ISIS imposes new education rules on Iraq, Syria
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Quapan)
Middle East (MNN) -- There's a cultural revolution going on. Words like that bring to mind Iran, Russia, and China…but it's underway right now in territories controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA,
explains, "They want to be a state. They want to be a nation. They established a court system there, government structure. They established a way to hand out food to the needy, and now they're establishing an education system."
Last month, ISIS declared the start of the academic school year under new rules and a new curriculum. They abolished classes about history, literature, music, and Christianity. The new rules also declared patriotic songs blasphemous and ordered certain pictures torn out of textbooks. Nettleton says that the indoctrination "is really the next step in the Islamic State setting up the structure and the culture--a permanent society that they want to exist in the areas that they control."
What this means is a permanent shift. The Islamic State
is trying to change the face of Iraq and Syria for good. However, the "Islamic State Education Diwan" stipulates that pictures that violate its ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam must be ripped out of books. Anthems and lyrics that encourage love of country are now viewed as a show of "polytheism and blasphemy" and are strictly banned. Scientific research has stopped because of funding disruption due to the war, too.
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/Quapan)
Sounds a lot like what happened during the uprisings that changed the face of France, Russia, China, and Iran--and not for the better. Nettleton agrees. "These movements typically don't move a country forward. We've already seen Christians being kicked out of the areas that Islamic State controls. We've seen backwards movement on religious freedom, on freedom of expression. I think we'll see that in this educational reform, as well."
Although ISIS is called a terrorist group, the path they've carved out for themselves looks like one that's meant to be generational. It also means Christians who've been displaced are probably not going to be able to return home.
That's not to say the light of Christ has gone dark. It's more that it's in a dark lantern--very much alive, but concealed so it can be revealed later. "There are Christians in the area, there are Muslim converts who are there. They're lying very low, at this point in time, trying to stay out of sight and keep their faith very secretive." For them, says Nettleton, it's a matter of life or death. "If they are exposed as a Muslim convert, they would be executed."
Gospel work has been disrupted with the exodus of believers from the region. VOM comes alongside the refugees. "We are in contact with people who have been displaced from the areas of the Islamic State. We are providing aid and help to them. The challenge is trying to provide help and encouragement back to Christians in the areas that the Islamic State controls."
What's happening is changing the face of the nations. It's spiritual warfare that requires as many soldiers to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and resist. "The other thing that I would encourage people to pray for is for the Lord to move supernaturally in these areas where all the Christians have been kicked out, where any Christians who are there are keeping a very low, underground profile. God is moving in the Muslim world through supernatural means, through dreams, through visions."
Disaster recovery updates
Severe Tropical Cyclone Phailin lurking just off the northeast coast of India at peak intensity.
(Image courtesy NOAA, caption courtesy TheSurvivialPlaceBlog.com)
India (GFA/MNN) -- Last October, India's eastern coast experienced the worst cyclone it had seen in 14 years: Cyclone Phailin. The storm damaged or destroyed 800,000 homes, and many people lost every earthly possession they owned.
Recovery efforts, initiated and carried out by believers in the affected areas, are putting Christ's love into action.
Right after Phailin struck, Gospel for Asia (GFA)
teams responded with the compassion of Christ and cared for survivors' basic needs. Ministry leaders also initiated a reconstruction program. As they monitor progress in each affected area, local pastors and other ministry leaders pray over the houses as they're being built.
“Now I understand the deep love of Jesus for me and my family,” said one house recipient.
(Photo, caption courtesy GFA)
So far, GFA teams have rebuilt 141 homes for Phailin survivors, with plans to rebuild at least 1,000 homes over the next three years. In addition, GFA-supported nationals are providing education for affected children through the Bridge of Hope program.
"Jibu" and his family lost their house and all their belongings when Cyclone Phailin swept through Odisha. After receiving a home as part of GFA’s Phailin Housing Project, he said in tears, “We are a very poor family. No one was there to help us when we lost everything during Phailin. Even our own relatives did not help us. But I am so happy that GFA helped me. I am so grateful to the church.”
Click here to help GFA reach their goal of 300 rebuilt homes by December 31.
At the same time, GFA Compassion Services teams are bringing help to families who were affected by the most recent storm, Cyclone Hudhud.
All the food packets were prayed over before being given to those in need.
