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Posts Tagged ‘Aleppo’

Aleppo Churches Open Doors To Displaced Muslim Families

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on November 3, 2016

For the first time in history, Muslims are coming to us. The only thing we have to do is tell them the good news; they are waiting for it

romans6

Life hasn’t been easy for 28-year-old Syrian mother Kristina, a Christian of Armenian descent, who lived with her husband in Aleppo long before the civil war started in 2011.

It was in that besieged city that Kristina gave birth to her firstborn daughter, 18 months ago. She’s brought the little girl to the house where a World Watch Monitor contact meets her. While her mother talks, the toddler explores the room.

Please close the door, I’d like to keep an eye on her,” Kristina asks, not letting her child out of her sight.

With the pain still visible in her eyes, Kristina recalls her first days of being a mother in the spring of 2015 – the war raging outside, electricity, gas and water cut off most of the time and her family unable to visit and help her.

The first two weeks after my daughter was born were the hardest in my life,” Kristina says. “It was so cold that we put our mattresses on the living room floor, the warmest room in the house. There we lived for two weeks on the ground, wrapped in blankets.”

As soon as it was safe, Kristina, her husband and her baby daughter travelled to neighbouring Lebanon to safety. At first it was intended to be a short trip, but when the violence increased and also the Christian part of Aleppo was being bombed, the young family decided to wait for the end of the war before returning to Syria.

I can’t let my baby girl grow up amidst all those dangers,” Kristina says.

With the violence continuing and worsening, gradually more Christians left Aleppo. In Kristina’s church, now only 10 per cent of the regular church-goers are left, she hears from friends.

But you know what’s surprising? The church is still full; displaced people take their place. Especially Muslims are coming to the church now,” she says.

In Syria, the Christian children’s activities draw the most attention, Kristina says. A lot of Syrians from other parts of Aleppo – the fighting is heaviest in Muslim areas – have fled to the Christian areas to seek refuge. For many Muslims, it is the first time they have mixed with Christians.

Kristina also says the Muslim women were surprised to see that churches offered support and programmes for all Syrians, not just for Christians.

Their mosques don’t do that,” Kristina says. “Many are re-thinking the faith they grew up in and have dropped their hostility towards Christians.

Many Muslims were genuinely surprised when they met Christian women in our churches willing to serve them. Their image was that all Christian women spend most of their days dancing in night clubs and drinking alcohol! Meeting each other was a shock, both for them and for us.

A growing number of Muslim children have been attending the children’s activities, where the Bible is opened daily.

The mothers are okay with that,” says Kristina. “They see it as positive if their children learn about God. It’s the husbands who are stricter, usually.”

But, gradually, also the mothers and, in some cases, whole Muslim families have found their way to the church activities, including the services.

That absolutely did not happen before the war,” Kristina says. “Still the Muslims are afraid – especially when entering and leaving the building – but they are there. The children have opened the church’s doors, then the women followed, and finally the men.”

Kristina says Muslim women “feel liberated when they notice the church doesn’t see them as merely machines only fit for cleaning, giving birth to children, and raising them, like many Muslim men do”.

In Islam, many women don’t have any rights. When they feel how Christians really care for them, it feels like heaven for those women. They see it’s possible to live as independent women, to dream,” Kristina says.

Despite the war, Kristina speaks of a “golden age” for the Church in the Middle East.

For the first time in history, Muslims are coming to us. The only thing we have to do is tell them the good news; they are waiting for it,” she says. “They realise that, when living in a Christian environment, the [Christian message] will be shared. They may even see it as a sign of weakness if it isn’t.”

Source

A New Home and a New Religion in Germany

john10

Among the Iranian refugees filling European church pews

When I first met Mattias in July at a refugee shelter just north of Berlin, he went by the name Mohammed. He had arrived in Germany from Iran the previous fall, along with thousands of other asylum-seekers—sometimes up to 10,000 arrived in a single day. After the German government assigned him to this shelter, he converted to Christianity. “I wouldn’t say I was a Muslim” before, he told me. “I didn’t go to a mosque for an entire year. Now I am going to church every week.” He expects it will take about three weeks to get off his church’s waiting list to be baptized. Perhaps once he’s more settled in Germany, he’ll be able to change his name legally to Mattias, his chosen Christian name.

