Why is Joe Biden ignoring Christian persecution in Nigeria?

Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Important Takeaways:

  • ‘Stop Killing Christians’: Biden Admin Hit with Massive Petition Over ‘Puzzling’ Handling of Persecution in Nigeria
  • The Biden administration removed Nigeria last year from the U.S. State Department’s Countries of Particular Concern list, sparking rebuke and concern from persecution watchdogs.
  • “In the same year, Islamic terrorists, militants, and other extremists killed 4,650 Christians in Nigeria! It is not right for America to leave these Christians behind. We must stop the killing.”
  • This year more than 33,000 people have signed a petition imploring President Joe Biden to reinstate the African nation to an important persecution watchlist.
  • “The entire north of the country of Nigeria operates under shariah law,” Curry said. “There are extremist groups [like Boko Haram]. The ideology is the same. They target Christians because of their faith … they’ll attack entire villages.”
  • Open Doors USA’s 2022 World Watch List ranks Nigeria as the seventh most dangerous place in the world to live as a Christian.

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G20 Meeting Iraq’s Archbishop warns Christians on the edge of extinction in his country

Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Important Takeaways:

  • ‘On the Very Edge of Extinction’: Iraqi Archbishop’s Dire Warning About Christian Persecution, Violence
  • The Most Rev. Bashar Warda, the Archbishop of Erbil, told hundreds of religious leaders gathered for the G20 Religion Forum in Bali, Indonesia, he’s fearful for the state of believers in his nation.
  • Christianity in his war-torn country is “on the very edge of extinction.”
  • “The brutal logic of this is that there does eventually reach an end point where there are no minorities left to kill, and no minorities left to persecute,” Warda said. “Such is the bleak future of religious pluralism in Iraq today.”
  • He continued, “I pray that you will find in our story a clear warning to you all.”

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The Temptation to Compromise starts with staying quiet on issues of today’s culture: Will Church Leaders compromise?

Matthew 24:4, 9-10 ““See to it that no one deceives you. … They will deliver you over to be persecuted and killed, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray and hate one another, and many false prophets will arise and mislead many”

Important Takeaways:

  • Prepare To Stand: Will Church Leaders Compromise To Avoid Persecution?
  • How could deception creep into the church, and what could it look like?
  • The messaging from our culture is that pleasure and self-fulfillment are the highest values: Follow your heart. Be authentic. Be true to yourself. In practice, this means that I do what makes me feel good. My feelings determine my own truth, and I live according to my truth.
  • Many who identify as Christian deny the exclusivity of Jesus. They think there are multiple ways to God, and many don’t think Jesus’ demands for obedience apply to them.
  • Many church leaders are now hesitant to teach on the wedge issues because it will cause division.
  • Going forward, pastors will face tremendous external pressure to compromise, and those who do will be held up by society as examples of good and acceptable Christianity.
  • Some leaders will compromise to avoid persecution. But there’s a more insidious reason because it comes from seemingly good motives—the desire to protect their ministry: If I avoid certain issues, then I’ll be able to continue my ministry, which is producing fruit and serving people. But in the end, those leaders will lose their purity and their witness.
  • Jesus warned about this. He said, “Many will fall away and will betray and hate one another” (Matthew 24:10). Deceived believers will attack faithful believers. It is going to become very messy and confusing.

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Andrew Brunson: When persecution or testing comes don’t become offended at God

Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Brunson: When Persecution Comes — Take Seriously The Danger Of Becoming Offended At God
  • During difficult times, a real danger for the Christian is to become offended at God. I struggled with this. In fact, I came close to losing my friendship with God. My imprisonment, the isolation, the loneliness, the fear that I would never be with my family again—all these were difficult, but I understood intellectually that this was persecution. I didn’t like it, but I understood it to some degree.
  • Objectively, I can say God did not abandon me, but it felt and looked like He had. It was agony to my soul.
  • I questioned God’s existence. Then I questioned His character.
  • This is what Jesus warned about when He said that “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). Many will turn away because they become offended at God
  • I made a decision with my will—not with my emotions—and said:
  • “God, whatever You do or don’t do, I will follow You. If You do not let me sense Your presence, I will still follow You. If You don’t speak to me, I will still follow You. If You don’t show me Your gentleness or kindness, I will still follow You. If You leave me in prison, I will still follow You.”
  • And He started to rebuild me.
  • I had to make this decision again and again. Every time I was in a pit, at every setback, I chose to turn toward God rather than away from Him.
  • The truth is, God tests His children. And one of the tests is overcoming offense.
  • I think part of my testing was that I not have a sense of the presence of God, that I not have His voice. God wanted me to learn to stand in the dark, to lean into Him whatever my feelings, whatever my circumstances.
  • Please, take seriously the danger of the offended heart. You must not allow offense to take root in your heart. Decide: “I will turn my eyes toward Jesus and not away.”

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Pastor Andrew Brunson asks the question: “Are we more afraid of persecution than the consequences of not obeying God?”

Matthew 10:28 “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Important Takeaways:

  • I understand fear. In prison I was separated from my loved ones by force.
  • Jesus repeatedly warned His disciples that they would encounter persecution and hardship, and He repeatedly admonished them not to fear… I think Jesus’ emphasis is not so much “do not feel fear” but rather “do not act out of fear.” The danger is that the person who surrenders to fear may compromise his faith, fall away and even deny Jesus.
  • First, we need to nurture a straight-up fear of God as judge.
  • We rightly emphasize the love of God, but we don’t like to talk about hell and judgment. Yet Jesus talked about it quite a bit, and He did this because there are terrible consequences to denying Him, to compromising our faith. Jesus said it very clearly and bluntly: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
  • Second, we need to nurture a right perspective-—to develop eternal eyes… For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
  • Third, we need to nurture a desire for Heaven… “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).

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Pastor Andrew Brunson: Majority are not ready for persecution

1 Peter 4:12-14 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Brunson: ‘The Majority Of Believers Are Not Ready For The Pressures Of Persecution, And This Is Very Dangerous’
  • I thought of myself as a relatively tough missionary—we had faced threats before; I had even been shot at once. But I was not prepared for what I experienced in prison. It was much more difficult than I imagined it would be, and I almost didn’t make it through. Persecution almost knocked me out.
  • Many Christians do not think this can happen in the United States, but it can. Followers of Jesus throughout history and in countries around the world have experienced persecution. In fact, our experience of very little persecution up to now is the exception.
  • What Will Drive Persecution?
    • I think two wedge issues will drive persecution. First, the exclusivity of Jesus in salvation—that Jesus is the only way to God. Second, that Jesus demands obedience from His followers in a number of areas that are hotly contested in our culture, such as sexual morality, gender identity, marriage, family, life and Biblical justice. Those who are faithful to Jesus in upholding Gospel exclusivity and obedience to Christ are going to be labeled as evil people, and those who persecute us will justify themselves by saying that we are a people of hate, that we carry a message of hate.
  • Here’s how we can start to prepare to stand under pressure:
    • We need to talk about persecution, be aware of it and plan for it. If we don’t talk about it, then when that dark wave hits, it is going to shock many people, and that places them in danger of being knocked out.
    • First, read the New Testament with a different eye. It’s full of exhortations to prepare and also examples of people living victoriously under persecution.
    • Read the Gospels with a focus on what Jesus says about persecution, how He Himself deals with persecution and how He prepares His disciples.
    • Second, begin to pray now that you and your loved ones will have enough faith and strength to stand. This is what Jesus urged His disciples to do.
    • Third, learn from persecuted Christians, those who have gone before and endured faithfully.
  • The Hard Truth
    • The hard truth is that God allows His children to suffer persecution, and it can be more difficult than we think.
    • Because this can be a discouraging subject, we need to keep before us the truth of the supremacy of Jesus, the image of Jesus as the Lion. He will not be defeated.

