Nigeria Kills 13 Boko Haram Militants as Massacre of Christians Continues

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The Nigerian armed forces have fought back against the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, killing 13 suspected combatants in an attack on their stronghold in the town of Maiduguri on Tuesday.

The news was confirmed by the Joint Task Force Operation Restore Order, who said that they lost one soldier in the gunfight, CNN reported. Military spokesman Sagir Musa said that that Boko Haram have been carrying out “incessant callous, brutal, barbaric and impious killings,” and Human Rights Watch estimate that the Islamic group, whose name means “Western education is sacrilege,” have killed more than 2,800 people in the last several years, including at least 34 since Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, raids on two separate churches resulted in the deaths of 12 worshippers, including a pastor. Another 15 Christians were massacred six days later on Sunday at another church in Northern Nigeria.

“We had warned that Boko Haram would continue its tradition of killing Nigerian Christians on Christmas day. Last week marked the third straight year that the terror group has murdered Nigerian Christians in the church on a Christmas day,” a statement by the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans noted, calling for more action on behalf of authorities.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said that despite these setbacks, Nigeria has been battling the terrorists, and a number of those who carried out the attacks have been apprehended “as a result of the diligence and steadfastness of law enforcement agents and security operatives across the country.” Jonathan made the remarks at a New Year’s service at Saint Anglican Church in Abuja, but did not reveal how many in total were in custody, AllAfrica reported.

Boko Haram have been bombing and burning churches and attacking Christians across the Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria for years, specifically targeting Christians in their mission to eradicate them from the country.

“The Nigerian state and Christians are our enemies and we will be launching attacks on the Nigerian state and its security apparatus as well as churches until we achieve our goal of establishing an Islamic state in place of the secular state,” the militants stated in no uncertain terms back in June.

Despite the slaughter of Christians and innocent people in Nigeria, the U.S. government has been reluctant to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization, even though it has said some of its leaders are terrorists.

Nigerians have created a petition to the U.S. government asking for this to change.

“Our government in Washington DC, especially the White House and the State Department are fully aware of what is going on. But both President Barack Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have simply tolerated this impunity by their inaction,” the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans said about the petition.

“Already, American citizens have been affected, and the United Nations building in Abuja has been attacked by these terrorists. The U.S. Congress has affirmed that Boko Haram is a threat to the U.S., especially with the group’s suspected links to al-Qaeda.”

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Beyond the war on Christmas

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Is there a War on Christmas? Not if its observance is measured by shopping and decorations, which grow gaudier and more expensive with each passing year. But there is a war on Christ in full swing. And since Christmas is about His birthday, naturally the secularizing community has turned its full force on the holiday.

Case in point: NBC’s Chief Medical Editor Nancy Snyderman. During a Tuesday “Today” discussion of the tasks that make the Christmas season so busy, Snyderman let viewers in on what really irks her about the holiday. “I don’t like the religion part. I think religion is what mucks the whole thing up … I think that’s what makes the holidays so stressful.”

So yes, there is indeed a real “war on Christmas,” or, more accurately, it’s the winter campaign in the year-round war on Christianity.

This year’s Christmas installment of religion-purging featured the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers complaining  about a school production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The play is about a Peanuts character disillusioned by the commercialization of the Christmas season, who explained to his classmates the reason for the celebration of Christmas – the birth of Christ. The play’s “religious content” irked the society, as did the fact that the school organized a voluntary field trip to the play at a church. The pastor of the church planning to host the play eventually decided to cancel the production, citing a desire for peace.

Western Piedmont Community College tried to tell its students not to use the word Christmas – to promote a Christmas tree sale. (Public outcry forced the college to reverse its decision.)

The Department of Education cancelled an annual Christmas concert for a charity helping people in Africa – because the Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State threatened to sue because the concert was held at a church.

The war on public expression of Christianity during Christmas is merely the spearhead of a larger war on publicly expressed faith in America. Secularists in the media such as Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post blast those who defend public expression of Christianity as a “small fringe” on the “far right.”

A North Carolina elementary school prevented a first grade girl from reading a poem she wrote about her grandparents during a school assembly. The reason? The poem included the line: “He prayed to God for peace. He prayed to God for strength.” The sacrosanct principle of “separation of church and state” clearly dictates that public school students must be protected from listening to first grade Bible-thumpers discuss their ancestors’ deluded customs.