We sat together in a sparse dormitory room at the shelter with three other Iranians who had converted from Islam to Christianity. They attend a Protestant church together, but asked that I not provide the exact location nor give their full names. Two of them said they became Christian while living in Iran. Another, like Mattias, had converted after arriving in Germany as an asylum-seeker.

Throughout Germany, the pews of churches like theirs are filled increasingly by asylum-seekers. Though two umbrella church organizations told me that they couldn’t provide exact statistics or comment on the nationality of the asylum-seekers attending church, Christoph Heil, a spokesman for the Protestant Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia—which includes 1,300 parishes—confirmed the pattern. “Normally we don’t count the number of asylum-seekers who are baptized because we don’t differentiate between who is an asylum-seeker and who isn’t, but [asylum-seekers asking to be baptized] appears to be a new trend,” he said.

Muslim converts to Christianity that I spoke to in Germany cited the redemptive power of Jesus’s story, and disillusionment with Islam. It’s also worth noting the more earthly forces potentially at work: Germany does not grant refugee status to Iranians as easily as it does Syrians and Iraqis. Around 27,000 Iranians applied for asylum in the EU in 2015, with Germany hosting the overwhelming majority; according to Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 60 percent of Iranian requests for asylum received positive answers that year. Iranians seeking refugee status must prove that if they are sent home, they stand the risk of being persecuted for their beliefs. In Iran, that often means Christian converts.

During conversations with newly converted Iranian asylum-seekers, it struck me that being born again after arriving in Europe was not only an act of faith, but a practical matter: Europe is largely Christian, after all. Some converts, like Mattias, weren’t particularly devout Muslims to begin with anyway. “There are asylum-seekers looking to get baptized who have converted in their home countries and others are getting in touch with Christianity now after seeing a certain way of life in Germany,” Heil said. “They ask themselves, what is the root of this way of living, [of] freedom and democracy.”

At his shelter, Mattias and three of his friends, who all appeared to be in their 30s and 40s, pulled a metal folding table into the middle of the dorm room to prepare for lunch. One of them told me he hoped Donald Trump would become president of the United States, since he’d heard he was a Christian. Before we ate, another of Mattias’s friends prayed as we bowed our heads, giving thanks for the food. “In Jesus’s name, Amen,” he said. “Amen,” the others echoed. Then we dug into rice pilaf from a frying pan.

The man who led the prayer said he had converted to Christianity in Iran after getting hold of a smuggled Farsi-language Bible. “Before it was just theoretical to me, but now I can see it and feel it by my pastor’s kindness,” he said. Another said he converted in Iran because of an old neighbor who had been born Christian. Christians, he said, “were kind people. In Islam, the person who does the killing and the person who dies yells Allahu Akbar,” he said. “In Iran,” he noted, referring to the Arab occupation of Persia that began in the seventh century, “we became Muslim by force.”

A week after that meal, I visited Trinity Lutheran Church, which also hosts a large Iranian congregation. A pale, yellow, sterile-looking structure set just off a residential street in Berlin’s southwestern Steglitz neighborhood, it appears modest compared to the grand churches of Europe. On the lawn out front, some of the Iranian congregants greeted each other with smiles and overzealous, welcoming handshakes. Others shuffled inside, their eyes averted. Notices written in Farsi were posted all over the church.

The pastor at Trinity is Gottfried Martens, 53, an affable man with a salt-and-pepper widow’s peak and kind smile. He explained that Trinity’s sister congregation in the adjacent district of Zehlendorf had been helping new migrants adjust to life in Germany since the 1990s, adopting a welcoming stance that eventually turned his church into a destination for Iranian Christians seeking help. Once a few Farsi speakers began attending, more arrived. In 2013, Trinity began its service focusing on “refugee work,” in Martens’s words, providing translations in Farsi and English during services and other church activities.