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Pandemic Becomes Tool to Persecute Christians

Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Important Takeaways:

  • The Ignored Pandemic: 360 Million Christians Persecuted Worldwide
  • “When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, they tried to appear moderate—but there’s no sign that Christianity will be anything other than a death sentence.” — World Watch List-2022.
  • “The persecution of Christians in India has intensified, as Hindu extremists aim to cleanse the country of their presence and influence. The extremists disregard Indian Christians and other religious minorities as true Indians, and think the country should be purified of non-Hindus…..” — World Watch List-2022.
  • In Qatar, “Violence against Christians rose sharply ….” — World Watch List-2022.
  • “The COVID-19 pandemic has offered a new weapon to persecutors. In some areas, Christians have been deliberately overlooked in the local distribution of government aid and have even been accused of spreading the virus.” — World Watch List-2022.
  • In the Central African Republic, which was “hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic … Christians were denied government aid and told to convert to Islam if they wanted to eat.”
  • In short, the persecution of Christians, which was already horrific, has increased by nearly 70% over the last five years, with no signs of abating.

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Afghanistan after middle east blunder is now worst persecutor of Christians

John 16:2 Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God

Important Takeaways:

  • Afghanistan Now Tops Open Doors’ World Watch Persecution List: ‘Tracking Christians, Killing Christians’
  • One in seven Christians worldwide faces persecution for their faith in Jesus. That’s about 360 million people.
  • For 20-years, North Korea has topped the list. But this year, there’s been a seismic shift as Afghanistan has taken its place as the world’s worst persecutor.
  • “It’s the number one perpetrator of violence and pressure and discrimination against Christians in the world. North Korea hasn’t gotten better, Afghanistan’s gotten worse — the violence, the tracking of Christians, the killing of Christians, this is, unfortunately, I’m afraid, what we can expect from Afghanistan in the future,” Curry said

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Rohingya community leader shot dead in Bangladesh refugee camp

By Ruma Paul and Poppy McPherson

(Reuters) – Gunmen shot and killed a prominent Rohingya Muslim leader in a refugee camp in southern Bangladesh on Wednesday, a United Nations spokesperson and a local police official said, following months of worsening violence in the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Mohib Ullah, who was in his late 40s, led one of the largest of several community groups to emerge since more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar after a military crackdown in August 2017.

Invited to the White House and to speak to the United Nations Human Rights Council, he was one of the most high-profile advocates for the Rohingya, a Muslim minority that has faced persecution for generations.

Rafiqul Islam, a deputy police superintendent in the nearby town of Cox’s Bazar, told Reuters by phone that Mohib Ullah had been shot dead but had no additional details.

A spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the agency was “deeply saddened” by the killing of Mohib Ullah. “We are in continuous contact with law enforcement authorities in charge of maintaining peace and security in the camps,” the spokesperson said.

Mohib Ullah’s group, the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, made its name documenting atrocities the Rohingya suffered during the Myanmar crackdown, which the U.N. has said was carried out with genocidal intent.

At the Bangladesh refugee camps, Mohib Ullah went from hut to hut to build a tally of killings, rape and arson that was shared with international investigators.

His organization worked to give refugees more of a voice inside the camps and internationally. Speaking to the U.N. Human Rights Council, he said the Rohingya wanted more of a say over their own future.

But his high profile made him a target of hardliners and he received death threats, he told Reuters in 2019. “If I die, I’m fine. I will give my life,” he said at the time.

The sprawling camps in Bangladesh have become increasingly violent, residents say, with armed men vying for power, kidnapping critics, and warning women against breaking conservative Islamic norms.

Aung Kyaw Moe, a Rohingya civil society activist and an adviser to Myanmar’s National Unity Government, the parallel civilian government established after February’s coup, said Mohib Ullah’s death was a “big loss for the Rohingya community.”

