Displaying items by tag: Middle East
On 12 January Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, attended the Coptic Christmas service. Against a background of rising tensions in the Middle East, he held up the importance of tolerance and unity at a time when those tensions could spill over into conflict and violence - especially between religious groups. ‘If we love God, we must love each other,’ was his simple, powerful message. In 2019, at the opening of a new cathedral, he expressed his support for Christians, saying, ‘You are our family’. As Christians, we know that there is a model for this kind of love. For tense times and hard hearts, the Lord Jesus has already offered the perfect solution. Jesus’ greatest commands to us are to love God with all our heart and, out of this, to love our neighbour as ourselves. God, who is Love, wants us to love our neighbours who live alongside us - whether next door or across a distant border - with the same agape love He has for us.
Qasem Soleimani was named head of Iran's elite paramilitary Quds Force in the late 1990s. He then became widely known for expanding his country's regional influence by bolstering Shiite proxy forces around the region to counter US, Saudi, and Israeli influence. There are now fourteen militias and proxies broadly aligned with Iran, operating in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Let us pray for peace to reign in these countries as the atmosphere of antagonism swirls round the region after Suleimani’s assassination. He was the architect of Iran's foreign policy and one of the most powerful figures across these regions. May God prevent proxy terror attacks by Syria and the Yemenis’ Houthis or IS in the current power struggle. See
SAT-7 constantly receive testimonies of people whose lives are being transformed by Jesus. Some grew up in Christian homes, others first met with Jesus through their television screens. Some had a chance encounter with a Christian and wanted to find out more, others first discovered His joy through picking up a Bible in their own language. SAT-7 have just produced a prayer guide to give us a glimpse into some of their stories. Over the course of Advent they will take people on a journey across the Middle East and North Africa, through the 25 countries where they work, visiting a different country each day, and discovering plenty of reasons to rejoice – as well as ideas for prayer requests.
In Middle East’s honour-shame culture, a raped woman brings her family shame and they have a duty to kill her. Three Yazidi girls were taken as slaves by IS. Later, while their father was asleep, he saw Jesus. He recognised Him by His nail-pierced hands. Jesus said, ‘You don’t need to kill your daughters. I paid for everyone, so go and get them.’ The man woke and thought this can’t be real. He went back to sleep and had exactly the same dream. He woke up again, went back to sleep, and had the same dream for a third time - one dream for each daughter. He gathered the Yazidi elders and told them what happened. ‘Jesus showed up in my tent, I’m going to get my girls and not kill them.’ Because of Jesus, he welcomed his girls home and persuaded other Yazidi men to take back their daughters without harming them.
On 12 November the Israel Defence Forces killed a senior commander of a Jihad terror group responsible for firing dozens of rockets out of the Gaza Strip. This prompted a massive retaliation of over seventy rockets fired at Israel’s civilian districts. The UK’s foreign office advised visitors that attacks could be indiscriminate, including places frequented by foreigners, and on public transport. Most embassies in Tel Aviv have heightened caution or have temporarily closed. Palestinian Islamic Jihad declared that it was preparing for war with Israel. By 13 November, 220 rockets had been fired as far north as Tel Aviv, with 90% intercepted by the army. Schools in the south and much of the centre were closed, keeping 1 million students at home, and a commando unit was deployed to secure border communities from possible infiltration. On 14 November a ceasefire was achieved, but just hours later five rockets were launched from the coastal enclave, with two of them intercepted by Israel’s army. See also
In the northeast of Syria, in a number of cities and their surrounding villages, a renaissance is under way in the area’s beleaguered Syriac Christian community, which is attempting to revive the Syriac language and culture after decades of neglect and oppression. The Christian community as a whole has suffered immensely during the ongoing eight-year conflict, and this minority is no exception. The conflict has, however, also brought about social changes that previously would have been thought impossible, particularly in areas under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Escalating its threat to invade the area despite the presence of American, British, and French troops, Turkey could reverse these changes and even jeopardise the continued existence of the Christian community there. These Christians have preserved their unique languages and cultures in the face of decades of Arabisation. Syriac Christians will teach their children their ancestral language, derived from Aramaic, the native tongue of Jerusalem, where the church was born.
