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June 2017 Persecution Magazine

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WWW.PERSECUTION.ORG<br />

JUNE <strong>2017</strong><br />

PERSECU ION<br />

The dangers of<br />

outreach in the<br />

world’s largest<br />

Muslim country<br />

Indonesia<br />

Underground<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Table of Contents<br />

In This Issue:<br />

FEATURE<br />

14 | Going Underground in<br />

Indonesia<br />

Pastors in Indonesia are forced to<br />

practice their faith in secrecy despite<br />

living in a country with fairly extensive<br />

religious freedoms.<br />

INTERVIEW<br />

18 | In The Eye of the Storm<br />

Pastor Edward Awabdeh of the<br />

Evangelical Christian Alliance Church<br />

of Syria shares his story with ICC.<br />

FEATURE<br />

22 | ISIS Murders Seven Sinai<br />

Christians<br />

150 Christian families have been<br />

displaced after a kill list was carried<br />

out in El-Arish, Egypt.<br />

FEATURE<br />

24 | Rescuing a Lost Generation<br />

in Nigeria<br />

Displaced children in Nigeria are given<br />

a second chance at life with the establishment<br />

of a school.<br />

16<br />

OPED<br />

26 | The National Review<br />

Publishes ICC President’s OpEd<br />

on North Korea<br />

ICC urges President Trump to push<br />

China on its policy of repatriating<br />

defectors.<br />

Regular Features<br />

3 Letter from the President<br />

A few words from ICC’s president, Jeff<br />

King, on the risks faced every day by<br />

underground pastors around the world.<br />

4 World News<br />

A snapshot of the persecution that<br />

impacts our brothers and sisters daily, in<br />

every corner of the world.<br />

8 Your Dollars at Work<br />

Learn how your gifts are providing<br />

comfort, relief, Bibles, education and<br />

vocational training to the persecuted.<br />

12 West Watch<br />

Faith under threat in the Western world.<br />

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24<br />

2 PERSECU ION.org<br />

JUNE <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


President’s Letter<br />

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to<br />

advance the gospel, so that it has become known.... Most of the brothers, having<br />

become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak<br />

the word without fear.<br />

Philippians 1:12-14 (ESV)<br />

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If they<br />

persecuted me, they will also persecute you ... on account of my name, because<br />

they do not know him who sent me.<br />

John 15:18-25 (ESV)<br />

Jeff King, President<br />

International Christian Concern<br />

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you<br />

have not grown weary.<br />

Revelation 2:3 (ESV)<br />

Pastor Nur (page 14) is the kind of pastor we love to stand behind.<br />

He is involved in outreach to Muslims in a fundamentalist area of Indonesia. Although Indonesia has laws on its books<br />

regarding religious freedom, these are mostly for show and are rarely enforced or used to protect victims of persecution<br />

from the Muslim majority.<br />

Pastor Nur’s work could cost him his life and it already nearly has, but he can’t stop.<br />

You see, Nur has found life in Jesus and must share it with his countrymen. This burden of love compels him to push on<br />

even when those who he wants to be saved are ready to kill him.<br />

Nur stands at the frontlines of a hidden battle between the kingdom of God and Satan, and in this space you see heroes that<br />

are familiar to you because you have read about them in the New Testament and the Book of Revelation.<br />

They cry out, “How long, oh Lord,” and yet they keep serving.<br />

I don’t know about you, but I desperately need them in my life.<br />

Please join with us as we bandage and build His persecuted Church on the frontlines of the battle.<br />

As always, your donations will be used efficiently, effectively, and ethically.<br />

I promise!<br />

Jeff King<br />

President<br />

International Christian Concern<br />

www.persecution.org<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

3


News<br />

5<br />

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6<br />

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4<br />

3<br />

Aftermath of the St. George’s Church bombing in Tanta.<br />

Two Churches in Egypt Bombed on<br />

Palm Sunday<br />

1 | EGYPT On April 9, Palm Sunday, two suicide bombers<br />

targeting Coptic churches devastated the Christian community<br />

in northern Egypt. The first blast hit St. George’s<br />

Church in Tanta, which is located approximately 50 miles<br />

north of Cairo. Several reports indicate that an explosive<br />

was placed under a seat in the church’s main prayer hall<br />

before it detonated during the service. Only hours after<br />

the bombing at St. George’s Church, another bombing<br />

took place at St. Mark’s Church in Alexandria. At the time<br />

of writing, these bombings have killed at least 44 people,<br />

and injured more than 100 others.<br />

Eyewitness reports and video footage of the aftermath<br />

depict a grisly scene. According to an eyewitness of the<br />

St. George’s attack who spoke with ICC, “The church<br />

became dark and there were screams everywhere.” He<br />

continued, “The blood splattered all over the church.”<br />

Egypt’s president called for a state of emergency in<br />

response to the severity of the attacks.<br />

In a matter of<br />

hours after the bombings,<br />

ISIS claimed<br />

responsibility for the<br />

attacks on its website.<br />

Unfortunately, ISISled<br />

violence is nothing<br />

new for Egypt’s<br />

Christian community.<br />

Last December, a suicide<br />

bomber attacked<br />

St. Mark’s Coptic<br />

Orthodox Cathedral<br />

in Cairo. Twenty-five<br />

Christians, primarily<br />

women and children,<br />

were killed in this<br />

incident. ISIS not only<br />

claimed responsibility<br />

for the attack but also<br />

promised to carry<br />

out more attacks on<br />

Christians—a promise<br />

that is clearly being<br />

fulfilled.<br />

These Palm Sunday<br />

bombings are indicative<br />

of the rising violence<br />

facing Egypt’s<br />

Christians. Unless<br />

Egyptian authorities<br />

take decisive action to<br />

protect the already vulnerable<br />

Christian community<br />

and their places<br />

of worship, incidents<br />

of this nature will<br />

likely continue. In the<br />

meantime, let us pray<br />

for all of those affected<br />

by these senseless acts<br />

of violence.<br />

Christian Female<br />

‘Untouchables:’<br />

A Triple Minority<br />

in India<br />

Christian “Untouchables” Form Group<br />

to Promote Rights<br />

2 | INDIA Although technically prohibited by Indian<br />

law, the class structure of untouchables remains<br />

prevalent throughout India. They are often banished<br />

from normal society.<br />

Untouchables, or “Dalits,” qualify for government<br />

benefits, but if they identify as Christians they<br />

lose any benefits associated with their Dalit status.<br />

Unfortunately, more than half of Christians in India<br />

come from a Dalit background.<br />

Dalit Christian women face perhaps the most<br />

discrimination as they are a ‘triple minority.’ They<br />

are discriminated against for their religion, their<br />

gender, and their low-caste background.<br />

As a result, society treats them as the lowest<br />

outcasts and they often struggle financially and face<br />

various obstacles that make everyday life difficult.<br />

The vast majority of Dalit women in rural India<br />

do not receive a proper education, and are therefore<br />

illiterate. This then forces them into menial work.<br />

Tragically, some succumb to human trafficking<br />

because limited prospects make them vulnerable and<br />

easy targets.<br />

In response, a group of approximately 40<br />

Christian Dalit women have banded together to call<br />

for justice. They have formed a network, called the<br />

Dalit Christian Women for Change, to help prevent<br />

abuse and encourage education among local women.<br />

4 PERSECU ION.org<br />

JUNE <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Indonesian Authorities Ban Three Churches from Meeting<br />

3 | INDONESIA In direct opposition to their declarations of religious freedom, authorities in West Java, Indonesia, have banned three Christian<br />

churches from leading religious services. The churches were told that they are not permitted to meet because “the government cannot guarantee<br />

their safety.” The affected churches are Methodist Church Indonesia, Huria Batak Protestant Church, and a group of Catholics who used a<br />

home for both catechism and Sunday school. This ban came about shortly after a radical Muslim group staged a protest, demanding that the<br />

churches be shut down.<br />

Hassan Muwanguzi was falsely accused of human sacrifice.<br />

Evangelist Falsely Accused of Kidnapping and<br />

Human Sacrifice<br />

4 | UGANDA In late February, an Islamic leader in Uganda falsely<br />

accused a Christian evangelist of kidnapping and making a human<br />

sacrifice of his adult daughter after she converted to Christianity.<br />

After converting, the daughter sought refuge with the evangelist<br />

when her father reportedly abused her for leaving Islam. This led to<br />

the false charges and the evangelist’s subsequent arrest.<br />

Thankfully, after the plaintiff failed to appear in court twice and<br />

because there were no public witnesses, a judge decided to dismiss<br />

the case. Furthermore, the judge encouraged the evangelist to file a<br />

defamation case over the matter.<br />

Primary school in France.<br />

French Teacher Suspended After Reading Bible<br />

Verses to Students<br />

5 | FRANCE A primary school teacher in central France was recently<br />

suspended from his position after a group of parents anonymously complained<br />

that he read Bible verses to their children. The parents wrote a<br />

letter to the school’s headmaster, alleging that the teacher was attempting<br />

to convert the students by promoting his own beliefs. In accordance<br />

with France’s strict secularism laws, the headmaster suspended<br />

the teacher while the school board investigates the matter. While the<br />

teacher’s suspension has been met with mixed reactions, it is one of<br />

several incidents in which Christianity has been pushed out of the public<br />

school system in both Europe and North America.<br />

Asia Bibi’s Anniversary of Arrest<br />

6 | PAKISTAN On <strong>June</strong> 19, Christians around the world will recognize the beginning<br />

of a painful ordeal for a woman named Asia Bibi. <strong>June</strong> 19, <strong>2017</strong>, marks the<br />

eighth anniversary of the arrest of Bibi. In <strong>June</strong> 2009, Bibi got into a dispute<br />

with her Muslim coworkers after allegedly drinking from the same water bowl<br />

as them. They claimed that, as a Christian, she contaminated their water. As the<br />

argument escalated, Bibi defended her faith and stated, “What did your prophet<br />

Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”<br />

Shortly after, Bibi was accused of blasphemy and has been sentenced to<br />

death for the crime. Her case has gone through countless obstacles with several<br />

delays along the way, as she continues to wait on death row. Bibi’s case<br />

is widely seen as an international example of the danger and potential misuse<br />

of blasphemy laws.<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

Asia Bibi has been on death row since 2009.<br />

5


News<br />

Prime Minister Modi of the right-winged BJP.<br />

India Illegally Destroys Christian Homes<br />

on Church Property<br />

1 | INDIA In yet another act of hostility toward religious<br />

minorities, district officials in India illegally destroyed<br />

the homes of 16 Christians living on church property<br />

who had received permission from the church to<br />

live there. The officials did not give the families any<br />

advance notice prior to the demolition, leaving them with<br />

nowhere to go. Due to the lack of warning, the families<br />

were forced to rely on neighbors to provide shelter for<br />

their young children.<br />

Many human rights activists and local Christians have<br />

spoken out in support of the families and to condemn<br />

the injustice of the demolitions. One activist argued that<br />

there is a Supreme Court ruling that specifically protects<br />

church-owned land and, therefore, it is illegal for the<br />

government to seize the land. Since Prime Minister<br />

Modi’s (pictured) rise to power in 2014, there has been<br />

a sharp increase in discrimination and violence against<br />

Christians. Unfortunately, authorities often turn a blind<br />

eye or, in this case, actively engage in the discrimination,<br />

leaving Christians vulnerable to future attacks.<br />

3<br />

2<br />

6<br />

5<br />

7<br />

1<br />

Sudanese Government Condemns<br />

Church Leaders for Speaking About<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong><br />

2 | SUDAN As previously reported, 25 churches in Sudan<br />

were notified that their church buildings were marked<br />

for demolition. The government claims that they were<br />

illegally constructed on land zoned for other purposes, but<br />

some church leaders have said that they legally acquired<br />

the land and that the demolitions are part of a broader<br />

crackdown on Christianity in Sudan.<br />

As Christians and human rights leaders begin to speak<br />

out against this injustice, the Sudanese government, as led<br />

by Omar al-Bashir (pictured), is doing everything in its<br />

power to silence the backlash. Sudan’s notorious National<br />

Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) has ordered<br />

church leaders throughout Sudan not to speak about the<br />

pending demolitions or Christian persecution as a whole.<br />

After holding a press conference calling for an end<br />

to the church demolitions,<br />

the chairman of<br />

the Sudan Council of<br />

Churches was told to<br />

report to NISS headquarters<br />

daily, along<br />

with a fellow Christian<br />

leader. They are no longer<br />

required to follow<br />

this restriction, but must<br />

obtain official NISS permission<br />

before speaking<br />

about the demolitions in<br />

the future. A key aspect<br />

of Christian persecution<br />

in Sudan is the ability to<br />

operate in secrecy, so it<br />

is more imperative now<br />

than ever to bring attention<br />

to these issues.<br />

4<br />

Sudanese President Omar<br />

al-Bashir<br />

Muslim Mob<br />

Attempts<br />

to Attack<br />

Christian Home<br />

3 | EGYPT Eight<br />

people have been<br />

arrested after a<br />

violent mob began<br />

targeting Christian<br />

homes in southern<br />

Egypt. The conflict<br />

began following<br />

claims from a group<br />

of Muslim villagers<br />

that a Christian<br />

family was holding<br />

its daughter captive<br />

following her conversion<br />

to Islam as a<br />

form of punishment.<br />

However, the family<br />

has denied such<br />

accusations.<br />

Thankfully, police<br />

were able to intervene<br />

and stop the<br />

mob by using tear<br />

gas before they<br />

reached the homes.<br />

However, this led to<br />

a scuffle between the<br />

mob and the authorities<br />

that left four<br />

policemen and seven<br />

Muslims wounded.<br />

Mobs of this nature<br />

have escalated in<br />

Egypt recently, even<br />

leading to death<br />

in some cases, and<br />

caused increased<br />

tension between<br />

local Christians and<br />

Muslims. Although<br />

many of these mobled<br />

incidents do not<br />

end peacefully, it is<br />

a relief to know that<br />

this Christian family<br />

received the proper<br />

protection from<br />

authorities.<br />

6 PERSECU ION.org<br />

JUNE <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Two Pastors Arrested for Helping North Korean Defectors<br />

4 | NORTH KOREA Two South Korean pastors, ages 66 and 42, have been arrested by Chinese authorities for reportedly smuggling North<br />

Korean defectors out of China. These arrests are only a glimpse at the wider crackdown on missionaries in China who risk their well-being<br />

to assist North Korean defectors. Defectors who are discovered by authorities in China are frequently repatriated to North Korea where they<br />

