Disclaimer: Articles and links, as well as the source articles linked to, do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ConnectingwithYou! Our thanks mainly to Dan Wooding and ASSIST News Service link: www.assistnews.net (and other news sources such as Crosswalk for timely gleanings)
GERMANY / USA
Saeed Abedini now safe after prisoner-swap
Dan Wooding reports good news on long-awaited answered prayer…
Pastor Saeed Abedini, and two other Americans freed by Iran, safely arrived in Switzerland January 17, and then flew on to Germany for medical checkups, after leaving Iran as part of a prisoner swap. Naghmeh Abedini said in an initial Tweet, ‘Saeed just landed in Geneva. He is getting ready to leave to Germany. I should talk with Saeed in just a few hours! Thank you for your prayers!’
Saeed Abedini (born May 1980) was detained in Iran in the summer of 2012 and initially incarcerated in Evin Prison, Tehran, in September 2012. On January 27, 2013, he was sentenced to eight years in prison, reportedly on charges of undermining national security through private religious gatherings in Christian homes in Iran in the early 2000s. In November 2013, the Iranian government transferred Abedini to Rajai Shahr prison, just outside Karaj, Iran, where he was said to have been badly tortured.
Abedini family at home in America before the pastor’s arrest
The couple’s two children, Rebekka and Jacob, have spent almost four years wondering if their father was ever coming home, and now thanks to the prayers of millions around the world, they are just days from seeing him again.
Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice(ACLJ), has been able to talk with Pastor Saeed Abedini who thanked our entire ACLJ (http://aclj.org ) team and the more than 1.1 million ACLJ members who worked to secure his freedom, saying, ‘May God bless you for everything you did.’
Naghmeh Abedini has thanked President Barack Obama, Rev. Franklin Graham and the various groups that campaigned for her husband’s release, and the millions of people around the world who signed petitions for the cause.
Earlier on Sunday, she revealed that the president had personally called her, and she tweeted, ‘I just had a wonderful call w/@BarackObama @POTUS! Our family is so thankful for all the hard work and support in bringing Saeed home (Boise, Idaho).’
Liberal Jews to get prayer site at the Western Wall
Dan Wooding (pictured left, riding on a donkey in Jerusalem) also reports the following breakthrough in Israel…
The Israeli government has approved the creation of a new prayer space for non-Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, allowing men and women to pray together. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a ‘creative solution’ that would ‘unify the people of Israel.’
The BBC reported that ‘Orthodox Jews voted against the move but said they accepted the decision. Until now, in accordance with Orthodox beliefs, men and women have prayed separately at the Western Wall.’
The decision was welcomed by the more liberal Reform and Conservative Jewish movements in Israel and North America and the group Women of the Wall (WOW), which has long held monthly prayers – upsetting the Orthodox leaders of the site.
A founding member of WOW, Anat Hoffman, called it an ‘historic day. We have been fighting for 27 years. We were single when we started; we are grandmothers now. And what we have done is liberate another part of the wall that will be open to all. It will be tolerant and equal and friendly.’
Women gather at the Wall
Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall, said he received news of the decision ‘with a heavy heart and a sigh of relief,’ acknowledging the Wall had gone ‘from being a unifying site to one of incessant quarrels. It will continue to remain open to any worshipper – man or woman – at all hours of every day, with respect and loyalty to Jewish tradition and Jewish heritage, as it is the clear symbol of these.’
The BBC stated that the new mixed-gender prayer area will be built beside the current male and female prayer sites and will be managed by a separate committee which includes representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements.
Messianic Jew Daniel Rozen blows the shofar at the Wall
The Western Wall is a remnant of the retaining wall of the mount on which the Holy Temples is said to have once stood, and is one of the most sacred sites in Judaism. Every year, millions of Jews from all over the world visit the wall to pray.
Correspondents say the dispute over the wall became a symbol of the greater tensions in Israeli society between ultra-Orthodox Jews, who abide by a very strict interpretation of Jewish law, and more modern elements of Judaism.
Survivor claims Boko Haram burned kids alive in attack that kills 86
Dan Wooding (who was born in Nigeria) shares this latest tragedy:
Members of the radical Islamist group Boko Haram are alleged to have burned children alive as part of an assault in Nigeria that killed 86 people, a survivor of the attack has claimed.
‘The incident happened Saturday night (January 26) in the village of Dalori in northeastern Nigeria. Two nearby camps housing 25,000 people who have fled Boko Haram were also attacked,’ said a report in USA Today.
Boko Haram fighters
The Associated Press said it spoke to a survivor who was hidden in a tree: He said he watched Boko Haram extremists firebomb huts and heard the screams of children burning to death. Survivor Alamin Bakura, weeping in a telephone call to the AP, told the news service that several of his family members were killed or wounded in the attack, which lasted for nearly four hours.
Masa Dalori, a community leader, told AFP, ‘We were seated outside our home shortly after the Isha (nighttime) prayer when we heard gunshots and within a few minutes the invaders had arrived. They came in Golf saloon cars and began to shoot sporadically. Many people ran to the bush including myself. When we came back in the morning the entire community has been razed. At least 50 people were also killed, many others injured.’
Mallam Hassan, another villager, gave a similar account, saying, ‘I lost an uncle in the attack. But I thank God I escaped with my children.’
A car burns after a Boko Haram bombing outside St. Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, Nigera (Reuters)
The violence continued as three female suicide bombers blew up among people who managed to flee to neighbouring Gamori village, killing many people, according to a soldier at the scene who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to journalists.
