Central Africa Threatened by Terrorist Group

Eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo are undergoing continued attacks from a jihadist group, Muslim Defense International (MDI), previously known as ADF-NALU. Many Christian communities have been targeted, especially in the town of Beni and surrounding areas, as MDI seeks to advance its Islamist dominance. The most recent reports, which record 19 deaths occurring in September alone, are part of a much longer calamity.

Since October 2014, MDI has launched over 35 attacks, which have resulted in approximately 600 lives lost, 800 kidnapped, and over 500,000 displaced due to violence. MDI uses the tactic of kidnapping as a way to add to their numbers. Civilians, primarily children, are captured and taken to training camps in remote areas where they are abused and forced to join the militia. So far it is estimated that 1,500 children have been used for such purposes.

The MDI began in Uganda as a rebel group and until recently operated under the name of ADF-NALU. In 1995 it was driven out by the Ugandan army causing it to cross over into DR Congo territory. MDI has 800-1,400 highly organized and well-trained members who operate under the leadership of Shaykh Jamil Makulu. The organization has recently become more mobilized, and many are concerned there are links between MDI and other African jihadist groups such as Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, and Al-Shabaab. Though this group poses an obvious threat not only to the DR Congo, but internationally, the international community has paid very little attention to its rising violent acts.

Please join Jubilee Campaign in praying for the DR Congo and the victims of these attacks. Pray that the international community would take these attacks seriously and respond with unified action against MDI. Finally, pray that God would strengthen Christians in the area and bring more people to himself amidst the ongoing violence and persecution.

Read more about the topic…

https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2015/10/4051016/

ISIS Hostages Freed

Throughout the terror of ISIS, numerous reports of abductions by the terrorist group have been released. However, this past weekend good news was reported by the Assyrian International News Agency that 37 Assyrian Christians have been released.

The Assyrians were kidnapped by ISIS on February 23rd when ISIS attacked 35 Assyrian villages along the Khabur river. 253 were captured in total, most having not returned home. Among those released, all are elderly and 27 are women. The hostages safely arrived at the town of Tel Tamar on November 9th.

ISIS remains holding 353 Assyrians hostage. 168 are from the Khabur region while the remaining 185 were captured in Qaryatain.

Good news also came late in October as another 70 hostages were released by a joint operation by the U.S. and Iraqi forces, 20 of which were members of the Iraqi security forces. Camera footage from a helmet showed the raid on the prison in Hawija. The raid resulted in detaining five ISIS militants as well as recovered intelligence about the terrorist group.

This was the first time American soldiers had directly helped local Iraqi forces on the ground. Until now, U.S. forces had solely been training and advising Iraqi forces. The help, however, came at a cost with one U.S. soldier being killed in the attack.  U.S. Army Master Sgt Joshua Wheeler of Oklahoma is the first American to die in combat against ISIS.

We continue to pray for those still under captivity of ISIS. Join us in also praying that the Christians who are continually facing persecution in the area would be strengthened during this time.

To read more about the release of the hostages, visit:

http://www.aina.org/news/20151107050524.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/23/world/middleeast/us-commandos-iraq-isis.html?_r=0

Hundreds of Pakistani Christians Arrested in Bangkok

On September 10, hundreds of Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Bangkok were arrested in a raid conducted by Thai police, immigration authorities, and the Army. The asylum seekers, which included children, nursing women, sick and elderly, were transported directly to the Immigration Detention Center.

 

The arrests follow the visit of Lord David Alton last week, who met with authorities to address issues of overcrowding in the detention centers and inhumane treatment. Lord Alton also held meetings with asylum seekers to gather witness testimony to the issues facing the Pakistani Christian community in Bangkok. Pakistani asylum seekers in Bangkok, most of which are fleeing religious persecution, are often targeted in Bangkok due to their noticeably dark skin. The UNHCR in Bangkok has experienced a back-log in their system, which as enabled the asylum seekers’ visas to expire before getting a chance to have an interview with the UNHCR, therefore making the asylum seekers prone to arrest.

 

Urgent prayer is needed for the release of those arrested. Please also call or send a letter to the Thai embassy in your home country and request the Thai authorities to release the Pakistani Christian asylum seekers.