(Photo, caption courtesy GFA)
believers and GFA pastors packed up a truck with food packets for 400 families living in three areas hit hardest by Cyclone Hudhud. Each food packet contained 22 pounds of rice, 2 pounds of dal, 2 pounds of sugar, 1 quart of oil, and various cooking spices.
Hudhud left hundreds of people homeless, seeking shelter in relief camps or under plastic tarps issued by local authorities. About 95 houses belonging to believers have been damaged. Forty families of children attending a Bridge of Hope center in Andhra Pradesh and at least 28 pastors have been affected.
These efforts and actions have led to a lot of curiosity and questions about the Gospel message. Pray for the immediate and eternal impact of GFA's disaster recovery projects.
More India stories here.
Paradise Bound seeks to purchase airplane and multiply ministry
Guatemala (MNN) -- The average person doesn't replace their car every two years. But the average vehicle used by Paradise Bound Ministries
in Guatemala only lasts two to three years because of bad road conditions. Because of the immense growth Paradise Bound has seen in Guatemala, they have an extensive network of lay pastors to serve. No longer is traveling by road sufficient or efficient.
(Image by Paradise Bound Ministries)
Since April, the staff of Paradise Bound has been asking for your prayers regarding an aviation program. Dan Smith of Paradise Bound shares some exciting updates with us.
"God has led us to a specific aircraft," he says. A man from Minnesota is selling this aircraft to Paradise Bound.
The ministry knows that it's a little more complicated than buying a plane. It's a transition to a whole new way of operating.
Smith says, "The first step for us was stepping out in faith. God called us to it, and so we step out in faith, and we know that. It's been confirmed through prayer, it's been confirmed through many, many doors that have been opening for us."
Not only is the cost of replacing and repairing vehicles becoming a bigger problem, the accessibility to villages leaves something to be desired. Smith explains that during certain times of the year, they cannot reach some villages at all.
Right now, if all goes well, Paradise Bound can visit three villages in three days and share the Gospel with them. That's the best-case scenario.
A plane would change that. Smith says, "If we were to fly to those same three villages, we could do all three villages in the same day going from one village to another village, to another village, and still be back home in time for supper.
"And we will have presented the Gospel to hundreds more people than what we would have over the course of three days."
Smith says that this will end up costing half the amount of money with all factors considered. "So you begin to see real quickly that there is an efficiency factor that far outweighs the cost factors of the aircraft in the time savings alone."
The initial cost to get the plane into operation for Paradise Bound is $250,000. This includes the cost of the plane, the first years of flying, and more.
This is a large number for such a small ministry. Smith says they have a current matching grant for $50,000. That will bring their raised funds to $100,000 if donors match that amount.
The gifting will determine how soon Paradise Bound can raise the rest of the funds. Smith says, "I know even now that there are listeners today that could write a check for $250,000, and it would not hurt them financially. If anything, it would actually bring gifts into their lives as you cannot out-give God. But there are also those who are listening today that couldn't even do $2.50 without hurting them right now."
Smith says that traditionally, their ministry has been sustained financially through small gifts. He wants potential supporters to know that this is an incredible opportunity for anyone to partner with a ministry that will share the love of Christ with people who have never heard about Him before. He also assures us that they are more than ready if a generous donor would cover all the costs.
They are leaving it up to God and how He moves your hearts.
If you'd like to contribute to this cause financially, click here
. Pray that Paradise Bound would be successful in getting this program off the ground and that they would be able to minister to many more souls.
Also, if you're in the Holland, Michigan area, check out information here
about an Open House on November 6, 2014 where you can learn more about this aviation project.
Islamic State expansion and ripple effects
Current military situation as of October 20, 2014. The gray-shaded area signifies Islamic State territory.
(Map obtained via Wikpedia)
Middle East (MNN) -- Evidence of Islamic State expansion is mounting. The terrorists are continually advancing, broadening their physical footprint, and U.S. officials said yesterday that ISIS is "the world's wealthiest terrorist group." In addition, their transition from shocking acts of terror to widespread societal reform carries troubling implications.
How will this Islamic State reformation affect ministry in Muslim nations? We asked Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI),
whose goal is to reach Muslims for Christ by partnering with indigenous Gospel workers.
"This is not just a 'flash in the pan,'" Allen states. "This is saying, 'We are revamping society wherever we can.'"
several Taliban leaders pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, broadening the reach of radical Islam.