Pray for Syria, Turkey and the Kurds
Turkey views the Kurds as terrorists. A couple of weeks ago, they pushed into Syria to displace the Kurds from the border area, to create a 'safe-zone'.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the United States’ main ally in the fight against ISIS, has been in talks with both Russia and the US to protect the Kurdish people against the Turkish assault. The Turkish incursion has killed scores of people on both sides of the border and nearly 180,000 people inside Syria have been displaced.
The commander of the SDF is now holding discussions with the US government on keeping US forces in the region, as well as regaining control over territory they have lost since the Turkish military invasion began. Pray for the hostile actors in this volatile situation- the Turkish government and military, the Kurdish leaders and their militia, as well as the Syrian, Russian and US governments that a good and peaceful diplomatic solution can be worked out.
Pray for the tens of thousands of civilians whose lives have been uprooted and for effective and well- coordinated humanitarian relief to pour in to meet their critical needs.
Pray that the military operation by Turkey and all fighting would stop immediately.
Pray that God would intervene in a special way to resolve the current conflicts in His peaceful way.
We pray, Your Kingdom come on Turkey, Syria, and all Middle East regions!
Northeast Syria is home to a range of diverse ethnic and religious communities. The principal Kurdish region of Syria, it also hosts sizeable Syriac and Assyrian Christians communities. There are also Christian converts, especially among the Kurdish communities.
The stated objectives of Turkey’s military action in Syria are, firstly, to create a ‘safe-zone’ along the border by combatting Kurdish-led forces, and, secondly, to facilitate the repatriation of Syrian refugees from Turkey. The campaign does not seem to be motivated by a specific religious agenda, and there is little evidence to suggest that Christians are being specifically targeted. But Christians are deeply affected, along with other communities in the region. Shelling has led to multiple casualties, more than twenty villages have so far been seized and tens of thousands have fled the region.
Although not specifically a campaign against Christians, there are concerns Christian communities face particular vulnerabilities. Christian leaders are concerned that elements within Turkey’s forces and their Syrian opposition allies are pursuing Islamist agendas that are hostile not just to Kurds but also to any communities that are not Sunni Muslim. This fear would be compounded if the security of prisons holding extremists is compromised. They also fear that Turkey’s refugee repatriation plans, whereby Syrians who fled from other areas would be resettled in northeast Syria, constitute an intentional programme of ‘demographic engineering’ in the region, intended to boost the Arab Sunni presence to the detriment of Kurds and other communities such as Christians.
Syrian Christians request prayer that:
Political and military leaders, of parties involved and in the wider international community, will act with restraint and hope peace will be restored, human dignity respected and pluralism preserved and strengthened, in northeast Syria and the rest of the country, for the benefit of all ethnic and religious communities. Pray that Christian communities will not be intimidated but will find opportunity to be agents of reconciliation, wisdom and compassion for those bereaved or injured, together with all who have fled. Pray those suffering will find comfort, healing, peace and hope all and that all who are intent on violence will know the Spirit’s conviction of sin and respond to the Father’s offer of new life through the Son.
There has been an upsurge of violence in Iraq as anti-government protests enter a fifth day, amid reports of bloodshed in the holy city of Karbala.
Reports say up to 18 people were shot dead by security forces there. However, officials denied anyone was killed.
In the capital, Baghdad, thousands of protesters have defied a curfew to demand jobs, better public services and an end to corruption.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is under growing pressure to resign.
On Tuesday the influential Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr said he would join forces with another powerful politician, Hadi al-Ameri, to bring Mr Abdul Mahdi down through a vote of no confidence.
More than 220 people have died across the country since anti-government demonstrations broke out at the beginning of the month. A first wave of protests gave way to a brief lull, but fresh unrest began five days ago.
What happened in Karbala?
