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Posts Tagged ‘persecuted church’

Prince Charles

Prince Charles gave a gift to Aid to the Church in Need for Christians in the Middle East during an Advent reception. He said, in part:

At this traditional time of prayer and reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation, it seems to me vital that we pause for more than a moment to think about the plight of Christians in the lands where the Word was actually “made flesh and dwelt among us”.  For, despite what the brainwashed militants would have people believe, Christianity is not a “foreign” religion.  As the atmospheric Chapel of St. Ananias in Damascus and countless other holy sites bear witness, Christianity has been part of the rich tapestry of life in the Middle East for two thousand years.  And it was the early Middle Eastern church communities in places such as Antioch, Alexandria, Bosra in Syria, and Mesopotamia which eventually brought Christianity to Asia and the West.  To take just one example, the Armenian Apostolic Church – which, of course, is the oldest Established national church in the world – traces its origins to the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddaeus.  And, ladies and gentleman, it is, perhaps, worth remembering that those of us who are members of the Church of England will be only too familiar with the Nicene Creed, whose words were first formulated in the Middle East in the fourth century.  Far from Christianity being a “Western” religion, Christianity was born in – and shaped by – the East…!

This is what makes the plight of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ so especially heart-breaking.  Their suffering is symptomatic of a very real crisis which threatens the very existence of Christianity in the land of its birth.  In fact, according to Aid to the Church in Need, Christianity is on course to disappear from Iraq within five years, unless emergency help is provided on a greatly increased scale at an international level.  This affects us all.  Consequently, the greatest challenge we face is how to ensure that the spiritual and cultural heritage of Christianity in the Middle East is preserved for future generations – quite apart from doing all we can to provide practical support to those who are persecuted.

Please continue to pray for the persecuted church in the land of its birth.

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prayer invite

Christians in Syria continue to suffer persecution and strife in the midst of an ongoing civil war.  Open Doors USA is encouraging Christians worldwide to pray for the war-torn country on May 11.

“As Christians in Syria continue to suffer from the devastating effects of the two-year-old civil war including killings, kidnappings, homelessness, lack of food and shelter and closing of schools; they are also seeing that God’s hand is at work as all denominations are joining in passionate prayer,” Open Doors USA interim President/CEO Steve Ridgway said in a recent statement.

Since March 2011, Syria’s Ba’ath Party government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, has been involved in a brutal civil war against rebels trying to overthrow the government, resulting in the death of nearly 70,000.

It is difficult to image the hardships that the Syrian church is enduring half a world away.  Finding food and medicine is a struggle.  As daily survival is already difficult, Christians are being persecuted, killed, and church leaders continue to be kidnapped.

Please add these believers to your prayer list on Saturday and join the international prayer effort.

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Each Fourth of July we celebrate the birth of America.  We celebrate freedom, independence, and the precious rights that guarantee the blessings of liberty.  But it is important to remember how religious freedom was the original goal of living in our land.  And by that, I mean prior to signing the Declaration of Independence.

Christianity operated in a very different environment from what we know today.  Prior to the Pilgrims leaving England, there was no separation of church and state.  There was one official church for people to attend and the King was the head of the church.  During the 1600s, British law required citizens to attend worship services.  Those who did not attend would be fined one shilling for each Sunday and holy day missed.  People who conducted unofficial church services could be fined, jailed, or executed.

As persecution and arrests grew, the Pilgrims left England for Amsterdam.  By 1617 the congregation was stable enough for another, more permanent move.  They wanted an enduring place where opportunity and religious freedom could be secured for their families.  They turned their eyes to the new America, braved a sixty-five day voyage across the Atlantic, and started Plymouth Colony.

Days after sighting land, The Mayflower Compact was established as a way to honor God, guarantee just and equal laws in the colony, and create a free form of government.  The Pilgrims decided to establish a system where every member of the colony could enjoy guaranteed rights and freedoms under majority rule.  Freedoms that they were unable to enjoy until that very moment when the ink was dry.

Their voyage and vision created the first written constitution on our continent.  It became the seed of American freedom and democracy.

We often forget the past difficulties that Christians have faced trying to worship God.  We also forget the difficulties in our present age.  We have been so blessed with liberty in our nation, that we forget the inequalities that exist elsewhere.  While we are not fined, jailed, or executed for practicing our faith in America many others suffer across the globe.  We have brothers and sisters in Christ who live with the same fears, torment, and punishments of seventeenth century Pilgrims.

Recognize the incredible gift we have as Americans and utilize your religious freedom.  Glorify our risen Savior in song.  Strengthen your faith in a worship service.  Read your Bible in public.  But also take time to pray for the persecuted Church beyond our borders.  Their current plight was ours not so long ago.

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