Before the service began that day, I talked with Saeed, another Iranian asylum-seeker. Up the stairs and past the Iranian ushers, we poked our heads into the nave. There were few seats available, so we crowded into the choir loft along with the other stragglers. There appeared to be around 300 people in attendance, mostly Iranians, but my translator pointed out that a line of men seated behind us included Hazaras from Afghanistan—also current or former Shia Muslims—like the Iranians. Only a dozen or so in attendance appeared to be German. A woman in the front pews still wore a hijab.

During the service, much of which was translated into Farsi, the Iranians and Afghans tried to follow along in the church bulletin, concluding each section with a hearty, accented “Ah-meeen” (familiar to the Iranians and Afghans from Muslim prayers) that filled the sanctuary.

Do you want to go take communion?” Saeed asked when people began lining up in the center aisle after the sermon. I told him I would stay seated, since I didn’t know how to cross myself, which, naturally, confused him: earlier, I had told him that I was a Christian. He was a new believer, steadfast and eager about the outward signs of devotion like partaking in the sacraments, crossing himself at the appropriate times, and eating pork. The outward trappings of Christianity I grew up with in a non-denominational church in rural Maryland, by contrast—using euphemisms rather than cursing (darn rather than damn), voting Republican, eating Chick-Fil-A, and doing nothing remotely Catholic—were difficult to explain.

After the service ended, the Iranians and Afghans gathered downstairs for a meal of rice, lentils, and cabbage salad. Asylum-seekers had often complained to me about the German food at their shelters, which they found bland. But the church’s lunch menu seemed tailored to their tastes. During the meal, one Iranian man was filling out a baptism questionnaire that asked for his personal history. It soon turned into a group activity. “How do you write ‘engineer’ in German?” he asked the crowd that had surrounded him.

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Aleppo: Christian Genocide Took Place 3 Years Ago – And Nobody Cared – So, Why Should The World Care Now About The Fate of The Murderers?

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on October 16, 2016

My Note: Three years ago, I met a Christian Syrian family from Aleppo who told me about their longtime Muslim neighbors who appeared peaceful for ages but who, once the jihad came to town, exposed their true colors: They told of how Muslim neighbors they knew all their life turned all of a sudden on the Christians after the Jihadists took control of their town. They say the following regrettably, and tears in their eyes:

We ate, celebrated and mourned together and we thought we are one people, it never occurred to us that our Muslim neighbors suddenly would betray us , they wanted to kill and get rid of us because we are Christians, they confiscated our Churches and houses that were built by our forefathers thousands of years ago, they took everything from us, now we will never trust Muslims again, they all are of the devil.“

So, why should the world now care about Aleppo, after a Christian genocide took place right in front of our very own eyes? Yes, nobody cared about it then, three years ago, the mainstream media didn’t care either what happened to the Christians. Why should we care what happens to the children of the demonic murderers? Every one of them is complicit of exterminating the Jews, the Christians and the Yazidis. Ask yourselves, why hasn’t such picture got enough attention or gone viral?

ChristianSyrianRefugee

Christian Missionaries In Aleppo Crucified And Beheaded

At several steps on their path to death by beheading and crucifixion last month, 11 indigenous Christian workers near Aleppo, Syria had the option to leave the area and live. The 12-year-old son of a ministry team leader also could have spared his life by denying Christ…”

The Christian Aid Mission account of the fate of Aleppo’s indigenous Christian missionaries is harrowing and humbling. While Western politicians debate whether or not to risk World War III by creating a safe haven in northern Syria and imposing a no-fly zone over Aleppo – with the expectation (/certainty) of US/European forces, sooner or later, having to shoot down a Russian bomber or Syrian fighter jet – we’re hearing a lot about Assad’s (lesser) evil, ISIS barbarism and the pervasive demonic contempt for the human spirit. Women are stoned, men burned alive, girls raped and gays hurled from tall buildings. It is an image of hell.

