Displaying items by tag: Middle East
Pope Francis is making a monumental trip to Iraq in order to bring healing to the war-torn society. As the very first pope to set foot on Iraq's soil, he plans to meet with key Christian and Muslim leaders to address issues faced by both groups. This event is being heralded by the Iraqi government as a ‘historic event, symbolising a message of peace to Iraq and the whole region.’ Peace indeed is needed for the small remnant of Christians left in Iraq. Christian communities were scattered by the Daesh onslaught in 2014, further shrinking the country’s already dwindling Christian population. Their struggle to endure will get a boost from the historic visit in March, his first foreign trip since the coronavirus pandemic and a sign that ‘You’re not alone, there’s someone who is thinking of you, who is with you’.
President Mahmoud Abbas has guaranteed that at least seven seats of a new legislative council will go to Christians in the elections in the occupied territories to be held on 22 May. Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian who recently resigned her position on the PLO’s executive committee, said she is uneasy about reserving seats for specific communities. However, the president of Bethlehem Bible College said, ‘This is an important and long-awaited opportunity for young Palestinian Christians to participate in this public process, whether as candidates or as voters’. Emigration due to violence has produced a huge drop in the Palestinian Christian population. Many believe the way to fight emigration is to give them reasons to stay. What is needed is a system that protects people and provides for their rights, not allow churches to become museums.
Ahead of the March elections, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is repeating promises he made nine years ago to control crime rates in Arab towns and villages. A recent firefight broke out on 1 February, when the police tried to stop men from shooting at a house. The Arab gang started shooting at the police with automatic weapons. When it was over, two young people were dead. One was suspected of firing at the house, but the other, Ahmed Hijazi, was a nursing student who happened to be in the vicinity but was not involved in the incident. The next day, thousands from local Arab towns and villages took to the street to protest Hijazi’s death and the police's inability to rein in crime in Arab society. Over the weekend, thousands more marched against escalating crime rates. Netanyahu has spent the last few weeks visiting Arab towns and villages and holding Zoom meetings with Arab mayors to discuss crime and violence in their towns.
One For Israel (OFI), the world’s only Hebrew Bible college, is challenging the rabbis, in a way they cannot limit,v by posting a series of videos backing Yeshua’s messianic claims on the internet. OFI’s president said, ‘We have seen how ready many hearts are to receive Him, once they hear in a relevant and understandable way. This awakening has largely been brought about by Covid. People forced to stay home are bored and are confronted with a dangerous disease that makes them think about eternity. Revival has started among the Jews in Israel. This is only the tip of the iceberg.’ OFI are also hosting discipleship videos for those still too shy to join a local congregation as Messianic Jews.
International Christian Concern (ICC) has observed a marked increase of reported religious freedom violations within Turkey since the start of the New Year. While most of these recent violations impact church buildings, they also include a lack of interest by the authorities in pursuing and protecting justice for Christian victims. Churches are seen as a source of income both by the government (faith tourism) and by society (treasure hunters). Otherwise, church buildings are neglected by the government and often turned into mosques. Pray for the protection and perseverance of believers in Turkey. Pray that the government will honor Christian landmarks and churches.
The Gaza Strip recently took advantage of the latest technologies used to produce drinkable distilled water, thanks to Israeli cooperation. Damour for Community Development, a nongovernmental organisation based in Ramallah in the West Bank, brought into the besieged enclave two atmospheric water generators that turn air into water using solar power. The machines are produced by an Israeli branch of a US company that obtained the patent for this device. Arava Institute for Environmental Research in Israel also donated a third generator for drinking water at a specialised hospital for children in the Gaza Strip. The generators are three months into a six-month trial phase to assess their operation and quality. They will not solve Gaza’s water crisis but will raise residents’ awareness of this technology, which can be the solution to clean water. The suppliers of the generators managed to work without dealing with the Hamas-controlled government institutions which do not coordinate with the Israeli side.
14-year-old Mohammed, a Muslim street child without parental supervision, attended a local Sunday school for the entertainment and free food. Then he was challenged to receive Jesus. He said, ‘I waited until I got home, then at 3:00 am I said, “Lord Jesus, please help me. I am desperate, helpless, hopeless. I cannot take it any more. I need you.” Then within half an hour I slept, and I woke up in the morning excited. I took one of the many New Testaments from Sunday school and put it in my school bag and went to school and started telling people about my experience.’ He was thrilled that he had found the answers to his troubling questions, not where he expected in Islam, but in Christianity, and he boldly told everyone about Jesus. This turned more than a few heads. God had a plan for his life; to read his wonderful story, click the ‘More’ button.
Last week we prayed for change and the need for reforms to alter the way Turkey polices, prosecutes, judges, and imprisons its residents. Almost all Kurdish mayors have been replaced by government-appointed administrators. Judges whose verdicts disagree with government diktats are probed and often punished. 63,014 people were prosecuted for insulting President Erdoğan between 2014 and 2019; 9,554 of them were sentenced. A political analyst said Erdoğan's reform program survived only nine days, and his charm offensive is fake and is too little too late. He wants Turkey to continue as a third-world democracy while hoping to lure foreign investment on the same terms as a Western democracy, but investors are leaving. The economy is in freefall, with double-digit inflation and central bank interest rates up to 15%, while unemployment rises sharply. Erdogan promises to democratise, hoping to reverse the economic downfall, but that will not happen without real reforms.
On 2 December. the 23rd Knesset came one key step closer to being dispersed, but it must still pass three more readings before a new national vote is called. Opposition leader Yair Lapid said, ‘I call upon the Knesset to vote in favour of this bill, to disperse and let the people of Israel choose a government that genuinely cares about them.’ Lapid said his bill was not intended to be ‘just another round of 'anyone but Bibi,’ aimed at defeating Netanyahu. He said the bill was being presented ‘because it's time to end that focus and ‘the anger and the hatred and the terrible mismanagement and the politics that are destroying our country and won't end as long as he's there’. Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said that Netanyahu needed to leave office due to his criminal cases, and he would have already left had Blue and White listened to his office and not joined the government.
The kings of Jordan and Bahrain flew to Abu Dhabi for an important meeting with crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as Bahrain’s foreign minister Abdullatif al-Zayani was in Israel meeting his Israeli and American counterparts. These important and unprecedented meetings illustrate the tectonic changes emerging in the Middle East. The tone was different in Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi. A Gulf Air flight which arrived in Tel Aviv, with Zayani and US envoy Avi Berkowitz on board, was the first of its kind; very likely Gulf Air will soon join Flydubai and Etihad, which have announced regular flights to Israel. Meetings about peace and the brave new world illustrates how Israel and the Gulf States are moving toward. This area improvement has been midwifed by the USA.