"The brick and mortar offices of ISIS have been established in several cities across Pakistan. One of those offices is just a couple of kilometers away from where we have about 10 church planters and pastors and evangelists working," says Allen, adding that ISIS also has an active presence in Bangladesh.
"It's as if whatever ISIS starts off with in Iraq and Syria…they're expected to do that in these other places now, too."
With no world powers stepping up to stop them, ISIS only shows signs of growing and expanding into more Muslim-majority nations. Allen says the indigenous Gospel workers they support in these places are standing firm, despite the dangers posed by global Islamic State expansion.
Islamic State expansion and society
Muslim woman reading the Koran.
(Photo credit Been Buddy Longway via Flickr)
In a report
issued earlier this week, Al-Monitor exposed new IS rules on education being implemented throughout Syria and Iraq.
The IS reforms covered a broad array of issues: from altering Iraq and Syria's names to Islamic State and banning classes in music, art, philosophy, and history of religious minorities, to imposing religious curricula that aligns with Saudi Arabia's Salafist theology.
Allen says the educational changes will be implemented in Pakistan; it's only a matter of when.
"They are going to start eradicating formal education if they get to have major dominant influence in Pakistan," FMI's leader in Pakistan told Allen recently.
"While that's a threat, it's also an opportunity."
Islamic State expansion and the Church
Allen says FMI-supported Gospel workers are already adapting their ministry to accommodate for Islamic State expansion into Pakistan. Pastors and church planters are adding classrooms onto their church buildings, providing education for the believers they shepherd and a Gospel opportunity for other religious minorities in the community.
Sheik armed with knife & pistol teaches
recruits in Islamic State boot camp.
(Screenshot of YouTube video courtesy Karl-Ludwig Poggemann via Flickr)
ISIS will kill anyone who doesn't adhere to their worldview, Allen explains. This means Shi'ite Muslims in the Middle East are just as vulnerable to Islamic State violence as their Christian counterparts.
In fact, Allen says eight Shia Muslims were recently killed while on their way to a marketplace in Pakistan.
"In a place where Christians will rise to the challenge and say, 'We want to have outreach in this community and provide education; we want to show an alternative to the horrors of ISIS,' that will speak loudly to other minorities, such as the Shi'ite Muslims," says Allen.
Islamic State expansion and you
While the raw statistics can be overwhelming and you might feel helpless in the face of growing Islamic State terrorism, there are at least two things you can do.
(Photo credit the prayer continued via Flickr)
"I'd encourage people to pray for these church planters and pastors and evangelists, for their courage and their vision for ministry, [for] their abilities to lead congregations to take advantages of these windows of opportunity that they still have, [as well as] new opportunities that may miraculously become available, just like in the days of Esther," Allen says.
"Scriptures tell us the weapons of our warfare are different. Physical battles find their source actually in spiritual ones, and so we have to be dedicated to using spiritual weapons like prayer and fasting."
You can also come alongside indigenous Gospel workers financially.
"Donations to help support the pastors and church planters are vital, so that they can lead their congregations and continue to have outreach in their communities."
More ISIS updates here.
Flood destroyed everything, AMG brings aid
Pakistan (AMG) -- Editor's Note: Christina Javed is a national worker with AMG International in Pakistan who is involved in various ministries such as providing free legal aid to poor Christians and distributing food to families in need. The following is an AMG update from Pakistan:
Recently, Pakistan experienced heavy monsoon rains and severe flooding that affected many families. In the name of Jesus, Christina Javed and her team were able to distribute 70 food packs to 70 families who were devastated by the flooding. They were also able to share the story of the woman at the well from the Gospel of John.
Christina was able to minister to a woman named Rabia who lost a family member in the flood. She writes, “Rabia’s family is one of those families who were severely affected by the 2014 floods in Pakistan. She got married in December 2013. She told us, ‘We live in a village near Jhang, and when the rainy season started, our family was very worried because we were still recovering from 2010 floods.’ She was pregnant at that time.
Christina with Rabia and her baby (Photo courtesy AMG Int'l)
Her father-in-law and her husband are farmers who got a small piece of land on lease, and the whole family works in the fields. She said that they were sleeping when the flood water entered their village. “It destroyed everything,” said Rabia. She lost her mother-in-law in flood. She, along with her husband and father-in-law, managed to escape and came to the Jhang city. She gave birth to a baby girl in the camp, and now she is living in the camp. She has nothing to eat and wear.
Pray that Christina and her team will be able to continue working in others' lives and sharing the gospel.