. (Morning Star News)

Police in Sudan arrested and interrogated seven church leaders last week in Omdurman, Sudan before releasing them on bail, sources said.

The Christian leaders were jailed for six hours on Wednesday (Aug. 23) and charged with refusing to comply with an order to turn over leadership of their congregation to a government appointed-committee. Omdurman lies across the Nile River from Khartoum, the capital.

The Rev. Ayoub Mattan, Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) moderator, and Kwa Shamaal (also transliterated Kuwa Shamaal), head of missions at the SCOC, were among the church leaders arrested. Pastor Shamaal was previously arrested on Dec. 18, 2015 and acquitted on Jan. 2 this year of charges ranging from spying to inciting hatred against the government.

Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments had written a letter dated Aug. 14 ordering them to hand over church leadership to the committee appointed by the government ministry, sources said. When they refused, police opened a case against them, though it was unclear under what law.

“Police asked if we still maintain our stance on our refusal to acknowledge the committee appointed by the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments, and we said yes, because it is not the work of the [government] ministry to appoint committees for the church,” Pastor Shamaal told Morning Star News.

Police said that in arresting them they were implementing orders from the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments to impose its committee as new SCOC leadership, presumably to sell off the church property in Sudan’s bid to rid the country of Christianity. The pastors said the committee was contrary to SCOC’s constitution, which calls for general elections every three years to appoint new leadership.

Pastors Mattan, Shamaal and the others are still members of the legitimate executive committee of the SCOC, sources said. The current leadership term expires in March 2018.
Police also arrested the Rev. Yagoub Naway and pastor Musa Kodi, both from the SCOC. The four Christians were interrogated along with the three other church leaders, including SCOC Finance Secretary Abdulbagi Ali Abdulrahaman and SCOC Deputy Finance Secretary El-Amin Hassam Abdulrasool, before they were all released on bail.

Six other SCOC members are in hiding after learning police were searching for them to arrest and interrogate them, sources said.

Another SCOC pastor, the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor, had received a 12-year sentence earlier this year after being charged with spying and trying to tarnish Sudan’s image, but he was freed along with Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfur on May 11 after receiving a presidential pardon.

He had been arrested along with Pastor Shamaal in December 2015. They were convicted on baseless charges of assisting Czech aid worker Petr Jasek – pardoned and released on Feb. 25 – in alleged espionage, causing hatred among communities and spreading false information, according to their attorney.

Foreign diplomats and international rights activists took notice of the case after Morning Star News broke the story of the arrest of pastors Abdelrahim Tawor and Shamaal. Their arrests were seen as part of a recent upsurge in harassment of Christians.

Most SCOC members have roots among the ethnic Nuba in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, where the government is fighting an insurgency. The Nuba along with other Christians in Sudan face discrimination and harassment, as Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has vowed to introduce a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language.

In its campaign to rid the country of Christianity, Sudan has designated 25 church buildings for destruction, and on Aug. 2 it demolished a Baptist church in Omdurman. On May 7 Khartoum state authorities in Sudan demolished a church building in the Khartoum suburb of Soba al Aradi, which began as a refugee camp for south Sudanese. A bulldozer sent by Jebel Aulia locality and the Ministry of Planning and Urban Development destroyed the SCOC building.

Authorities had notified church leaders of the impending demolition just a week prior. The government reportedly claimed the churches were built on land zoned for residential or other uses, or were on government land, but church leaders said it is part of wider crack-down on Christianity.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.

Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.

Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2017 report.

Sudan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

Source: Morning Star News

 

 

American Pastor Held in Turkey Faces More Charges

By Dale Hurd

Pastor Andrew Brunson, Photo, Facebook

American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been imprisoned in Turkey for nearly a year on terrorism charges, now faces new charges, including espionage.

The 48-year old Brunson, a missionary from Black Mountain, North Carolina, was detained last year and later charged with “membership in an armed terroristic organization.”

Last week, the government filed four new charges against Brunson, including acquiring secret political and military information and attempting to destroy constitutional order and overthrow the Turkish Parliament, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Brunson, who has lived and worked in Turkey as a missionary for 23 years, has denied all the charges.

He and his wife were charged with immigration violations. Norine Brunson was later released.

Both President Trump and Vice President Pence have personally asked Turkish officials to release Brunson.

Jay Sekulow, an attorney representing Brunson, told the Journal, “The charges that are leveled against him are absolutely false.”

Sekulow also said Turkey is keeping records of the case against Brunson sealed, making a defense of the jailed pastor extremely difficult.

Source: CBN News

Mother in Uganda Beaten, Driven from Home for Embracing Christianity

Entryway to Kamuli General Hospital in eastern Uganda. (Kamulipage)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A woman in eastern Uganda who put her faith in Christ is in hiding after her husband beat her for leaving Islam, sources said.

Sophia Nakisaala, 35, turned to Christ on Aug. 7 after her daughter was healed when a street preacher she’d heard in Bulopa village, Kamuli District, prayed for her. Kamuli is 143 kilometers (88 miles) northeast of Kampala, the capital.

Nakisaala was on her way to Kamuli General Hospital with her ill 5-year-old daughter when she stopped to listen to the evangelist from an area church (undisclosed for security reasons). She later met with the street preacher, who prayed for her daughter.