The North Carolina school wasn’t the only school to join Orwell’s angels. Louisiana State University posted pictures of football fans on its website — and photo-shopped the fans’ painted crosses out of the photos. When an outcry was raised, LSU spokesman Herb Vincent explained the school’s reasoning: “We don’t want to imply we are making any religious or political statements, so we air-brushed it out. Only one of the students, who didn’t appreciate it, actually contacted us about it. So next time, we’ll just choose a different photo.” Painted crosses barely visible in the original picture apparently constitute a “religious statement.”

While LSU was forced to apologize for its censorship, more powerful entities are embracing the same tactics.

Government has taken an active role in purging publicly expressed Christianity. The White House asked Georgetown University  to cover up a monogram of the name of Jesus during a May 2012 visit. (President Obama heads a party which nearly purged God from its platform.) More far-reaching is the Obama administration’s insistence that religious-affiliated institutions pay for contraception and sterilization, effectively forcing these institutions to violate their beliefs or be punished.

Secularist groups seek to purge any trappings of Christianity from public practice. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is pushing Obama not to use the Bible during his second inauguration. The American Humanist Association is pressuring new members of Congress not to join the Congressional Prayer Caucus.

At times, the secular campaign against public religion takes ridiculous turns. The FFRF sought to remove a statue of Jesus on public property in Montana. But the suit faced dismissal because, as the Christian Post reported, the FFRF “had not found an individual or group that maintained they were harmed by the statue’s presence.” (The FFRF eventually found an atheist who lived 15 minutes away from the statue to object to its presence, allowing the lawsuit to proceed.)

Perhaps these groups should read the section of the First Amendment concerning religion more closely. The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The position of secularists appears to be that any religious symbol displayed or language spoken somehow constitutes an “establishment of religion.” The mere public mention of religion is apparently capable of scorching the sensitive ears of those who deny his existence.

But such a position certainly inhibits the free exercise of faith – assuming, of course, that faith is something more than an archaic ritual to be practiced every weekend and shelved on all other occasions. (Not that the words of the Constitution matter to the secular left.) But if any public mention of God is forbidden, documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address should be purged from the public record as well.

There is a “war on Christmas:” a war on any symbol that might make Christmas more than a confectionary slop of feel-goodness to be cast aside on December 26. And this war lasts the other 11 months of the year

The Blogginghounds once again see a war being waged on Christians. Get ready for persecution in the USA.
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Iranian Pastor Shares Joy Despite Imprisonment in Letter to Christians

Jailed Iranian pastor Behnam Irani, who was last month denied hospitalization despite his critical condition, wrote a letter from his prison cell days before Christmas, ministering to Christians in his country and thanking God for letting him share “very little of” Jesussuffering on the cross.

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“Despite the pressure and difficulties in prison, I am pleased to share, what is like a fountain, my Christian joy with you in the new Christmas days to come,” wrote Irani, who is currently serving a six-year sentence, according to the letter translated by Minnesota-based Present Truth Ministries, which has missionaries and pastors working in various Middle Eastern countries.

“My brothers and sisters, I love you all. Christ has given you to me on Calvary. Even if I were sentenced to many years behind bars for the salvation of one of you, there would never be any complaint,” said the pastor in his 40s in the letter, seemingly written to the people he has ministered to and Christian workers in Iran.

Before his arrest in 2011 for “acting against the interests of national security. Irani was leading the Church of Iran in the city of Karaj in Alborz Province. He has been tortured in prison and was denied hospitalization for a bleeding ulcer. He had been found several times unconscious in his prison cell when visited, raising fears for his well-being.

But Irani is still thinking of the well-being of his people. “You are so precious that God himself braved the death on the cross. Do I or other servants not have to bear imprisonment for you?” Irani added. “I wish you can love each other as much as I love you, at least. Sooner or later our earthly settlement will end, and we will leave the world with all its attractions. Please do not let any earthly attraction prevent you from sweet Christian relations.”

Irani also sought to warn and encourage Christian workers, asking them to fix their eyes on spiritual things and not on worldly problems and temptations. “There were times when I was being tempted and paying more attention to my future during my ministry as a servant of Christ,” he wrote, adding that verses from the Bible serving as “a red light stopped me, even though I was sometimes fined for passing this

Many a times, he added, Christians, especially servants, act like the Samaritan woman (John 4). The water jar she was carrying represented her worldly needs and desires, but she left it after she realized who Jesus is and what He can offer. Irani said Christian workers should not be concerned too much about financial support and other difficulties.