often face unspeakable retaliation.<br />

Mother and Son Arrested for<br />

Converting to Christianity<br />

5 | IRAN Toward the end of February, a Christian<br />

mother and son were arrested in Iran for converting to<br />

Christianity. When their home was raided, authorities<br />

seized Bibles and other pieces of Christian literature.<br />

Aside from unconfirmed reports that the pair may be<br />

facing medical issues, little else is known about the<br />

fate of these new Christians.<br />

The imprisonment of innocent Christians in Iran<br />

continues to rise, with a particularly harsh crackdown<br />

on those who have left Islam and converted to<br />

Christianity. However, by the grace of God and the<br />

faithfulness of those leading the underground church<br />

movement, Christianity continues to grow in this<br />

closed nation.<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

Mother and<br />

Son Murdered<br />

in Somalia<br />

6 | SOMALIA After<br />

a violent attack in<br />

the middle of the<br />

night, a Christian<br />

mother and son in<br />

Somalia have lost<br />

their lives. During<br />

the attack, Islamic<br />

radicals broke into<br />

the family’s home<br />

without warning<br />

and began shooting,<br />

while yelling, “Allah<br />

Akbar.” Although<br />

the mother and son<br />

died in the attack,<br />

three of the other<br />

children were able<br />

to escape and find<br />

refuge in a nearby<br />

town, while their<br />

father recovers in<br />

the hospital from a<br />

shot to the chest.<br />

Pakistan Arrests Three People for<br />

Blasphemy on Social Media<br />

7 | PAKISTAN Three people were arrested in<br />

mid-March for allegedly sharing “blasphemous”<br />

content on social media. The accused faced a<br />

trial before an anti-terrorism court and spent<br />

seven days in custody of the Federal Investigation<br />

Agency. In addition, their computers were confiscated<br />

for investigation. In light of these recent<br />

arrests, the Pakistani government has made several<br />

requests to social media sites, including Facebook<br />

and Twitter, that they remove blasphemous content.<br />

Although it has not been confirmed, Pakistan<br />

reports that Facebook complied with their censorship<br />

requests by removing 85% of blasphemous<br />

content, while Twitter has refused to accommodate<br />

their demands.<br />

7


Your Dollar$ at Work<br />

Christian<br />

Literature<br />

for Farida in<br />

Karachi<br />

Bibles<br />

Farida is a widow and an evangelist in<br />

Karachi, Pakistan. For years, she sold<br />

Christian literature and items encouraging<br />

Christianity in the area while managing<br />

to support her children…until Muslims<br />

forced her to stop evangelizing in the<br />

streets. They beat her and her children,<br />

threatening them with continued beatings<br />

if they did not quit evangelizing.<br />

Later, a Muslim mob, angered by Farida’s<br />

continued spread of Christian materials,<br />

attacked her home. The mob beat Farida<br />

again and damaged almost all of the merchandise<br />

that was to be sold. In response<br />

to the attacks and threats, Farida was<br />

forced to move her struggling family from<br />

the neighborhood.<br />

Farida, the primary breadwinner for<br />

her family, no longer had the resources to<br />

provide for her children. She didn’t know<br />

how she and her children would survive.<br />

ICC stepped in to provide financial assistance<br />

in order to initiate a business for<br />

Farida. With your help, ICC provided<br />

materials such as crosses, books, CDs,<br />

DVDs, calendars, and more, so Farida<br />

can provide for her family once again.<br />

The financial gain from this business<br />

will empower her to cover her expenses,<br />

provide for and educate her children, and<br />

encourage her and her family.<br />

Pakistan is notorious for persecuting<br />

Christians and limiting the levels of<br />

free speech in many different situations.<br />

Unfortunately, many Christians<br />

find themselves in Farida’s position.<br />

Living in poverty and fear, not knowing<br />

what type of persecution may come<br />

next, these Christians are unable to<br />

live full and free lives. With your partnership,<br />

ICC will continue to provide<br />

practical aid and spiritual encouragement<br />

to those who are suffering unjustly<br />

in Pakistan.<br />

8 PERSECU ION.org<br />

JUNE <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Business to<br />

Iraqi Christian<br />

Community Rebuild<br />

At just 20 years old, Ibrahim has become<br />

the primary income earner for his family.<br />

Ibrahim lost his father years ago and<br />

has since dropped out of school to help<br />

out at home.<br />

In 2014, Ibrahim and the rest of his family<br />

had to flee their home in Qeraqosh, Iraq,<br />

when ISIS attacked. Since then, Ibrahim<br />

has struggled to find work. Unfortunately,<br />

he was treated poorly at his job because of<br />

his faith. Ibrahim does not regret any of<br />

these sacrifices because they have helped<br />

keep his family safe; however, he needs a<br />

more stable income.<br />

To enable Ibrahim to provide for his<br />

family’s livelihood, ICC helped him to<br />

obtain a car that he can use as a taxi. He<br />

has done very well with his taxi business<br />

and is now adding delivery services. He is<br />

now able to provide for his mothers and<br />

younger siblings.<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

Karnataka<br />

Church Repair<br />

Community Rebuild<br />

Hindu radicals attacked a church located<br />

in Kondhapally, inside the Chitradurga<br />

district of Karnataka, India. During the attack,<br />

the radicals destroyed worship items, including<br />

an amplifier, speaker boxes, chairs and<br />

the church’s pulpit. Furthermore, intending to<br />

cause “maximum damage” the Hindu radicals<br />

secured gasoline and set fire to the church<br />

building. Once the attack was over and the<br />

incident was reported to police, authorities<br />

instructed the pastor to not conduct worship in<br />

a rental building. With no other options to hold<br />

services, the pastor looked for a tent to rent<br />

every week. However, it was difficult for the<br />

church to maintain the rental expenses.<br />

In response to their plight, ICC was able to<br />

assist the Karnataka church by replacing items<br />

that were destroyed during the attack and provide<br />

a tent for their worship service. Now, the<br />

Karnataka church congregation can worship in<br />

a place that is expense-free.<br />

Taxi Business to<br />

Afghan Pastor<br />

Underground Pastors<br />

M<br />

ost Christians in Afghanistan suffer<br />

from unemployment due to social and<br />

economic discrimination. This persecution<br />

leaves churches and their leaders unsupported.<br />

Pastor Aarif and his church are no exception<br />

to this scenario. The 35-year-old father of five<br />

lost his job and has since been unable to support<br />

both his church and his family. Despite<br />

his lack of employment, Aarif did not stop his<br />

ministry, visiting and teaching the Gospel in<br />

surrounding cities.<br />

In order to assist Aarif, ICC was able to<br />

provide a used car, both to serve his ministry<br />

and business alike. As a business, Aarif can<br />

use the car as a taxi. For his ministry, the car<br />

will quickly and safely transport him to different<br />

churches. The taxi service will ensure that<br />

he and his family have a sustainable income<br />

while also allowing Aarif to shepherd a congregation,<br />

disciple new believers, and even<br />

plant other churches.<br />

9


Your Dollar$ at Work<br />

ICC Opens an<br />

Electronics<br />

Store in<br />

Pakistan<br />

Community Rebuild<br />

F<br />

or 20 years, Hasan operated an electronics<br />

store in Pakistan, gaining a reputation for<br />

honesty and outstanding work despite working<br />

in a market dominated by Muslims. People<br />

consistently chose to hire Hasan and shop at<br />

his store rather than some of his Muslim competitors.<br />

Frustration and resentment developed<br />

among his neighbors.<br />

Envious competitors continually asked<br />

Hasan to close his shop on Fridays and join<br />

in Islamic prayers. On some Fridays, they<br />

would force him to close his shop, but he<br />

would not go to the mosque. He refused, saying,<br />

“I cannot betray Jesus.” More recently, a<br />

group tried to force Hasan to convert to Islam<br />

or leave his business.<br />

Fearing for his life, Hasan left his successful<br />

business to work as a day laborer. Without<br />

a steady income, Hasan could not reopen<br />

his business and struggled to provide for his<br />

family. ICC recently moved Hasan to a safe<br />

location and provided a microfinance loan to<br />

purchase the necessary equipment for Hasan<br />

to start an electronics shop again, including<br />

lights, light bulbs, testers, fans, safety kits,<br />

switches, plates, wiring, and more. ICC also<br />

provided rent and food aid.<br />

Fulani destruction in Agatu, Nigeria.<br />

ICC Helps<br />

Widow and Her<br />

Six Children<br />

Suffering Wives & Children<br />

I<br />

n February 2016, Islamic Fulani militants<br />

initiated a series of attacks that destroyed<br />

homes, property, and the stability of predominately<br />

Christian Nigerians.<br />

During the attacks, approximately 500 people<br />

were killed, and hundreds of homes, property<br />

and farms were destroyed in a number of<br />

villages in the Agatu Council Area.<br />

The Fulani attack in Agatu village cost one<br />

woman her husband, brothers, home, and<br />

livelihood. As a result, the widow, Laraba,<br />

and her six children were forced to relocate<br />

to an internally displaced persons (IDP)<br />

camp. They were in desperate need of<br />

assistance and shelter.<br />

ICC aided this family by building a sixroom<br />

home for Laraba and her six children,<br />

10 PERSECU ION.org<br />

JUNE <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Your Dollar$ at Work<br />

Church Support in Indonesia<br />

Underground Pastors<br />

I<br />

n 2012, an Indonesian pastor was preaching<br />

in an underground church when a<br />

group of radical Muslims entered and threatened<br />

the church. “Children were crying,<br />

people were so afraid,” he told ICC. The<br />

church was forced to leave and they spent the<br />

next two to three years avoiding further persecution,<br />

holding services in various homes.<br />

Now, the church meets on the second floor of<br />

an unmarked building. The entire first floor is<br />

left empty to give no clues as to the use of the<br />

building. It is an expensive building to rent<br />

but it’s secluded and church members feel<br />

safe. ICC has helped the church by providing<br />

speaker systems, a laptop, and a projector for<br />

Sunday school lessons.<br />

with plans to also provide a self-sustaining<br />

business. Not only did ICC want to move the<br />

family out of the IDP camp, but also to demonstrate<br />

the compassion and love of Christ,<br />

while encouraging her to trust in the Lord.<br />

ICC plans to rescue other Christian families<br />

like Laraba’s who have suffered at the<br />

hands of the Islamic Fulanis.<br />

Please continue to pray that the Agatu<br />

village will be safe from the brutal attacks<br />

of the herdsmen’s militia, and that God will<br />

open doors for supplies and resources to<br />

reach the hundreds of other families who<br />

lost their homes during the attacks.<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

