Israel Update

JERUSALEM-ON-THE-LINE
January 4, 2012

 

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31: 8

FIRST THE SATURDAY PEOPLE, THEN THE SUNDAY PEOPLE: Islamic terror groups have had a favorite taunt for several decades which says, first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people. This means of course, first the Jews then the Christians will be targets for terrorist persecution, subjection and elimination. Vision for Israel, in a fresh endeavor, will continue to keep you informed monthly of growing Christian oppression across Islamic controlled lands that you may pray for both the victims and their persecutors.

MUSLIM, CHRISTIANS CLASH IN SOUTHERN EGYPT: An estimated 200 Coptic Christians and Muslims clashed last week in a southern Egyptian province after a drawing depicting the Prophet Muhammad was posted on a local Christian student's Facebook page. Troops sealed off several flashpoint villages after angry residents in the province of Assiut, 200 miles south of Cairo, burnt seven Coptic homes in reaction to the drawing. Muslims oppose any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, deeming it to be idolatrous. The strife began late Thursday when four homes belonging to relatives of the Coptic student were burned. Villagers torched another three homes belonging to Copts in nearby villages on Friday. (Fox News)

GAZA CHRISTIANS LONG FOR DAYS BEFORE HAMAS CANCELED CHRISTMAS: Since the Palestinian Authority left Gaza in 2007, public expressions of Christianity have been greatly restricted and in most cases banned. Of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza, fewer than 1,400 are Christian and those who can are leaving. “People here do not celebrate Christmas anymore because they are nervous,” said one Orthodox Christian who runs a youth training center in Gaza City. “There hasn't been a Christmas tree in Gaza City's main square since the Hamas terrorist group pushed the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza in 2007, and Christmas is no longer a public holiday.” One young Gazan Christian described his surroundings: “This is not a Christian environment. There are no good universities, there is no opportunity to work, no apartments to rent and so no way we can get married. We have no future here.” The disputed territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been administered by the Palestinian Authority and in more recent years, in part, by the Hamas terrorist organization. Under these regimes, the resident Christian Arabs have been victims of frequent human rights abuses including intimidation, beatings, land theft, firebombing of churches and other Christian institutions, denial of employment, economic boycott, torture, kidnapping, forced marriage, sexual harassment, and extortion.

VISITORS IN BETHLEHEM ON CHRISTMAS: An estimated 100,000 visitors streamed into Manger Square in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, braving torrential rains to gather in remembrance of Yeshua’s traditional night of birth. Today, less than 15% of Bethlehem's residents are Christian, while a mere 60,000 Christians live in the Palestinian territories, less than 2% of the population. Israel allowed about 500 members of Gaza's tiny Christian minority to travel through its territory to the West Bank to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem. (AP) Thirty-five years ago, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Yeshua, was over 70% Christian.

CHRISTMAS DAY BOMBINGS IN NIGERIA: Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, has declared a state of emergency in northern parts of Africa's most populous nation amid mounting concerns over attacks by Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, against especially the Christian population. The terrorist organization claimed responsibility for Christmas Day bombings at several churches and other attacks that left at least 40 people dead. The first explosion occurred at the St. Theresa Roman Catholic church near the Nigerian capital Abuja during Christmas morning mass. A second explosion in the central city of Jos near another church was heard at the same time. Boko Haram said it struck three other churches. The White House responded to the coordinated church bombings with routine criticism. “We condemn this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day,” read the White House statement. British Foreign Secretary William Hague labeled the attacks cowardly as did UN Secretary-General  Ban Ki-moon. Boko Haram maintains extensive ties with Al-Qaeda in North Africa and with the Al Shabab terrorist organization in Somalia. Boko Haram outlines its demands: “We want full implementation of the Sharia system, and we want democracy and the constitution to be suspended.” Nigeria's population is almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. The twelve northern states are under Sharia law. (INN) 

PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS FACED ALIENATION, DISCRIMINATION THIS CHRISTMAS: In one of Pakistan’s poorest neighborhoods Christmas lights were going up while artists painted holiday scenes on concrete walls. The decorations did little to mask the trash and sewage that litter the ground. “Life is tough here,” explained Stefan, a 30-year old Christian from one of Islamabad’s largest Christian slums. As Christmas drew near, Pakistan’s roughly three million Christians prepared for the birth of Yeshua after one of their most difficult years ever. “People are jobless. We are in trouble,” said Stefan. Security has worsened in Pakistan, large numbers of NGOs have left the country, rendering many Pakistani Christians unemployed. Christians, who make up roughly one percent of the Pakistan’s 170 million people, have long been a poor and a marginalized community. In recent months, however, life has become even more difficult. Pakistani Christians have been harassed and persecuted by religious extremist. Christians feel more and more alienated from their country. At times the abuse has turned violent. In March the Taliban shot and killed Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities, Shabaz Bhatti, a popular Christian political leader. Still despite the challenges, Pakistanis Christians have proved to be a resilient community and as Christmas drew near they refused to allow their problems to ruin one of Christianity’s most important days. (Fox)  Please take time in your home group meetings and prayer gatherings to pray for the Christians of Pakistan and other regions increasingly permeated by Islamic terror and domination. Intercede for the courage and protection of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Yeshua, as well as for the needs of those members of church communities, friends and families close to home. 