“In these days which are truly evil, I encourage you to be alert. Do not fear for the recent economic crisis covering the larger part of the world and especially Iran,” he wrote in the wake of reports that many Christians from Iran are fleeing persecution and famine. “You servants will find new excuses for reducing the quality and hours of your ministry; and drowning more deeply in worldly affairs you will come to a point when it is too late.”

To his “brothers and sisters, and servants who are scattered all over the church of Iran,” he stated, “Tears are shed for you. I wipe them not to be noticed. They originate from the pain of my love to you. How well I now understand when Paul the Apostle said to the church, ‘I raised you with tears.'”

The issue of some fleeing or migrating to other countries must not cause division in the church, Irani warned. “Perhaps one day we who are currently residing in Iran will immigrate away and they [those who have fled or migrated] return to Iran instead. What is expected is that we don’t forsake God’s kingdom wherever we are in this planet. Believers ought to cooperate fully with servants and aid them in pressure and difficulties. Bear their possible mistakes with the Christian love and don’t express them verbally. Respect the anointing God has given them, and know that any disrespect to their ministry and anointing is regarded as disrespect to the Holy Spirit.”

Irani became a Christian in 1992, and became a pastor 10 years later. His wife and two children have said they are afraid that unless the beatings stop and he is offered proper medical care, he might die in the prison soon.

But suffering has not robbed Irani of the joy Jesus gives. “Once again, I congratulate all the saints at Christmas and the coming new year,” he said, concluding the letter.

Holiday message: Atheists dub Jesus a ‘myth’ on Times Square billboard

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Just as midtown Manhattan comes alive with Christmas cheer, festive window displays and Salvation Army bell ringers trying to channel holiday generosity to the needy, an atheist group has a message for the masses teeming into Times Square: Jesus is a myth.

With a picture of Santa Claus above another image of Jesus Christ, the sign, sponsored by New Jersey-based American Atheists, urges passersby to “Keep the Merry!” and “Dump the Myth!” Attacks on Christianity from the group have become routine, and in the bustling heart of America’s busiest city, most folks don’t even waste a shrug on the sign. But some took notice, and did not approve.

“It’s a damn shame. It’s an insult,” said Anthony White, 41, a of Jersey City, N.J. said. “Why did they have to put that up?”

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, had an answer, though not one likely to please the faithful.

“Most Christians are really atheists who feel trapped in their family’s religion,” Silverman told FoxNews.com. “They need not be Christian to enjoy the holiday season.”

Silverman said a private donor paid more than $25,000 to have the billboard posted above a nightclub in the crossroads of the world for one month, ending Jan. 10, 2013.

“We chose Times Square because it is a place where people go to shop and be festive, which has nothing to do with religion,” Silverman said.

Lamar Outdoor, the advertising giant that leased the space to Silverman’s group, said it wasn’t the company’s place to censor the message.

“We felt as long as it’s not misleading that it’s their First Amendment right,” Lamar spokesman Hal Kilshaw said. “We think it’s their right to have their message heard,” he said, adding that they have not received any complaints over the Times Square billboard yet.

The ad is the latest in holiday-themed billboards put up by the group every year. In 2011, American Atheists posted a variety of ads as part of a “Myth” campaign in three states with images of Santa, Jesus, Greek god Poseidon, and the Devil with the phrase, “37 million Americans know MYTHS when they see one.”

The Catholic League has battled it out with Silverman’s group in the past, even posting opposing signs on each end of the Lincoln Tunnel in 2010. But Catholic League spokesman Bill Donohue said Silverman went too far this year.

“This year it’s different,” he said. “This is vile. When you depict Jesus on the cross with a crown of thorns, this is exploitative. We as Christians never harass, intimidate or insult atheists. But they can’t seem to say, ‘We simply disagree with you.’ They have to insult us.”

The Impact of the Holocaust on Jewish Evangelism

The following is an excerpt from Mitch Glaser’s recent presentation entitled, “Heroes of the Holocaust: Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto and Yeshua,” given at a gathering of leaders in Jewish missions.

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The Holocaust was the most significant challenge to the survival of the Jewish people since the Babylonian Captivity. Over the centuries, many threats reshaped the Jewish community, including the Crusades, expulsions, pogroms and the ongoing conflicts related to the modern state of Israel. Yet no other modern trauma brought upon the Jewish people is comparable to the reduction of the Jewish population and destruction of Jewish life engendered by the Holocaust.