Assistance to the Family of<br />

Blasphemy Victim Ali Masih<br />

Suffering Wives & Children<br />

I<br />

n September 2016, a 16-year-old Pakistani<br />

Christian, Ali Masih, was falsely accused<br />

of blasphemy. He was imprisoned for ‘liking’<br />

an image on Facebook that authorities found<br />

to be insulting to Islam. Later, in February<br />

<strong>2017</strong>, Masih was denied bail and forced to<br />

stay in prison until his hearing.<br />

Throughout Masih’s persecution, his family<br />

has suffered severe threats and has been<br />

unable to financially support themselves.<br />

Forced to move from their home neighborhood,<br />

the family had no possibilities for<br />

income. To aid in this situation, ICC provided<br />

the struggling family with a small motorcycle<br />

taxi, a business that is completely mobile in<br />

case they have to relocate again.<br />

11


est<br />

atch<br />

Catholic School Brings Suit to Protect Right to Hire Orthodox<br />

Christians as Principals<br />

St. Anthony School and the Roman<br />

Catholic Archdiocese of New York went<br />

to a Manhattan court on March 7 to protect<br />

their right to choose a school principal without<br />

government interference. They were<br />

sued by former principal, Joanne Fratello,<br />

who argues that protecting Christian schools<br />

may aid “potential jihadists.”<br />

As principal, Fratello was supposed to<br />

be a religious leader responsible for guiding<br />

and mentoring students in their faiths<br />

as well as their studies. When the school<br />

believed she was no longer effective at<br />

advancing the school’s Catholic values, St.<br />

Anthony’s chose to not renew her contract.<br />

According to St. Anthony’s attorneys at<br />

the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty,<br />

the attorney suing the school on behalf of<br />

Fratello publicly accused churches of being<br />

“dangerous to society,” hypothesized about<br />

Russian Orthodox churches “indoctrinating<br />

children with Stalinist communism,” and<br />

attacked the Supreme Court’s unanimous<br />

decision that churches can choose their religious<br />

leaders without government interference<br />

as an aid to “potential jihadists.”<br />

Swedish Court Fails to<br />

Protect Midwife Forced to<br />

Conduct Abortions<br />

T<br />

he<br />

Swedish Appeals Court issued a<br />

decision this week ruling that the government<br />

can force medical professionals<br />

to perform abortions. If they refuse, they<br />

can lose their jobs. Ellinor Grimmark, a<br />

Swedish midwife who holds to the Christian<br />

faith, has been denied employment at three<br />

different medical clinics simply because<br />

she will not perform abortions.<br />

“Participation in abortions should not be<br />

a requirement for employment as a medical<br />

professional. In accordance with international<br />

law, the court should have protected Ellinor’s<br />

fundamental right to freedom of conscience,”<br />

said the Alliance Defending Freedom’s<br />

International Director of European Advocacy<br />

Robert Clarke. “For that reason, Ellinor is<br />

considering an appeal to the European Court<br />

of Human Rights.”<br />

Grimmark lost her initial case in<br />

November of 2015 when a district court<br />

found that her right to freedom of conscience<br />

did not protect her from being discriminated<br />

against for not preforming for<br />

refusing abortions.<br />

Air Force Colonel Subjected to Repeated Investigations<br />

T<br />

he Freedom From Religion Foundation<br />

(FFRF) has brought a suit to remove an<br />

IRS tax exemption which allows religious<br />

clergy to exclude income they receive in the<br />

form of housing allowances. If they win,<br />

thousands of clergy could lose their homes<br />

or be forced to move far away from their<br />

congregations.<br />

“My life’s mission is to care for my flock,<br />

which includes our congregation, the community,<br />

and all those in need… I could not do<br />

this without the support of my congregation<br />

through the parsonage allowance,” stated<br />

Bishop Ed Peecher of the Chicago Embassy<br />

Church. Bishop Peecher is one of several<br />

C<br />

olonel Michael A. Madrid of the United<br />

States Air Force has been subjected to<br />

scrutiny and repeated investigations after<br />

being accused of making derogatory comments<br />

about homosexuality.<br />

Madrid is a devout Christian who holds to<br />

the teachings of the Bible in all areas, including<br />

sexuality. In 2014, a former colleague, who<br />

was subsequently convicted of several crimes<br />

including drug use, accused him of making<br />

negative comments about homosexuality.<br />

After submitting to a full investigation<br />

into the accusations, Madrid was cleared of<br />

all charges by the Air Force. However, over<br />

two years later, Air Force Maj. Gen. John<br />

E. McCoy unilaterally reopened the investigation<br />

and subsequently served a Letter of<br />

Reprimand to Madrid, putting his career and<br />

sterling record in jeopardy. This reprimand<br />

violates Madrid’s rights to due process. He<br />

is now being represented by the Liberty<br />

Institute as he awaits word on whether or not<br />

McCoy will rescind his discriminatory and<br />

unfair punishment.<br />

Freedom From Religion Foundation Targets Pastors in Low-<br />

Income Areas<br />

Chicago area pastors who has joined the<br />

fight against the FFRF suit. This change in<br />

a decades-old statute would hit low-income<br />

areas the hardest, as their pastors are most<br />

likely to depend on the tax exemption.<br />

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Art Studio Threatened with Jail<br />