“My child got healed instantly from high fever, which had caused several convulsions,” Nakisaala told Morning Star News by phone. “The evangelist shared with me about Issa [Jesus], whom he said to be the healer and Savior. I then decided to accept Him as my Lord and Savior and then returned back home.”

At home she told her husband, Muhammad Lubaale, about the healing of the child. He was initially inquisitive, but she stopped short of telling him about her new faith after he slapped her, she said.

“As I mentioned to my husband that the preacher also prayed for me, his mood changed and he was not able to wait for me to finish the whole story,” she said. “He got angry and slapped me. I kept quiet and did not respond to his interrogation about my new faith in Jesus.”

Word of the healing of their girl and Nakisaala’s subsequent faith in Christ later reached Lubaale.

“My husband arrived home on Aug. 10 and started beating me and injuring me with bruises on my head and right hand, using a stick,” she said.

“Neighbors came to my rescue and housed me that very night.”

The following morning, while her husband was away, she gathered up her four children, ages 3, 5, 8 and 11, and went to an area pastor in Tirinyi Sub-County, Kibuku District. The pastor reported the attack to a local council administrator.

The church has sent her to a place of refuge while she recovers, the pastor told Morning Star News by phone.

“The local council administrator at Tirinyi has promised to offer us security and protection in case the Muslims turn against us,” he said. “We earnestly request prayers to that effect.”

Many of Uganda’s Muslims are concentrated in the eastern part of the country, where Morning Star News has documented attacks. Earlier this year Muslims began monitoring pastor Christopher James Kalaja of Nakabale village, Kaderuna Sub-County, because he filed a court case against those who recently destroyed his farm, home and church building, his wife told Morning Star News.

Nine Muslims bearing swords, clubs and metal objects rampaged through his property on March 27, shouting the jihadist slogan “Allah Akbar [God is greater], Pastor Kalaja said. The leader of the 86-member Agape Sanctuary International Church reported the case to Kaderuna police, but officers initially took no action, he said. Unable to elicit any police help, on March 28 he filed suit in Budaka District court, which he said prompted police to file a case.

After relocating his family from a friend’s hut to another unidentified location, Pastor Kalaja continued receiving threats, his wife said. The family has spent sleepless nights over anonymous text messages, his wife said.

The incident is one of many recent attacks by non-state figures on Christians in eastern Uganda. The country is about 84 percent Christian and 14 percent Muslim, according to census figures.

Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.

Source: Morning Star News

UNICEF: Boko Haram use of child bombers soars

At least 83 children, mostly girls, used by the armed group in suicide attacks this year, says the UN agency.

The UN has voiced alarm at Boko Haram’s increasing use of children as “human bombs” [File: Jossy Ola/AP]

The number of children, mainly girls, used by the Nigerian armed group Boko Haram as “human bombs” has quadrupled this year, according to UNICEF.

The UN’s children agency said on Tuesday that since January 1, 2017, 83 children have been used by the group to carry out bomb attacks in north-eastern Nigeria – four times higher than it was for the entirety of 2016.

The body said 55 of them were girls, most often under the age of 15. Twenty-seven were boys, and one was a baby strapped to a girl.

“UNICEF is extremely concerned about an appalling increase in the cruel and calculated use of children, especially girls, as ‘human bombs’ in northeast Nigeria,” the agency said. “The use of children in this way is an atrocity.”

READ MORE: ‘Alarming’ rise in Boko Haram child suicide bombers

UNICEF said that Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden”, has sometimes, but not always, claimed responsibility for these attacks.

The UN body did not give an explanation for the rise in numbers.

“We feel this is just the way Boko Haram terrorises women and children in the community,” Milen Kidane, UNICEF’s chief of child protection, told Al Jazeera from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

Hafsat Muhammed, a Nigerian rights activist and journalist, said the actual number of children used by the armed group is even higher.

“The conflict has reached to a stage that these insurgents are diverting attention by using children,” she told Al Jazeera.

READ MORE: One million forced from school by Boko Haram war

Muhammed said that armed groups like Boko Haram give children a sense of belonging in a society where they do not have the basic necessities.

“Children tend to fall into the hands of Boko Haram, who would then reign over them and use them, just because they feel that they belong and they have persuaded them that maybe this is the cause of life,” she explained.

‘Rise up against atrocities’

The UN estimates that 20,000 people have been killed and at least 1.7 million displaced since the armed group launched its armed campaign in northeast Nigeria eight years ago.

The violence has also spread to neighbouring countries, leading to the closure of more than 2,000 schools in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, according to a 2015 UNICEF report.

Chibok community welcomes schoolgirls release
Hundreds of others have been attacked, looted or burned by Boko Haram, while an estimated one million children have been forced out of school as a result of violent attacks in northeastern Nigeria and its neighbouring countries.

In its statement on Tuesday, UNICEF said that the attacks have led to children who escape or are released by Boko Haram being viewed with suspicion and rejected by their communities.

The violence and security situation in the region has also forced thousands of parents not to send their children to schools.

“I think the society needs to own up to its irresponsibilities of not catering for its children and rise up against such atrocities,” Muhammed said.

UNICEF’s Kidane offered optimism that efforts are being made to put an end to the crisis.

“We are seeing a lot of collaboration with the military in Nigeria,” she said. “Work is being done so that the release of these children is done as quickly as possible while maintaining their human dignity.”

Additonal reporting by Saba Aziz: @saba_aziz

Source: Al Jazeera News

Founder of the African Children's Choir, Music For Life and Friends In The West.