For those in the United States:

Ambassador Pisan Manawapat

1024 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.,

Washington, DC 20007
Salutation: His Excellency

Tel: 202-944-3600

Fax: 202-944-3611

To learn more about the situation of Pakistani Christians in Thailand:

Evidence Taking Sessions With Pakistani Christians – September 2015

International Scandal of 95 Detainees Held in One Cell – Including Children

Lord David Alton visits Bangkok, finds 95 detainees in one cell

Last week, British Independent Peer, Lord David Alton, visited Bangkok’s Detention Centre for Refugees and met with Pakistani Christians who are detained there. Below is a report of Lord Alton’s findings:
“Earlier today, Friday September 4th, during a visit to Bangkok’s Detention Centre for Refugees, the British Independent Peer, David Alton (Lord Alton of Liverpool), met Pakistani Christians who are being held there. One detainee told him that he and his six year old son are sharing a cell with 95 other men and children and is permitted to see his wife and other children, who are held elsewhere in the Detention centre, once a week for one hour.
The man, who is a Christian pastor, had fled Pakistan after threats to him and his family. There are around 4,000 Pakistani Christian men, women and children now livi11988729_544638072349845_5010656782023027868_nng as illegals or being held in detention centres in the Thai capital.
Their plight is documented in the Jubilee Campaign report “Don’t Turn Them Back”:
In meetings with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) the Peer presented officials with a petition organised by Pakistani Christian leaders in Bangkok along with a dossier. This documented appalling, scandalous overcrowding; the lamentable failure to process asylum applications – some will not be considered and resolved until 2018; the dismal lack of UNHCR resources and personnel; the lack of legal representation for detainees; the failure to protect women and children; inadequate and flawed translation provision; the denial of education for children and young people; meagre health care, leading to deteriorating conditions and deaths of refugees while detained; and the dismissal of evidence from Pakistan highlighting an escalation in violence against the tiny Christian minority and the well founded fear of lethal persecution.
UNHCR officials conceded that there is “extreme overcrowding” in the detention centres and that “conditions in Thai prisons are actually better than in the detention centres.”
The Peer later met with senior British officials who have been monitoring the situation and held evidence taking sessions with a number of Pakistani Christians who are forced to live illegally because of the failure to process their applications.
He said that “the exodus from Pakistan is driven by visceral hatred and a fanatical disregard for the rights of minorities. In a country where the brave Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, can be murdered in broad daylight, where churches are bombed, where an illiterate woman can be sentenced to death of alleged blasphemy charges, where a husband and wife can be burnt alive in front of their young children, and where there is a culture of impunity which rarely leads to those responsible being brought to justice, it is little wonder that many Christians are fleeing for their lives. It doubly compounds their suffering when the international community fails to step up to the plate in defence of those who have to endure such pitiless suffering and hardship.”
To read more about Lord David Alton’s findings during his trip to Bangkok, click here.

Dean Jones: When It’s All Been Said and Done, a Defender of the Persecuted

The following tribute was written by Faith McDonnell, Director of Religious Liberty Programs and of the Church Alliance for a New Sudan at the Institute on Religion and Democracy. If you would like to donate to the Christian Rescue Fund, a fund dedicated to aiding Christians escaping persecution, please find the donation button below.


 

I was saddened to hear of the death of actor Dean Jones on September 1, 2015, and pray God’s comfort for his loving wife, Lory, and all those who loved him. Dean reached out to IRD in 1998 because of his concern for persecuted Christians around the world, and I was privileged to speak to him and correspond with him. His passing into Eternity is a great loss for those who remain, but we rejoice in his Homecoming. Rest in peace, dear brother, and rise in Glory to hear the Lord’s “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

On September 1, 2015, the world lost a great man and talented actor. Dean Jones, 84, died due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to news reports. But the world also lost a great defender and protector of the persecuted. Jones was a follower of Christ with not just a “personal faith,” but one who used his wealth and influence to serve the suffering Church around the world.

If Dean Carroll Jones, who was born January 25, 1931 in Decatur, Alabama, only had been a film and stage star, that would be enough for him to be remembered and lauded by the world. But in Heaven, hundreds of persecuted Christians will testify to his faithfulness in sharing in their suffering. Jones’ story leads all the way from Los Angeles to such places as South Sudan and Fairfax, Virginia. And even through the phone lines of the Institute on Religion and Democracy!

For dedicated Disney fans, Jones will always be Jim, the race car driver in The Love Bug, the 1968 movie about a Volkswagen Beetle “Herbie,” with a mind of its own. Or they may think of him as the allergy-prone FBI agent Zeke Kelso in That Darn Cat. Jones, who made 10 films for Disney, was inducted in the Disney LEGENDS Hall of Fame in 1995.

Jones also received accolades for his work on stage, particularly in the Harold Prince/Stephen Sondheim Tony-laden musical, Company. Jones originated the role of Bobby in the musical in April 1970, and according to Playbill, “earned a place in Broadway history” for his performance. Most of the star’s obituaries feature a link to his powerful solo for the original Broadway cast recording of Company, “Being Alive.” Jones left the show after only a month, though, because of personal problems including a failing marriage and depression over the emptiness of his life.

Fame and financial success didn’t bring the actor satisfaction. In a 1991 interview in People magazine, Jones revealed how MGM studios “was grooming him to become the next James Dean.” Jones, who had grown up in a Christian home and attended Asbury College (Wilmore, KY) before dropping out, said that “the angry young man period in Hollywood” really fit his personality. “I was very angry, very hostile. I was drinking and partying all night. I had hundreds and hundreds of affairs, even though I was still married.” Jones and first wife, Mae Entwistle, divorced in 1970.