Time over Forced LGBT Support<br />

Phoenix, Arizona, art studio is in the<br />

A appeals stage of their fight to protect<br />

their right to religious conscience. Joanna<br />

Duka and Breanna Koski, owners of Brush<br />

& Nib studio, filed a pre-enforcement lawsuit<br />

in May 2016 against a Phoenix nondiscrimination<br />

ordinance that forces them to<br />

use their business products to promote gay<br />

marriage ceremonies.<br />

The Superior Court of Maricopa County<br />

rejected their suit on September 19, 2016.<br />

Last month, Duka and Koski, represented<br />

by the Alliance Defending Freedom<br />

(ADF), filed an appeal to a higher court<br />

in Arizona which would have the power<br />

to protect the plaintiffs from possible jail<br />

time, if they were to be prosecuted for<br />

running their business in line with their<br />

deeply held religious beliefs.<br />

Jonathan Scruggs, the ADF attorney<br />

leading the suit, issued a press release<br />

stating: “Artists shouldn’t be threatened<br />

with jail time and other penalties simply<br />

for making art that is consistent with their<br />

beliefs. That’s why we asked the court to<br />

suspend enforcement of the Phoenix ordinance<br />

against our clients while their case<br />

goes forward.”<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

Houston Health Care<br />

Company Fires Catholic<br />

Immigrant Because of<br />

Religious Conviction<br />

A<br />

lexia<br />

Palma, a young Catholic woman<br />

from Guatemala who used to work at<br />

a Houston inner-city health clinic, has been<br />

fired for her beliefs. In her position at the<br />

clinic, she taught several classes, including<br />

a short course entitled “Becoming a Mom.”<br />

One of the classes in the course involved<br />

teaching about birth control. Because the<br />

Catholic Church opposes birth control, Palma<br />

asked to show a video instead of teaching the<br />

class so that she would not have to violate her<br />

religious convictions.<br />

This accommodation was permitted for<br />

approximately 18 months until a new manager<br />

told Palma to teach the class or she would<br />

be fired. Even though teaching the class<br />

constituted less than two percent of her job<br />

and other employees were happy to teach the<br />

class in her stead, the new manager denied<br />

religious accommodation and fired her.<br />

On December 21, 2016, Palma’s lawyers<br />

at the First Liberty Institute filed a<br />

complaint with the US Equal Employment<br />

Opportunity Commission, charging her<br />

employer, Legacy Community Health, with<br />

religious discrimination.<br />

Street Preachers Face Six<br />

Months in Jail for Quoting<br />

from the Bible<br />

S<br />

treet preachers Mike Overd and Michael<br />

Stockwell were convicted in March by<br />

a court in the United Kingdom for allegedly<br />

acting in a “disorderly” manner and using<br />

“abusive language.” Their “abusive language”<br />

consisted of quoting the Bible and discussing<br />

it with passersby.<br />

Andrea Williams of the Christian Legal<br />

Centre, which is funding their defense, said<br />

that an appeal has been filed. “We’ll take this<br />

all the way to the European Court if we have<br />

to,” Williams told LifeSiteNews. “Today’s ruling,<br />

in effect, states that Bible is offensive and<br />

contains illegal speech which should not be<br />

shared in public.”<br />

Williams continued, “The Bible and its<br />

teachings are the foundation of our society<br />

and provided many of the freedoms and<br />

protections that we still enjoy today. So it is<br />

extraordinary that the prosecution, speaking<br />

on behalf of the state, could say that the Bible<br />

contains abusive words which, when spoken in<br />

public, constitute a criminal offense.”<br />

Anti-Catholic Law Used to<br />

Discriminate Against Christian<br />

Schools<br />

I<br />

n<br />

2012, The Trinity Lutheran Church<br />

Learning Center, a Christian preschool in<br />

Missouri, wanted to improve its playground<br />

surface, which consisted of gravel and grass.<br />

To facilitate the needed upgrades, the school<br />

applied to a state program that provides grants<br />

to use recycled shredded tires to make the playground<br />

surface safer.<br />

Trinity Lutheran submitted a project proposal<br />

to the state, but was denied solely due to the fact<br />

that the school is connected with a church. An<br />

old anti-Catholic law on the books in many states<br />

called the “Blaine Amendment” prohibits the use<br />

of any state funds for projects that may benefit<br />

a religion. However, non-religious organizations<br />

are able to receive funds. The effect of this law is<br />

to penalize taxpayers who happen to be involved<br />

with religious institutions that seek state funds.<br />

The Supreme Court heard the case on April 19,<br />

<strong>2017</strong>, and will issue its decision later this year.<br />

13


Going<br />

Underground<br />

in<br />

Indonesia<br />

Pastors in Indonesia are forced to practice their<br />

faith in secrecy despite living in a country with<br />

religious freedom on the books<br />

ICC’s Regional Manager, Daniel Harris<br />

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15


Feature Article<br />

In February of this year,<br />

International Christian<br />

Concern (ICC) traveled to<br />

Indonesia to meet with numerous<br />

underground church pastors.<br />

We sat with these men,<br />

asking them why they had to<br />

practice their faith “underground”<br />

in a country where it<br />

is not illegal to be a Christian<br />

or even to evangelize. During these<br />

meetings, they openly shared with us the<br />

danger they face in choosing to follow<br />

Jesus in Indonesia.<br />

Every one of the pastors had stories of<br />

persecution. One pastor had to flee an<br />

angry, torch-bearing mob in the middle<br />

of the night by motorcycle. Another<br />

spent days in the jungle hiding from radicals<br />

who were hunting for him. Another<br />

pastor’s entire family was beaten and<br />

driven out of their town.<br />

Sharing your faith in Indonesia is<br />

risky. Muslims are becoming increasingly<br />

radicalized by growing religious<br />

conservatism.<br />

Sharing the Gospel is especially dangerous<br />

considering evangelical pastors<br />

and their need for follow-up as they disciple<br />

new believers. These visits alone<br />

often stir up suspicion.<br />

Pastors shared with ICC how they were<br />

often questioned as to their purpose for<br />

visiting a community, or asked why they<br />

were coming so often if they did not have<br />

something to sell or a family to visit.<br />

These men do not pastor house churches<br />

for fame or money. In fact, most of<br />

them are quite poor. One pastor sold<br />

ice cream from a cart. Another drove a<br />

used motorcycle taxi that he rented from<br />

a friend. Another sold crackers on the<br />

street. These pastors share the Gospel<br />

because they believe in it.<br />

One young pastor named Nur shared<br />

his testimony with us. He first heard<br />

about Jesus from his father, who had<br />

been a teacher of the Quran, but found<br />

Christ and became an underground pastor.<br />

Nur’s decision to follow in his<br />

father’s footsteps has meant significant<br />

sacrifice for himself and his family.<br />

As a casual laborer, he has no regular<br />

income and struggles to financially support<br />

his wife and child. To make matters<br />

worse, Nur has tuberculosis, and is often<br />

unable to afford the medicine he needs.<br />

At the time of our first meeting with Nur,<br />

we had no idea the dangers he would face<br />

within only a few days.<br />

“They stripped my clothes...They forced me to<br />

do so even though they knew I was sick. They<br />

kept punching and kicking me. I counted more<br />

than 30 times they kicked me that night.”<br />

Shortly after we met Nur, he was sharing<br />

the Gospel with some friends at their<br />

house. A neighbor asked if he could listen<br />

in on the conversation, to which the<br />

group tentatively agreed. Nur understood<br />

well the risk of allowing such a guest,<br />

but he hoped for the best and trusted<br />

the Lord. Mid-teaching, another three<br />

men entered the home, one of whom was<br />

wearing the garb of a radical Muslim<br />

organization. The three grabbed Nur and<br />

took him outside and began beating him<br />

senselessly.<br />

They punched him in the face and<br />

asked why he would teach “heresy” and<br />

attempt to Christianize a family in their<br />

community. They took his phone and<br />

his wallet and brought him to a local<br />

mosque. When he got there, they stripped<br />

him and locked him in a room.<br />

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One of the men made a phone call and<br />

15 more men showed up. Throughout<br />

the night, they would intermittently drag<br />

him out of the room and beat him. They<br />

questioned him and tried to find out the<br />

names of other pastors Nur worked with.<br />

Nur told ICC, “They stripped my<br />

clothes…They forced me to do so even<br />

though they knew I was sick. They kept<br />

punching and kicking me. I counted more<br />

than 30 times they kicked and punched<br />

me that night.”<br />

Nur continued, “I thought they would<br />

kill me that night because they even did<br />

not give me any water for me to drink<br />

and take my medicine. I thought, ‘This is<br />

it. This could be the end of my life.’ I only<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