The impact of this tragedy on the general Jewish population was massive, as was its impact on Jewish followers of Jesus. Jewish believers living in Europe prior to the Holocaust numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Most were either killed or moved to other parts of the globe. Even after almost seventy years, we still live in the shadow of the Holocaust, and the experiences of our spiritual forefathers during the Holocaust continue to shape Jewish missions.

We stand on the shoulders of these heroes of the Holocaust, particularly the Jewish believers of the Warsaw Ghetto, although their achievements and witness remain largely unknown. Their story — as much or as little as we know — must be told.

The Nazi Invasion and the Construction of the Warsaw Ghetto

The Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 and anti-Jewish regulations were soon implemented, leading to the construction of the Warsaw Ghetto. The Nazis also built ghettos in other Polish and Lithuanian cities with large Jewish populations, such as Lodz and Vilna.

The Nazis established the Warsaw Ghetto in November 1940. They placed nearly 500,000 Jewish people within the Ghetto and imprisoned them with a wall. In 1941, about 45,000 Jewish residents died due to overcrowding, forced labor, poor sanitation, scarce food, and disease. In 1942, the Nazis deported most of the Ghetto’s population to Treblinka, one of six death camps, leaving only 60,000 residents. The following year, in April 1943, the Germans attempted to raze the Ghetto and deport the remaining population to Treblinka, initiating an uprising, led by Mordecai Anielewicz. The bitter fighting lasted twenty-eight days, ending with the Ghetto’s destruction.1

An Overview of Pre-War Jewish Missions in Poland

Martin Parsons, a missionary to the Jewish people with The Church’s Ministry among Jewish People (established in 1809) gives a sketch of Jewish missions in Warsaw in a statement prior to the Nazi invasion:

The American Board of Missions to the Jews [Chosen People Ministries today] has a center in Warsaw on the east of the river. They have room for some inquirers, in addition to general evangelistic work. The Mildmay Mission (Messianic Testimony today) has a hall in the Jewish quarter in Warsaw and their work mainly touches poorer Jews. The American European Fellowship is in Warsaw and works particularly among children. They have a villa at Radoso, which is used in the summer for children’s work. The Bethel Mission in Lodz has an evangelistic center and a colony. In addition, in Poland there is one Pentecostal evangelist, one member of the Open Brethren, one member of the Closed Brethren and a few private evangelists living by faith. The four missions in Warsaw work together in close cooperation.2

Parsons’ organization, CMJ, built Emmanuel Hall in 1927, a showcase for Messianic believers in Warsaw. Three Jewish believers provided significant leadership in Poland: H. C. Carpenter, Paul Levertoff, and J. I. Landsmann. Martin Parsons took the helm in 1927 and led the work until the Nazi invasion. Many effective missionaries served with CMJ, such as Bazyli Jocz, father of Messianic scholar Jakób Jocz.

Jewish Believers in the Warsaw Ghetto

When the Nazis invaded Poland, conditions among the Jews were already terrible, but the Final Solution arrived in Poland like a raging storm from hell. Jews and missionaries to the Jews were rounded up and taken to concentration camps, or else killed outright. Chaos was everywhere, and the work of the missions ground to a complete halt from which it would never recover.

Missions to the Jews died in Poland along with approximately 3,000,000 Jewish people. The largest of the open and active fields of labor among the Jewish people for the Gospel was destroyed; the war marked the end of a people and the end of an era.

In his monumental book, Christians in the Warsaw Ghetto, Peter F. Dembowski calculates that there were 5,000 to 6,000 Jewish believers living in the Ghetto at its height.3

Rachmiel Fryland speaks of his own interaction with the remaining believers in the Ghetto:

In late 1944, by hiding in cemeteries, deserted churches, and the homes of fearful friends, I was one of the few surviving Jews in Warsaw outside the ghetto. In that enclosure were 5,000 Jews, the last of Warsaw’s original 500,000. By God’s enabling, I secretly slipped into the ghetto and was able to speak comfort to a few of the Jewish believers still alive. Other Jewish brethren heard the message and believed in Messiah Jesus.4

Frydland was one of the most well-known Messianic Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. His first-hand testimony provided information about the life of the Jewish believers in Warsaw before and, to some degree, during the war.