Nigerian troops arrived at Dalori around 8:40 pm Saturday but were unable to overcome the attackers, who were better armed, said soldiers who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the press. The Boko Haram fighters only retreated after reinforcements arrived with heavier weapons, they said.
Journalists visited the carnage Sunday and spoke to survivors who complained it had taken too long for help to arrive from nearby Maiduguri, the military headquarters of the fight to curb Boko Haram. They said they fear another attack.
Wounded woman stretcher-carried in Mora following suicide attacks in the border city of Kerawa 29/1/16 (AFP Stringer)
Mohammed Kanar, the area coordinator of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, said 86 bodies, many of them charred and riddled with bullets, were collected by Sunday afternoon. Abba Musa of the country’s State Specialist Hospital in Maiduguri, the largest city in the area, said 62 survivors were being treated for burns.
Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — and during a six-year insurgency, has killed about 20,000 people and has driven 2.5 million Nigerians from their homes. It seeks a hardline Islamic state in northern Nigeria, where I was born in 1940.
Breakthrough/breakout from restrictions!
Wayne Swift encourages an effective 2016 for churches…
The early church, as we read in the book of Acts, had a break through spirit. They did things they had not done before. They went to places they had never seen before.
All this occurred in an effort to spread the good news and plant new churches.
Over and again I personally intend to encourage churches to make 2016 a year of breakingout and breakingthrough. If we continue to live within our current parameters then we will experience the same results as previous attempts.
• Breakout in your daily activities and let your vision be realised.
• Breakthrough to new levels of intimacy in your relationship with God in prayer and Bible reading.
• Breakout and breakthrough in allowing God’s Spirit to move in and on you to transform your current experience.
• Breakout and breakthrough from settling for the status quo.
There’s a world to be won for Christ!
We are needed!
• Our local churches and community need us to breakout of our current confines.
• Our cities and our own nation need us to breakout.
• Nations around the world need us to break out.
Let’s be sure we are not allowing small minded restrictions to slow our progress and impact.
Occasionally, it can seem that what we do is making little impact. At times like these I am reassured by these words in Isaiah 49:4 – ‘I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.”’
Let’s get out there, breakout from restriction and breakthrough into new arenas of fruitfulness.
Wayne Swift pastors The Church@1330, Scoresby, Victoria and is National Leader, Apostolic Church Australia, Bundoora, Victoria. Links: Wayne.Swift@1330.com.au, Church: www.the-church.org.au
AUSTRALIA / WORLD
Global persecution of Christians more extreme than ever before
Sourced from Australian Prayer Network…
Premier News Service reports that North Korea has topped the list of countries where Christians are most at risk of persecution for the fourteenth year in a row. The charity Open Doors said the persecution of believers across the world was ‘more extreme than ever before. Its annual report found religious fundamentalism was ‘sweeping’ the world, with around 70,000 Christians jailed in North Korea.
‘Persecution levels have been rapidly rising. This year, a country had to score 50 per cent more points than in 2013 to even make it onto the list,’ said CEO Lisa Pearce. The study found that well over 100 million Christians are persecuted worldwide because of their beliefs.
North Korea remains the worst place to be a Christian while Iraq (2) has replaced Somalia (7) as the second most dangerous place to be a Christian. Eritrea, now nicknamed the ‘North Korea of Africa’ due to high levels of dictatorial paranoia, follows at number three.
Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan are the next most difficult places for Christians. The biggest rises in persecution were found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Eritrea. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a point system, and while the lowest ranking country in 2013 had 35 points, this year’s lowest ranking country had 53 points – an increase of more than 50 per cent. It found persecution in India has risen dramatically for the third year running.
Analysis by Open Doors researchers found that the religious freedom of over 200 million people are severely threatened by a new wave of Hindu nationalist electoral successes that have seen the introduction of anti-conversion laws. Most Christians killed for their faith were from sub-Saharan Africa.
Christians under persecution in The 10/40 Window
Syria is the largest displacement crisis globally. Aleppo was home to 400,000 Christians at the start of the civil war – now Open Doors estimates less than 60,000 remain, with families leaving every day.
Links: https://www.opendoors.org.au / Australian Prayer Network http://ausprayernet.org.au/
Remember Jesus’ miracle with five loaves and two fish? It just happened again!
Esther Laurie brings a good news report…
Seth Barnes recently posted something amazing on his Radical Living blog. His team of volunteers in Lesvos, Greece was helping feed and clothe refugees fleeing Turkey after making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea.
400 hungry refugees
Barnes’ team faced the challenge of having 400 hungry people to feed, but had only enough food to feed 200 of them. One of the team members, Dayna Bickam, described what happened next:
‘We saw a genuine multiplication miracle last night. We had almost 400 people in our block at Moria and enough food to give every other person food. We prayed for Jesus to provide and thanked him for loving these people extraordinarily well. But… we had only seven trays of food!’
He added, ‘Yet we had three left over when we were done handing out food! People were bringing us the left-over unopened meals. I know my God is able, he is true and he is good.’
Seven tray miracle – with ten trays left over!
400 refugees were fed with seven trays of food (only enough for 200 people). Yet when the people finished eating, there were 10 trays left over!
Matthew 14:16-21 records, ‘But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.’
God still works miracles!
Esther Laurie is a staff writer at ChurchLeaders.com. Her background is in communication and church ministry. She believes in the power of the written word and the beauty of transformation and empowering others. It’s her goal to work the word ‘whimsy’ into most conversations. Links: http://estherlaurie.com / ChurchLeaders.com Update – www.churchleaders.com