Top Left<br />

ICC visits a Christian<br />

family living in the<br />

jungles of<br />

Indonesia.<br />

Top Right<br />

ICC attends a<br />

gathering of underground<br />

pastors in<br />

Indonesia.<br />

Bottom Left<br />

Underground pastors<br />

meet secretly to<br />

encourage each other<br />

in ministry<br />

Bottom Right<br />

ICC visits an underground<br />

gathering of<br />

believers in<br />

Indonesia.<br />

Photos by ICC<br />

Regional Manager<br />

Daniel Harris<br />

pray[ed] that the Lord will release me<br />

from this situation even though it seems<br />

impossible.”<br />

The next morning, the men called<br />

the police, but the police did not bring<br />

relief. Instead, they dragged Nur to their<br />

vehicle to take him to the police station.<br />

On the way to the station, one officer<br />

kept Nur’s head pinned to the floor with<br />

his foot as they punched and kicked him.<br />

When he got to the station, he was questioned<br />

again.<br />

They accused him of trying to create<br />

“chaos” in the community and demanded<br />

a bribe of 10 million Indonesian<br />

Rupiah (approximately $750 USD) for<br />

his release. They told him that if he could<br />

“Muslims are<br />

becoming<br />

increasingly<br />

radicalized<br />

by growing<br />

religious<br />

conservatism.”<br />

not pay, he would be charged with criminal<br />

offenses.<br />

Nur pleaded with them and explained<br />

that there was no way he could ever<br />

pay this much. He told them he was an<br />

unskilled worker and that he had no more<br />

than one dollar in cash on him.<br />

The next day, they allowed him to call<br />

his family and explain his situation, but<br />

his family didn’t have the money either.<br />

His sister went from door to door in their<br />

community, asking to borrow money to<br />

get her brother out of jail.<br />

All Nur’s sister could gather was 1.5<br />

million Rupiah (approximately $113<br />

USD). She brought it to the police station<br />

and ardently begged them to accept<br />

it. They told her that they could never<br />

accept such a small amount, but she<br />

refused to give up.<br />

Eventually they gave in, realizing it<br />

was all they could get out of them, and<br />

let Nur go.<br />

Nur told ICC that he is still recovering.<br />

Since the attack, he has trouble hearing<br />

and has been suffering with back pain.<br />

Despite tuberculosis, extensive physical<br />

ailment, and emotional fatigue, Nur<br />

says he will never stop sharing the<br />

Gospel in Indonesia.<br />

ICC is proud to partner with and support<br />

pastors such as Nur. If you want to<br />

support underground pastors like Nur,<br />

please call ICC at 800-422-5441 and say<br />

you would like to provide monthly support<br />

to one of our pastors.<br />

17


Pastor Edward Awabdeh<br />

In the Eye of the Storm<br />

Pastor Edward displays<br />

the most complete and<br />

impressive composure<br />

I’ve ever seen in a man.<br />

He speaks of church<br />

work and evangelism in<br />

the midst of war surrounded<br />

by Islamic radicals<br />

with an elegance<br />

and hopefulness that<br />

confound the Western Christian who lives in<br />

peace and safety.<br />

He and his wife have lived in the midst of<br />

war for six years since the civil war began,<br />

yet he and his wife have never considered<br />

leaving Syria.<br />

In 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring,<br />

Pastor Edward, like most Syrians, thought<br />

the uprising would only last a few months.<br />

It wasn’t until international actors like the<br />

US and Russia started getting involved that<br />

he understood the scope of the crisis that<br />

engulfed his country.<br />

In the ensuing years, Pastor Edward stayed<br />

in Syria despite the civil war. Dedicated to his<br />

ministry and in love with his country, he has<br />

served his people and his God with unwavering<br />

faith and resolve.<br />

Pastor Edward and the Evangelical Christian<br />

Alliance Church of Syria and Lebanon have<br />

always had a strategic focus for ministering to<br />

the unreached in Syria and Lebanon.<br />

“The ministry was stable (prior to the<br />

war),” Pastor Edward explained, “Our focus<br />

was on developing different kinds of ministries<br />

and to think and pray and reach out<br />

beyond the community.”<br />

Pastor Edward never could have imagined,<br />

though, that a brutal civil war would engulf<br />

his stable country and be the key factor in his<br />

mission to reach Syria with the Gospel —but<br />

that’s exactly what happened.<br />

“People were pushed to really think about<br />

their lives,” Pastor Edward recalled, “They<br />

had to think about the value of their lives.”<br />

Coming face to face with existential danger<br />

and brutality has forced many Syrians to seek<br />

truth, beauty, and goodness. The crisis and<br />

extreme pain that has engulfed Syria is causing<br />

the Church there to morph; the existing<br />

Church is dissipating, but a new Church is<br />

slowly forming.<br />

“The Lord has opened new doors for ministry<br />

that [we] were trying hard to open before<br />

the war. Areas that were very closed to evangelicals<br />

in particular, the Lord opened these<br />

areas [to us].”<br />

Pastor Edward removed his glasses and<br />

placed them neatly on the table in front<br />

of him.<br />

He continued, “We never considered leaving…we<br />

feel we are privileged to be [in Syria]<br />

at such times. We feel the Lord is really doing<br />

“We have to<br />

have the eyes<br />

of Jesus so<br />

we don’t see<br />

these people as<br />

enemies.”<br />

– PASTOR EDWARD AWABDEH<br />

something [special]. He has in mind a kind<br />

of divine project [that matches] the level and<br />

magnitude of the suffering taking place.”<br />

Pastor Edward, his wife, and a small group<br />

of ministers and missionaries believe that<br />

their presence in Syria carries a ‘weighty<br />

meaning.’ They are a witness to the people<br />

who are doubting Allah, the god of Islam.<br />

They preach the Gospel and see lives<br />

changed, even if it’s just one life at a time.<br />

“Whatever we see we feel is a sample of<br />

a larger group that is not yet known,” he<br />

told us, “This kind of reasoning is spreading<br />

everywhere.”<br />

Despite his almost outrageous optimism,<br />

Pastor Edward has experienced<br />

loss in this war.<br />

In 2015, Islamic State militants raided villages<br />

in northeastern Syria, kidnapping over<br />

250 Christians along the way. Among those<br />

believers was a dear friend and ministry colleague<br />

of Pastor Edward.<br />

“He was one of our people, he was a wonderful<br />

Christian and he opened his home…for<br />

Bible study.”<br />

That Syrian doctor, who turned down multiple<br />

opportunities to flee the war, was executed<br />

by ISIS on camera. His final moments<br />

were uploaded to the internet as a prize for<br />

radical Islam.<br />

“I really loved him,” Pastor Edward<br />

explained, “He had a great reputation in the<br />

area for his wonderful mercy work.”<br />

Having seen the footage of his friend killed<br />

online, Pastor Edward does not hate, but<br />

rather pities the executioners.<br />

“On the one side, they [ISIS] are very evil<br />

in the way they deal with humanity,” he told<br />

ICC, “but they have proven to me that there is<br />

a real spiritual battle in the world.”<br />

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He leaned forward, hands folded in front<br />

of him, “This makes me feel that those<br />

people [ISIS] are the victims…we have to<br />

have the eyes of Jesus so we don’t see these<br />

people as enemies.”<br />

Pastor Edward is very clear in the way he<br />

speaks, specifically when referring to his<br />

‘enemies.’ We must, as the Church, distinguish<br />

between the person and the evil that<br />

drives him or her. That is the first step for<br />

a new Syria.<br />

“I hope for Syria and pray that the name of<br />

Jesus will be glorified all across the country,<br />

I pray for peace in the country, I pray to have<br />

an open country with open-minded authorities<br />

with an atmosphere where Christians can<br />

develop and prosper and be free to practice<br />

their faith and tell people about their faith. I<br />

trust that the Lord can do that, but it will take<br />

a long time.”<br />

The Evangelical Christian Alliance Church<br />

has been protected time and time again during<br />

the last six years of war. Many close<br />

calls and a handful of tragic losses have not<br />

weakened the faith of this group dedicated to<br />

rebuilding Syria.<br />

Even as we spoke with Pastor Edward, the<br />

worst attacks in over a year were taking place<br />

in Damascus. While confident in his purpose,<br />

it was easy to see his discomfort at being away<br />

from home. He and his wife have dealt with a<br />

lot in these years, but they’ve always endured<br />

each trial together.<br />

In fact, a well-known story among his<br />

friends and colleagues describes the couple’s<br />

perseverance. There was a mortar shell that<br />

once landed on the roof of the Awabdehs’<br />

apartment complex. By some miracle, even<br />

after damaging a fuel tank, the bomb did not<br />

explode. This was the only time either Pastor<br />

Edward or his wife ever doubted their mission<br />

to stay in Syria, even just for a moment.<br />

“My wife said this is a warning from the<br />

Lord… I told her maybe it’s evidence from<br />

the Lord that even when a bomb falls on our<br />

heads, the Lord will protect us,” he laughed at<br />

the memory, “She loved that one.”<br />

19


Advocacy: ICC’s Syria<br />

Capitol Hill Reception<br />

From left to right: Congressman Chris Smith, ICC Advocacy Manager Nate Lance, US Commission on International Religious Freedom Commissioner<br />

Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, Pastor Edward Awabdeh and ICC Advocacy Director Isaac Six.<br />