We’re not hearing much about Aleppo’s Christians: the mainstream media don’t care very much what happens to them:

..The Syrian ministry workers in those villages chose to stay in order to provide aid in the name of Christ to survivors.

I asked them to leave, but I gave them the freedom to choose,” said the ministry director, his voice tremulous as he recalled their horrific deaths. “As their leader, I should have insisted that they leave.”

They stayed because they believed they were called to share Christ with those caught in the crossfire, he said.

Every time we talked to them,” the director said, “they were always saying, ‘We want to stay here – this is what God has told us to do. This is what we want to do.’ They just wanted to stay and share the gospel.”

While we drink our Fair Trade coffee and pray for the recovery of our gay pride flags, our brothers and sisters in Christ are risking everything to share the gospel with those who are being lost. They suffer hell on earth to keep people out of hell for eternity. What experience of Jesus have they had which we do not? What God-consciousness do they possess which we have not? What inner life fires them to such certainty, peace and the assurance that to die is gain?

On Aug. 28, the militants asked if they had renounced Islam for Christianity. When the Christians said that they had, the rebels asked if they wanted to return to Islam. The Christians said they would never renounce Christ.

The 41-year-old team leader, his young son and two ministry members in their 20s were questioned at one village site where ISIS militants had summoned a crowd. The team leader presided over nine house churches he had helped to establish. His son was two months away from his 13th birthday.

In front of the team leader and relatives in the crowd, the Islamic extremists cut off the fingertips of the boy and severely beat him, telling his father they would stop the torture only if he, the father, returned to Islam. When the team leader refused, relatives said, the ISIS militants also tortured and beat him and the two other ministry workers. The three men and the boy then met their deaths in crucifixion.

All were badly brutalized and then crucified,” the ministry leader said. “They were left on their crosses for two days. No one was allowed to remove them.”

The martyrs died beside signs the ISIS militants had put up identifying them as “infidels.”

What manner of demon slices off a boy’s fingertips in the pursuit of religious conversion? What father’s agony can bear being forced to renounce his Saviour in order to spare his son? They are not infidels, but saints, sanctified by the Blood of the Lamb, made holy by being in Christ, the sanctifier. Their eschatological mission transcended race, religion, sex and social status: their loyalty to Christ made them love their enemies, seeking the image of God in the ravaged faces of hate.

Eight other ministry team members, including two women, were taken to another site in the village that day (Aug. 28) and were asked the same questions before a crowd. The women, ages 29 and 33, tried to tell the ISIS militants they were only sharing the peace and love of Christ and asked what they had done wrong to deserve the abuse. The Islamic extremists then publicly raped the women, who continued to pray during the ordeal, leading the ISIS militants to beat them all the more furiously.

As the two women and the six men knelt before they were beheaded, they were all praying.

Villagers said some were praying in the name of Jesus, others said some were praying the Lord’s prayer, and others said some of them lifted their heads to commend their spirits to Jesus,” the ministry director said. “One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, ‘Jesus!’”

After they were beheaded, their bodies were hung on crosses, the ministry director said, his voice breaking. He had trained all of the workers for their evangelistic ministry, and he had baptized the team leader and some of the others.

Thus is the vocation of Christian missionaries: without their sacrifice, the whole truth cannot be known. Their fears are real and their grief is great, but the zeal to proclaim the glory of the Risen Christ is more real and far greater. Is there any joy to be found in the torture and murder of a 12-year-old boy? Is the loss of any young life not worth a headline somewhere? Is our world so distorted and deformed that the crucifixion and beheading of Aleppo’s Christian missionaries doesn’t rend the hearts of anyone but their families and fellow missionaries?

These are the real martyrs; the very special dead. May their presence and power rend the veil between earth and heaven. We need their faces and stories in our petty, mundane lives. We might then see Jesus through the molehills.

Source

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