Jones was on the run from God. He felt emptiness in the midst of great success, when he should have felt the most fulfilled. Combined with two close brushes with death — a motorcycle accident in 1968 and a car crash in 1970 — the restlessness in his spirit made him aware that God was still there no matter how far he ran.

Of his accident, obituary writer Mark Ellis relates that as Jones “lay in the desert with 13 broken bones, bleeding profusely, and a concussion, he knew he faced a critical turning point.” The haunting poem by 19th century British poet Francis Thompson, “The Hound of Heaven” says Ellis, “played in his mind as a friend worked feverishly to keep him from bleeding to death.” The title of Jones’ 1982 autobiography, published by Chosen Books, Under Running Laughter, is a line from that poem, describing how man tries to hide from God.

When Jones and his second wife, Lory Basham Jones, surrendered to the Lord, their transformation did not stop with their own personal peace and salvation. Jones became a spokesperson for the Christian humanitarian organization Compassion International. He and Lory chose to pray on a regular basis for Uganda and ministered to persons living with AIDS. They became parents to seven foster children over the years, in addition to their own three children, Caroline and Deanna, from Jones’ first marriage and Michael Patrick Jones, his son with Lory. And they searched for ways to help persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

On a summer day in 1998, one of my IRD colleagues informed me that Dean Jones was on the telephone for me. “I think it’s the movie star from The Love Bug,” he said without a trace of humor to indicate if he was joking, “Oh yeah, ha, ha, ha,” I retorted, assuming it was either someone with the same name as the actor, or someone playing a trick. But as soon as Dean Jones said hello, I knew he was the genuine article.

Jones had been directed to IRD by the office of then Senator Sam Brownback for information I had about Christians in Sudan. We ended up talking several times, and then corresponding a few more over the next year. I tried to arrange a meeting for him with a Sudanese bishop who was visiting San Diego, but, sadly, the bishop’s trip was cut short by the U.S. bombing of the Al Shifa “pharmaceutical” factory.

Not long after that, though, Jones accompanied Senator Brownback to the south of Sudan, an area of brutal persecution of Christians under genocidal jihad by their own northern government. He met Christians from the Diocese of Yei and attended a worship service with them there.

Also in 1998 Jones founded the Christian Rescue Committee (CRC), now the Christian Rescue Fund, to help persecuted Christians, Jews, and other vulnerable minorities. Gary Lane, CBN News Senior International Reporter says, “I know CRC rescued hundreds, if not thousands, of persecuted Christians. Jones would have rescued millions if he hadn’t been limited by money and logistics.”

The most fruitful and ongoing partnership for Jones on issues of the persecuted church was with Christian human rights group Jubilee Campaign USA and its associated law firm, Just Law International in Fairfax, Virginia. Jubilee Campaign’s Executive Director, human rights attorney Ann Buwalda, declared that Jones was “dedicated to rescuing persecuted Christians and bringing them to safety.” Buwalda lauded Jones, saying:

For many years Jones collaborated with Jubilee Campaign in navigating the road to safety and resettlement for numerous believers forced to flee because of their faith, such as victims of the infamous Pakistani blasphemy laws.  A few years ago and on account of his declining health, Dean gifted his Christian Rescue ministry to Jubilee Campaign USA.  We named it the Christian Rescue Fund, and we continue to assist Christians fleeing persecution as a legacy to him.  Dean’s compassion for the suffering church has been an inspiration to me, particularly as he stayed faithful to care for them despite his waning health.

Obituaries for the star noted that in lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to the Christian Rescue Fund.

Years after his first screen and stage successes, Jones was again starring in a number of stage and screen productions as well as in several Christian projects. He was ‘Cap’n Andy’ in Hal Prince’s epic $10 million touring production of Show Boat, “where he played to SRO crowds and rave reviews across the country.”  And Jones’ advisor biography for the Dove Foundation says that his one-man play about Jesus’ disciple John, St John in Exile, “has been called a ‘masterpiece’ by several critics.” The foundation continues, “The late Alan Jay Lerner said St. John in Exile had ‘changed’ his life.” And it reports that “Director Dan Curtis calls Jones’s St. John, ‘The best performance I’ve ever seen.’”

A great legacy by any standard. But the words that describe the most important legacy of Dean Jones, his faithfulness to the Gospel and his defense of persecuted believers, are found in Jim Cowan’s song, “When It’s All Been Said and Done.”

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for You?

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I’ve done for Love’s reward
Will stand the test of time.

https://juicyecumenism.com/2015/09/09/dean-jones-when-its-all-been-said-and-done-a-defender-of-the-persecuted/

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