One of the most significant Jewish believing voices was that of Dr. Ludwick Hirszfeld, author of the book The Story of a Life. Dembowski says, “Herzfeld (sic) is the most knowledgeable informant about the Ghetto and many aspects of the daily life of the Ghetto dwellers.”5

Dr. Hirszfeld’s autobiography, written soon after his escape from the Ghetto, gives a detailed description of his life and that of others, as well as providing testimony of his faith. He was a well-respected scientist who had served as a medical doctor in the Polish army in Yugoslavia. There, he began his lifetime work of developing methodology to identify blood types, which scientists still use today. Hirszfeld became a believer in his twenties, and the vitality of his faith comes through in both his writings and actions.

According to the records of various Jewish missions and churches, there were many conversions preceding the Holocaust. These continued all the way until the destruction of the Ghetto. Warsaw, a hotbed of Messianic activity, was home to more than a dozen Jewish missions.

The believers who came to faith through the Jewish mission agencies and Evangelical churches before and during the Ghetto counted the cost. These true believers found comfort in their dire straits through the Messiah.

While we do not have many records of their voices, one day we will hear their stories of martyrdom and suffering. In the eternal kingdom, their voices will be lifted with ours in praise and worship to the One who suffered on our behalf and was raised in triumph, conquering death, evil and every enemy of God and His chosen people. The grace of our Messiah and Lord will wipe away the horror of the Ghetto.

Sources:

1 The Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust: http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust/timeline/ghettos.htm

2 IMCCAJ Vienna Conference 1937

3 Peter Dembowski, Christians in the Warsaw Ghetto: An Epitaph for the Unremembered, (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005) 68.

4 http://www.messianicassociation.org/bio-frydland.htm

5 Dembowski, 114.

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Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani: ‘I’m Alive Because of God’s Will and Your Prayers’

At a recent national conference in London, newly freed Iranian pastor expressed immense gratitude to his many supporters who prayed for his release during his three-year imprisonment, saying that he is alive today because of “what your prayers did for me.”

 

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“It is the opportunity for me to share about what the Lord did for me and to thank you because you supported me by your prayers, you supported my family in a very difficult time,” Nadarkhani, 35, told those in attendance at the persecution watchdog group Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s National Conference in London in early November.

“My prayer is I ask the Lord to bless you for what you did for me as a small member of the Body of Christ. Today my presence here is the will of God and the result of what your prayers did for me,” Nadarkhani added, according to a press release issued by CSW, which has maintained an active role in Nadarkhani’s release from prison.

Nadarkhani, a house pastor in Rasht, Iran, was released from prison on Sept. 8 after three years imprisonment for charges of apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims.

Although he initially faced the death penalty for his charges, Nadarkhani eventually had his apostasy charge removed, and was therefore freed.

Shortly after being released from jail, Nadarkhani issued a “Thank You Letter” to his supporters, saying:

“I want to express my gratitude to all of those who have supported me, openly or in complete secrecy. You are all very dear to my heart. May the Lord bless you and give you His perfect and sovereign Grace.”

Observers contend that Nadarkhani’s release depended highly on the amount of international pressure Iran received regarding his case.

Countries around the world, including Germany, the United States, and Brazil, openly condemned Iran’s imprisonment of the Christian minister due to his faith, arguing that the country was disregarding international human rights laws.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide said Nadarkhani’s speech at the organization’s national convention was an inspiring, faith-filled testimony of perseverance and love.

“It was a pleasure to welcome Pastor Nadarkhani to our conference and to hear his testimony of faith and perseverance, and of his love for God, for his family and for his nation,” CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a press release.

“His quiet courage, integrity and lack of recrimination cannot fail to have inspired anyone who heard him to deepen their own commitment to their faith,” Thomas added.

Nadarkhani reportedly spoke at four religious services at a local church in the small town of Brompton, near Medway, England, before returning to his wife and two sons in his hometown of Rasht.

Although Nadarkhani was successful in fighting the Iranian government’s practice of religious persecution, his lawyer, human rights defender Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, has been detained.

Dadkhah, one of the few human rights lawyers in Iran, was arrested in Oct. 2012 and sentenced to nine years in prison for allegedly acting against national security and spreading propaganda.

The American Center for Law and Justice, another pro-human rights organization that has closely monitored Nadarkhani’s case, urges all Christians to continue their fight for religious freedom in Iran.

“As the world awakened to the realities of religious persecution in Iran when the masses fought for Pastor Youcef’s freedom, we must now shift our attention to defend those who defend the persecuted,” Tiffany Barrans, International Legal Director for the ACLJ, previously told The Christian Post.

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