International Christian Concern<br />

has been in this battle a long<br />

time… I think in the counsels of<br />

eternity your efforts will be judged<br />

very favorably. ICC is a group<br />

that I love, honor, respect, and<br />

revere because you’ve done so<br />

very much.”<br />

– Congressman Trent Franks,<br />

Co-Chairman, International<br />

Religious Freedom Caucus<br />

International Christian Concern (ICC)<br />

was honored to hear these words spoken by<br />

Congressman Trent Franks during his remarks<br />

at ICC’s Capitol Hill Reception: Iraq and<br />

Syria after ISIS and the Fate of Religious<br />

Minorities event on March 21 of this year.<br />

The purpose of the event was to raise<br />

awareness of the needs of Christians and<br />

other religious minorities who are the victims<br />

of ISIS’ genocide in Iraq and Syria, and<br />

also to raise awareness for a bill (HR 390, the<br />

Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief<br />

and Accountability Act) currently under consideration<br />

by the House of Representatives.<br />

The bill would provide necessary support<br />

and resources to victims of ISIS’ genocide in<br />

Iraq and Syria.<br />

Congressman Franks was joined by his<br />

colleague in the US House of Representatives<br />

and author of HR 390, Congressman Chris<br />

Smith; Commissioner of the US Commission<br />

on International Religious Freedom, Kristina<br />

Arriaga de Bucholz; and ICC’s guest from<br />

Damascus, Syria, Pastor Edward Awabdeh,<br />

president of the Evangelical Christian<br />

Missionary Alliance Church of Syria and<br />

Lebanon. Comments focused on the current<br />

plight of ISIS victims and the necessary congressional<br />

attention to address their needs.<br />

The event kicked off a larger advocacy<br />

campaign, which included 16 meetings<br />

with congressional leaders in the House<br />

and Senate, the US State Department, the<br />

office of the Speaker of the House, and the<br />

US Commission on International Religious<br />

Freedom, to raise awareness of the issue and<br />

to seek cosponsors for HR 390.<br />

In attendance at the reception were congressional<br />

staffers, other human rights staff, and<br />

media. After the event, Pastor Awabdeh was<br />

interviewed by the Conservative Review, a<br />

DC publication that covers religious freedom<br />

issues as well as politics, on the current situation<br />

of the Christian community in Syria.<br />

Advocacy events such as this are crucial<br />

to advancing ICC’s mission to help the persecuted<br />

Church. They are vital in assisting<br />

the advocacy team in fully mobilizing the<br />

resources and influence of the federal government<br />

on behalf of persecuted Christians and<br />

other religious minorities around the world.<br />

20 PERSECU ION.org<br />

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HR 390<br />

Explained<br />

On January 10, <strong>2017</strong>, Republican Rep.<br />

Chris Smith (NJ-4) introduced HR 390,<br />

the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency<br />

Relief and Accountability Act, along<br />

with his Democratic cosponsor Rep.<br />

Anna Eshoo (CA-18). This bipartisan<br />

legislation will provide substantial<br />

funds for the US to identify and address<br />

humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery<br />

needs of individuals and communities<br />

who have been targeted for persecution<br />

or genocide in Iraq and Syria.<br />

Funds will also be given to non-governmental<br />

organizations, including faithbased<br />

organizations that are working to<br />

aid these religious minorities. HR 390<br />

will help identify gaps in US law so<br />

that the American justice system can<br />

prosecute foreign perpetrators of genocide,<br />

crimes against humanity, or war<br />

crimes present in the US, as well as any<br />

Americans who commit such crimes.<br />

1<br />

Furthermore, this bill provides authorization<br />

and funding for the training<br />

and equipping of investigators, judicial<br />

personnel, and lawyers to document<br />

evidence for use in future tribunals<br />

to hold the perpetrators accountable.<br />

PHOTOS<br />

Photo 1<br />

ICC’s event was attended by congressional<br />

staff and aid organizations.<br />

Photo 2<br />

US Commission on International<br />

Religious Freedom Commissioner<br />

Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz.<br />

Photo 3<br />

Congressman Chris Smith discusses<br />

his bill, the Iraq and Syria Emergency<br />

Genocide Relief and Accountability Act.<br />

Photo 4<br />

Congressman Trent Franks addresses<br />

Capitol Hill and non-governmental organizations<br />

staff at the March 21 event.<br />

Photo 5<br />

Syrian Pastor Edward Awabdeh interviewed<br />

by the Conservative Review.<br />

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2 3<br />

4<br />

5<br />

21


Feature Article<br />

ISIS Murders 7 Sinai Christians<br />

Photo by Samuel<br />

Mohsen<br />

Coptic families from<br />

El-Arish are having to<br />

rebuild their lives in<br />

Ismailia, Egypt<br />

In February <strong>2017</strong>, ISIS published<br />

a chilling video in Egypt, promising<br />

to eradicate Christians living<br />

in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.<br />

Despite the threat, the Christian<br />

population continued life as normal,<br />

since they receive a continual<br />

stream of hateful rhetoric from<br />

fundamentalist Muslims.<br />

Unfortunately, these were not<br />

idle threats. Within a month, seven Coptic<br />

Christians were targeted and killed in the<br />

Sinai. Later reports indicated that militants<br />

were targeting Christians based on a published<br />

hit list.<br />

In all of these attacks, no one intervened<br />

or offered assistance. Witnesses, neighbors,<br />

police – no one. Perpetrators were emboldened<br />

by the inaction of onlookers, and the<br />

seemingly tacit approval signaled by the<br />

inaction of local authorities.<br />

“I was screaming in the street asking<br />

my neighbors to help me, (we are the only<br />

Christians on the street), but none of my<br />

neighbors intervened; they were all afraid,”<br />

Nevin Gamal, Wael Youssef’s widow, told<br />

ICC.<br />

As the assassinations continued uncontested,<br />

Christians in El-Arish began to<br />

panic. Many pleaded for justice and aid,<br />

but were ignored. In fact, at one point,<br />

authorities called a meeting for Christians<br />

to inform them that protection would only<br />

be found if they fled the city altogether.<br />

Shehata Hanna Nasim, a Christian resident<br />

of El-Arish, told ICC, “I lived in Arish<br />

more than 32 years, at the last period we<br />

were receiving many daily threats with<br />

death. We resorted to the police asking<br />

them to protect us, they said to us ‘Protect<br />

yourself; we cannot protect you’… My son,<br />

my wife and I disappeared (by hiding) 10<br />

days in my home till I found a chance to<br />

flee Arish; we left everything and fled to<br />

Port Said.”<br />

With the looming threat of terror and no<br />

hope for government intervention, entire<br />

communities have been pushed out of<br />

El-Arish and forced to restart their lives<br />

elsewhere; many have no intention of<br />

returning home.<br />

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Feature Article<br />

Photos by Samuel Mohsen<br />

Top Photo: The oldest Christian in El-Arish was among the 150 families<br />

that fled.<br />

Bottom Photo: Families fled El-Arish with few earthly possessions to<br />

restart their lives in Ismailia, Egypt.<br />

“We will live here in Mit Ghamr and<br />

won’t return back to Arish,” Mariam<br />

Saad, the widow of Kamel Raouf Kamel<br />

Youssef, explained. “We lost our breadwinner,<br />

our home, everything. I ask people<br />

to pray for us.”<br />

An estimated 150 families have relocated<br />

from El-Arish to Ismailia in northern Egypt.<br />

Because of the severity of the situation,<br />

most families fled with little to nothing.<br />

“We left everything in El-Arish. We just<br />

fled with our clothes we were wearing,”<br />

Neama Nabeh told ICC. “We couldn’t go to<br />

our home in Arish to take anything from our<br />

home there because I was afraid that they<br />

would kill any one of my children, so we left<br />

everything and fled.”<br />

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INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

Churches in Ismailia have stepped in<br />

to meet the needs of their threatened<br />

brothers and sisters, providing everything<br />

from moral support, to meals, to<br />

spare apartments.<br />

With the loss of personal belongings<br />

and income, the need for assistance is<br />

huge. Families are in desperate need of the<br />

security and hope that was stripped away<br />

from them.<br />

ICC is in the beginning stages of implementing<br />

both short-term and long-term<br />

projects in order to aid these hurting families.<br />

Satisfying needs such as food, housing,<br />

and small businesses could make all the<br />

difference for families that have otherwise<br />

lost the hope for survival.<br />

THE MARTYRS<br />

Martyr 1: Wael Youssef<br />

On January 30, 35-year-old Coptic<br />

Christian trader Wael Youssef was shot and<br />

killed by masked men in his grocery shop<br />

in El-Arish. The assailants then helped<br />

themselves to soda and chips in front of<br />

Youssef’s wife and son.<br />

Martyr 2: Bahgat William<br />

Zkhar<br />

On February 12, a Coptic veterinarian<br />

named Bahgat William Zkhar, 40, was shot<br />

in his car just south of El-Arish, Egypt.<br />

Martyr 3: Adel Shawky<br />

On February 13, another Copt, Adel<br />

Shawky, 57, was shot in the head by masked<br />

men in the same district.<br />

Martyr 4: Gamal Tawfiq<br />

Gares<br />

On February 16, a Coptic teacher named<br />

Gamal Tawfiq Gares, 50, was also shot by<br />

masked men in El-Arish.<br />

Martyrs 5-6: Saad Hakim<br />

Hanna and Medhat<br />

On February 22, the bodies of two<br />

Coptic Christian men were found dumped<br />

behind a school in El-Arish, Egypt. Saad<br />

Hakim Hanna, 65, was shot in the head,<br />

while his son, Medhat, 45, seems to have<br />

been burned alive.<br />

Martyr 7: Kamel Raouf<br />

Kamel Youssef<br />

On February 23, three armed, masked<br />

men broke into the home of Kamel Raouf<br />

Kamel Youssef, a Christian plumber. The<br />

intruders shot the 40-year-old multiple<br />

times in front of his wife and five children.<br />

23


Feature Article<br />

Rescuing a Lost Generat<br />

ICC classroom in refugee camp<br />

“They killed many<br />

of my friends. As<br />

we ran, they burned<br />

our houses, schools,<br />

churches, and all our<br />

means of livelihood.<br />

We couldn’t return.”<br />

-ELIZABETH, CHRISTIAN SURVIVOR<br />

OF FULANI ATTACK<br />

I<br />

was at home, while my<br />

three young children were<br />

at school [when Boko<br />

Haram] invaded my home<br />

in Gwoza, Borno State…I<br />

escaped and found my children<br />

near the schoolhouse.<br />

With only the clothes on<br />

our backs, we left our<br />

home behind.”<br />

- Elizabeth, attacked by Fulani<br />

militants in Nigeria<br />

This is Elizabeth’s story, but<br />

tragically, it is representative of<br />

the hundreds of thousands of<br />

Christians whose lives have been<br />

disrupted by Boko Haram and the<br />

Fulani militants of northern and<br />

central Nigeria.<br />

Since the turn of the century, these<br />

Islamic terror groups have killed<br />

30,000 to 50,000 people, the majority<br />

of which are Christians, not to<br />

mention the hundreds of thousands<br />

they have turned into internally displaced<br />

persons (IDPs) within their<br />

own country.<br />

They have left a huge trail of<br />

death and destruction behind them<br />

as they have sought to establish an<br />

Islamic state and push Christians out<br />

of northern and central Nigeria.<br />

In fact, Boko Haram alone has<br />

become the second most lethal<br />

terror group in the world, killing<br />

14,000 since 2009 and trailing<br />

only the Taliban.<br />

Both groups kill innocent men,<br />

women, and children, with the<br />

majority of their victims being<br />

Christians, but the Fulanis attack<br />

and destroy entire Christian villages<br />

so survivors can never return home.<br />

Elizabeth highlighted two common<br />

Fulani tactics in her story about<br />

her village’s attack, “They were<br />

screaming and yelling while shooting<br />

their guns. They killed many of<br />

my friends. As we ran, they burned<br />

our houses, schools, churches, and<br />

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Feature Article<br />

ion In Nigeria<br />

all our means of livelihood, so<br />

we couldn’t return.”<br />

After the attack, Elizabeth and<br />

her children became refugees and<br />

members of Nigeria’s massive<br />

IDP community which is over<br />

2,000,000 strong.<br />

“We spent two months living<br />

in caves without food or drink.<br />

At some places, we found sympathizers<br />

who gave us something<br />

to eat. God helped us survive.<br />

We wandered the night until we<br />

found the path to Cameroon.<br />

Afterwards, we journeyed from<br />

Cameroon to Yola, and then from<br />

Yola to Jos.”<br />

Elizabeth and her children<br />

landed in an IDP camp in Jos,<br />

Nigeria, along with 80 other<br />

IDP families.<br />

One of the hidden tragedies<br />

of the massive IDP community<br />

is that their kids are not being<br />

educated in the camps.<br />

It’s easy to ignore education,<br />

focusing instead on needs like<br />

food, water, and shelter. But<br />

many parents, like Elizabeth,<br />

desperately want their children<br />

to continue their education<br />

despite their displaced position.<br />

As Elizabeth expressed, “I want<br />

my children to continue school. I<br />

do not want them on the streets. I<br />

do not want them taken by Boko<br />

Haram. When they go to school,<br />

one day, they will also be of help<br />

to others just as others have<br />

helped us.”<br />

A UNICEF representative corroborated<br />

Elizabeth’s concern,<br />

“When children cannot go to<br />

school, they end up in the streets<br />

and they become vulnerable to all<br />

kinds of things, including being<br />

recruited into and pressed into<br />

service by the armed groups [such<br />

as Boko Haram]….”<br />

ICC visited Elizabeth’s<br />

camp in 2015 and was immediately<br />

alarmed by the fact that<br />

the children weren’t receiving<br />

any education.<br />

Nigeria’s literacy rate is slightly<br />

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INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