In Karbala - a major centre for Shia Islam - the situation remains unclear, but a number of medical sources and eyewitnesses, backed up by video footage, suggest at least 18 people were killed and hundreds wounded in clashes with the security forces.
Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said they were trying to get more information about the situation.
"We have received particularly disturbing reports on what has been going on in Karbala... In both those reports [United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (Unami) and an Iraqi government committee], they recognise that excessive force has been used."
He called on local authorities in the city to ensure security forces acted with restraint and investigate the shootings.
The local governor and the police chief in Karbala have denied any protesters were killed, saying that videos circulating widely that show protesters running away from gunfire have been fabricated.
What about Baghdad?
Thousands of demonstrators vowed to continue their protests in the city, filling up the Iraqi capital's central Tahrir Square on Tuesday.
At least 74 people were killed and 3,500 others were injured over the weekend as the protests resumed in Baghdad and elsewhere following a two-week pause that organisers said was designed to give Iraq's leaders time to respond to their demands.
Mr Abdul Mahdi has promised to introduce reforms but protesters remain determined to try to sweep away his government.
On Monday, security forces fired tear gas to deter any attempting to cross a bridge to the fortified Green Zone, which houses government offices and foreign embassies.
After the first wave of protests earlier this month, the prime minister promised to carry out a cabinet reshuffle and cut the salaries of high-ranking officials. He also said he would allocate $66m ($51m) to support the unemployed, set up training programmes for youths, and build 100,000 homes in poor areas.
Will the government survive?
The prime minister has consistently rejected demands by Moqtada Sadr, who leads parliament's largest bloc, to resign and hold snap elections.
Mr Ameri, who heads the second largest group in parliament, has previously backed the government. But on Tuesday he announced that he and Mr Sadr would "work together to achieve the people's demands".
Mr Sadr had earlier issued a public invitation to Mr Ameri to co-ordinate on a no-confidence vote in parliament.
Pray: for a speedy resolution and that the politicians react positively in the best interest of the Iraqi people.
Pray: for restraint on both sides and an end to the excessive force being used by the authorities.
Pray: for the families and loved ones of the deceased.
Pray: for an end to the corruption that pervades the government and public services in Iraq.
Lebanon's prime minister, Saad Hariri, has announced he is resigning following almost two weeks of anti-government protests.
Mr Hariri said he had hit a "dead end" and would tender his resignation to President Michel Aoun.
Demonstrations across the country have brought it to a standstill. Banks, schools and universities have been shut as a cross-section of society called for the whole government to go.
Hundreds of thousands of people have set aside religious differences and political affiliations and taken to the streets to demand an end to government corruption, inequality and sectarianism.
There have been demonstrations from the northern and traditionally conservative city of Tripoli, through the capital Beirut and all the way to the southern city of Tyre.
Those taking part want the political class that has dominated the country since its 1975-1990 civil war to be overthrown.
Its current economic crisis is the worst since that period, with a black market for US dollars developing in the last month or so.
Pray: that the issues of corruption, inequality and sectarianism can be peacefully resolved.
Pray: that the more militant organisations will not take advantage of this unrest.
Pray: for a just and representative government to be democratically elected.
Pray: that Lebanon shall be saved.
Prime minister Phuc has asked the public security and foreign ministries to investigate the trafficking of Vietnamese citizens into foreign countries after 39 people died in a refrigerated truck in Essex. Vietnam’s UK embassy and the British authorities are identifying the dead. Rural Vietnamese believe many of the dead came from their poor, rice-growing areas where families pay traffickers to take their youths abroad to work, save, repay traffickers the debt, and return home with enough money to buy land and build a home. The newly-built houses in poor districts are evidence of the money to be made, and saved, by working overseas (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-50203096) Father Anthony Dang Huu Nam believes most of the dead were from his parish. ‘The whole district is covered in sorrow,’ Nam said, as prayers rang out over the town on loudspeakers. ‘This is a catastrophe for our community.’ See https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-bodies/rural-vietnamese-mourn-loved-ones-feared-dead-in-back-of-british-truck-idUSKBN1X503U