IRAN SECURITY FORCES RAID CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS - PASTOR, WIFE DETAINED: A senior evangelical pastor and his wife spent Christmas behind bars in southern Iran. Security forces raided their Assemblies of God-affiliated church, detaining everyone in the building, including children attending Sunday school. "Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh and his wife Shahnaz were among those arrested in the southern town of Ahwaz Friday morning, December 23 while they were having Christmas celebrations," explained a friend. He said security forces pushed dozens of worshipers, including children, into two buses and brought them to a local police station. Most were eventually released, but the pastor and his wife remain in jail. (Worthy News)  Pray for the release of Pastor Sabokrouh and his wife, also for angelic protection of the children and other members of their congregation.

IRAN FREES JAILED CHRISTIAN EXECUTIVE AFTER 287 DAYS: A Christian woman who was detained as part of Iran's crackdown on devoted Christian converts has been released after more than nine months imprisonment, but concerns remain over other jailed believers according to a press report on Sunday. Shahla Rahmati, the director of a successful electronics company was freed December 20 following 287 days behind bars in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. Iranian Christians said she was sentenced on charges such as “being a member of an illegal group,” in reference to her Christian activities. Her family expressed concerns about her health saying, “Shahla needs immediate medical attention as her blood pressure is still dangerously low,” following prison mistreatment. Since her detention on March 9 last year she was reportedly kept in solitary confinement for five months. She was then moved to an overcrowded cell which she shared with hardened criminals and drug addicts. There her health deteriorated as her blood pressure dropped to very low levels. Her family said they “thank all Christians for their faithful intercession for her release,” but concerns remained over two other Christian women detained along with Shahla Rahmati. (WCN)

ETHIOPIAN CHRISTIANS ARRESTED IN SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi police and security officers raided a private prayer meeting just three days before Christmas at the home of an Ethiopian Christian in the Al-Safa district of Jeddah. Attendees were reportedly beaten before being arrested and then taken to an undisclosed location. “Saudi Arabian officials have arrested Christians in the past, but it is unprecedented for them to arrest 42 Christians at one time,” said a church leader in Jeddah. “We are particularly worried about the children of the detained Christians.” Christians in Arabia, most of who are foreign workers, are not allowed to practice their faith openly, but Saudi police can also raid private worship services, deport attendees and confiscate any Christian materials which are illegal to bring into the Islamic Kingdom. Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, stated that while not permitting a single church building where Christians can worship in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government goes even further to assault the religious freedoms of its citizens and foreign workers by hunting for and arresting Christians who attend services in the privacy of their own homes. (Worthy News)

CHRISTIANS EXPERIENCE AFTER SHOCKS OF ARAB SPRING: According to a report by Agence France Presse, the rise of Islamist movements in countries swept by the Arab revolutions has sent shudders throughout the region's Christians who fear for their survival. Although Christians in the mainly Muslim Arab world for decades have felt vulnerable, with each war or crisis prompting a mini exodus, the Arab Spring has revived the debate as to their very existence in the region. Many point to Iraq where the number of Christians has drastically fallen since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as many fled overseas in the face of deadly persecution by Muslim extremists. The number of Iraqi Christians currently stands at about 400,000, from an estimated 1.2 million before the 2003 US-led invasion. In Egypt, the Christian Coptic community has also been the target of sectarian attacks. And in Syria there are fears among the Christian minority that Islamic extremists could rise to power should the regime of Bashar al-Assad collapse. The Christian communities' fears are fed by the fact that while the Arab revolts that began a year ago initially appeared to be largely secular in character that has changed as Islamist parties gradually came to the forefront, winning elections in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt. (Yahoo)

 

Blessings from Israel 

Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff 

 

As international speakers and messengers of the Good News through music, Barry and Batya Segal are at the forefront of what God is doing in the present day nation of Israel. With strong ties in both the nations and Jerusalem, the Segals are weaving the deepest roots of our biblical heritage together with the fresh Spirit-filled worship of today to create their rich harmony of Scripture and song.

The Segals have a vast vision for God's purposes in the nations and to the people of Israel. In fact, their longing to help rebuild Israel both spiritually and physically inspired them to pioneer the non-profit charity organization, Vision for Israel and The Joseph Storehouse. This arm of their ministry focuses on assisting the poor and needy, widows and orphans, and reaching out to the new Jewish immigrants coming into the land of Israel. Vision 's most challenging project to date is "The Joseph Storehouse?", humanitarian aid center, located in the hills of Jerusalem. The Joseph Storehouse functions as a channel of blessing to all of Israel, Jewish and Arab, through the gathering and distribution of emergency medical supplies, food, clothing, and other basic life necessities. USA office contact info: Vision for Israel, PO Box 7743, Charlotte NC 28241, 866-351-0075. The Segal's web site is http://www.visionforisrael.com/

 

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.    

 

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