ICC student solving a problem at<br />

the front of class.<br />

Students gather for the opening<br />

ceremony of ICC’s IDP school.<br />

“I want to become a doctor to treat<br />

sick people and work in a hospital.”<br />

– JOSHUA, STUDENT AT THE JOS IDP SCHOOL<br />

less than 60 percent, which means<br />

that with just a bit of work, ICC<br />

could get these Christian kids<br />

to stand out and give them the<br />

opportunity and training necessary<br />

to ensure future employment<br />

and a stable income as adults.<br />

In 2016, ICC oversaw the renovation<br />

and expansion of a defunct<br />

school at the IDP camp.<br />

ICC’s Nigerian staff recruited<br />

qualified teachers and administrators,<br />

looking for passionate<br />

and capable instructors. ICC<br />

also purchased supplies like<br />

paper, pencils, chalkboards,<br />

desks, computers, uniforms,<br />

books, and backpacks.<br />

The Jos IDP school opened on<br />

March 8, <strong>2017</strong>, with a formal<br />

inauguration event. The children,<br />

their parents, an ICC staffer, a<br />

school administrator, and teachers<br />

were all present. Three class<br />

levels, Primary 1, 2, and 3, are<br />

now learning math, social studies,<br />

English, and science.<br />

No, the school will not stop<br />

Islamic militants like Boko<br />

Haram or the Fulanis’ reign of terror<br />

or allow the families to return<br />

home and rebuild the decimated<br />

homes and communities—but it<br />

will provide hope for the future<br />

for parents and children alike.<br />

Students, like Joshua, can dream<br />

about life after the IDP camp and<br />

envision a future.<br />

Joshua told ICC, “I want to<br />

be a student because I want to<br />

become a doctor to treat sick<br />

people and work in a hospital.”<br />

For two years, his dream was<br />

stalled because there was no<br />

school. Now, he eagerly attends<br />

his classes to catch up on what<br />

he missed.<br />

Continue to pray for Nigeria’s<br />

Christians who have lost everything<br />

and struggle to find hope<br />

every day. Pray that Boko<br />

Haram and the Fulanis’ terror<br />

will be silenced and that IDPs<br />

can return home.<br />

25


National Review<br />

Publishes ICC President’s<br />

OpEd on North Korea<br />

On the eve of President Xi Jinping’s visit to the US,<br />

ICC’s president calls on President Trump to push<br />

China on their policy of repatriating NK defectors.<br />

Wi t h<br />

President<br />

Xi Jinping<br />

of China<br />

visiting<br />

the US<br />

this week,<br />

m a n y<br />

wish they<br />

could be<br />

the proverbial fly on the wall at the Mar-a-<br />

Lago estate as these two world leaders hash<br />

out an array of important issues. President<br />

Trump has made it clear that he is unhappy<br />

with the status quo of the US–China relationship.<br />

For his part, Xi Jinping initially<br />

responded to Trump’s aggressive comments<br />

by implying that China may “take off its<br />

gloves” if Trump continues to antagonize<br />

it. Lately, though, Xi Jinping has pivoted to<br />

more-conciliatory comments about the value<br />

of “free trade.”<br />

The trade issue and its link to the hollowing<br />

out of the US manufacturing sector (and<br />

jobs) is certainly important. However, there<br />

is a danger that it will crowd out a host of<br />

other issues, including one that I think trumps<br />

(sorry) all others: China’s complicity in the<br />

torture and murder of tens of thousands of<br />

human beings.<br />

While China’s own human rights record is<br />

more than troubling, its steadfast support for<br />

the Kim regime and its policy of sending back<br />

North Koreans who flee is also unconscionable.<br />

It’s well known that one way the Kims<br />

have retained power is through the use of a<br />

massive gulag system in which a sizable percentage<br />

of their own population is imprisoned<br />

and murdered.<br />

Yet Beijing has an almost unique ability<br />

to influence the ultra-repressive “hermit<br />

kingdom” to its east. For decades, China has<br />

provided North Korea (DPRK) with most of<br />

its food and energy supplies and accounts for<br />

more than 70 percent of its total trade volume.<br />

Additionally, Beijing is the provider of<br />

most of the direct aid to the DPRK and serves<br />

as virtually its sole advocate in foreign policy<br />

disputes. In recent years, even China seems to<br />

be growing weary of Kim Jong-un’s antics,<br />

but the chances of it seriously addressing<br />

human rights in North Korea seem slim.<br />

North Korea is a military (and ideological)<br />

buffer state that has obvious value for China.<br />

On the economic front, if North Korea falls,<br />

China alone<br />

accounts for<br />

more than<br />

70 percent of<br />

North Korea’s<br />

total trade<br />

volume.<br />

millions of refugees are likely to flood across<br />

the Chinese border. The bill for the humanitarian<br />

crisis that would unfold is not one that<br />

China is interested in paying, so it continues<br />

to kick the can down the road and opt for the<br />

devil it knows.<br />

President Trump, in his meetings with Xi<br />

Jinping, has the responsibility to bring to light<br />

China’s intolerable support of the world’s<br />

most oppressive and murderous regime.<br />

At my organization, International Christian<br />

Concern, we feel a deep and acute sense of<br />

urgency about this issue. Christians are routinely<br />

singled out for exceptionally poor<br />

treatment by the Kim regime. The simple<br />

act of owning a Bible can send you and<br />

three generations of your family to one of<br />

the prison camps where tens of thousands of<br />

Christians have died or been executed over<br />

the past 70 years.<br />

China could drastically change a major<br />

human rights abuse overnight and save thousands<br />

of lives by ending its repatriation policy.<br />

Chinese officials are well aware that once<br />

defectors are returned to North Korea, they<br />

are at the whim of the North Korean government.<br />

Torture, imprisonment, and even execution<br />

of those who are repatriated are common.<br />

The repatriation policy makes China complicit<br />

in the persecution and death of thousands of<br />

North Koreans each year.<br />

China is seeking recognition as a global<br />

power. That presents a prime opportunity<br />

to point out its complicity in human rights<br />

abuses and may make it especially receptive<br />

to criticism on the human rights front.<br />

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The United States, while not perfect,<br />

has for decades been the champion of the<br />

repressed and oppressed. Moreover, those<br />

who suffer under despotic regimes have<br />

often looked to us to champion their cause<br />

and denounce their dictators.<br />

I am reminded of the Soviet dissident<br />

Natan Sharansky and his remarks on<br />

President Reagan’s denunciation of the<br />

USSR as an “evil empire:”<br />

“It was the great brilliant moment<br />

when we learned that Ronald Reagan<br />

had proclaimed the Soviet Union an<br />

Evil Empire before the entire world.<br />

Finally, a spade had been called a<br />

spade. Finally, Orwell’s Newspeak<br />

was dead. President Reagan had from<br />

that moment made it impossible for<br />

anyone in the West to continue closing<br />

their eyes to the real nature of the<br />

Soviet Union.<br />

For us, that was the moment that<br />

really marked the end for them and<br />

the beginning for us. The lie had been<br />

exposed and could never, ever be<br />

untold now.”<br />

Each generation witnesses its own<br />

atrocities and unchallenged evils. This<br />

week, President Trump has a unique<br />

opportunity to call out the North Korean<br />

regime for what it is and to challenge<br />

China to end its policy of repatriating<br />

North Korean defectors.<br />

Such a move on the president’s part<br />

would find support on both sides of the<br />

aisle, demonstrate moral leadership to<br />

critics and supporters alike, save thousands<br />

from the camps and firing squads of<br />

the Kim regime, and be a bold first step in<br />

building a legacy as a champion of human<br />

rights and freedom. Maybe, if done well,<br />

it could even be another “great, brilliant<br />

moment” and the beginning of the end<br />

for one of the most reprehensible evils of<br />

our time.<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

— Jeff King has served as the president<br />

of International Christian Concern<br />

(ICC) since 2002 and has traveled<br />

extensively to meet with victims of religious<br />

persecution around the world and<br />

to provide assistance.<br />

27


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