“He was always aware there is a threat, but he thinks that despite the threat if he is not doing the work he is doing, no one else would,” he said.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul and Poppy McPherson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Western nations race to complete Afghan evacuation as deadline looms

(Reuters) – Western nations rushed to evacuate people from Afghanistan on Wednesday as the Aug. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops drew closer and fears grew that many could be left behind to an uncertain fate under the country’s new Taliban rulers.

In one of the biggest such airlifts ever, the United States and its allies have evacuated more than 70,000 people, including their citizens, NATO personnel and Afghans at risk, since Aug. 14, the day before the Taliban swept into the capital Kabul to bring to an end the 20-year foreign military presence.

U.S. President Joe Biden said U.S. troops in Afghanistan faced mounting danger, while aid agencies warned of an impending humanitarian crisis for those left behind.

Biden has spurned calls from allies to extend the deadline, set under an agreement struck by the previous administration of Donald Trump with the hardline Islamist group last year. But he said on Tuesday the deadline could be met.

“The sooner we can finish, the better,” Biden said. “Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.”

Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was growing concern about the risk of suicide bombings by Islamic State at the airport.

British foreign minister Dominic Raab said the deadline for evacuating people was up to the last minute of the month.

France said it would push on with evacuations as long as possible but it was likely to end these operations in the coming hours or days.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would try to help Afghans who worked with its soldiers and aid organizations and wished to leave Afghanistan after the deadline expires.

“The end of the air bridge in a few days must not mean the end of efforts to protect Afghan helpers and help those Afghans who have been left in a bigger emergency with the takeover of the Taliban,” she told the German parliament.

Tens of thousands of Afghans fearing persecution have thronged Kabul’s airport since the Taliban takeover, the lucky ones securing seats on flights.

On Wednesday, many people milled about outside the airport – where soldiers from the United States, Britain and other nations were trying to maintain order amid the dust and heat – hoping to get out.

They carried bags and suitcases stuffed with possessions, and waved documents at soldiers in the hope of gaining entry. One man, standing knee-deep in a flooded ditch, passed a child to a man above.

“I learned from an email from London that the Americans are taking people out, that’s why I’ve come so I can go abroad,” said one man, Aizaz Ullah.

While the focus is now on those trying to flee, the risk of starvation, disease and persecution is rising for the rest of the population, aid agencies say.

“There’s a perfect storm coming because of several years of drought, conflict, economic deterioration, compounded by COVID,” David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, told Reuters in Doha, saying that about 14 million people were threatened with starvation.

The U.N. human rights chief said she had received credible reports of serious violations by the Taliban, including “summary executions” of civilians and Afghan security forces who had surrendered. The Taliban have said they will investigate reports of atrocities.

The Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule was marked by harsh sharia law, with many political rights and basic freedoms curtailed and women severely oppressed. Afghanistan was also a hub for anti-Western militants, and Washington, London and others fear it might become so again.

LAND ROUTES

The Taliban said all foreign evacuations must be completed by Aug. 31. It has asked the United States to stop urging talented Afghans to leave while also trying to persuade people at the airport to go home, saying they had nothing to fear.

“Foreign troops should withdraw by the deadline. It will pave the way for resumption of civilian flights,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter.

“People with legal documents can travel through commercial flights after Aug. 31.”

The Dutch government said it was all but certain that many people eligible for asylum would not be taken out in time.

Dutch troops had managed to get more than 100 people to Kabul airport, Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said, but hundreds of others risked being left behind.

The U.S.-backed government collapsed as the United States and its allies withdrew troops two decades after they ousted the Taliban in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by al Qaeda, whose leaders had found safe haven in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

The Taliban were also switching focus from their military victory to how to run a country in crisis. They have appointed veteran figures to the posts of finance minister and defense minister since wresting control of all government offices, the presidential palace and parliament, two Taliban members said.

Afghanistan’s Pajhwok news agency said Gul Agha had been named as finance minister and Sadr Ibrahim acting interior minister. Former Guantanamo detainee Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir was named acting defense minister, Al Jazeera news channel reported, citing a Taliban source.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Lincoln Feast, Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Angus MacSwan, Giles Elgood and Nick Macfie)