PODCAST: Turkish President Erdogan Plans to Convert Hagia Sophia Into Mosque (International Christian Herald 7.14.20)

This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to the BBC, The World Council of Churches has called on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reverse his decision to turn the celebrated Hagia Sophia museum back into a mosque. In a letter to Mr Erdogan, the Council, which counts 350 churches as members, said the move would sow division. The Unesco World Heritage site in Istanbul has been a museum since 1934. The president announced his decision on Friday following a court ruling which annulled its museum status. The Hagia Sophia was built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453. It was converted to a museum on the orders of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern, secular Turkey. Since then religious services have been banned at the site, but devout Muslims have long campaigned for worship to be allowed.

According to the Christian Post, Christians in Iraqi territory once held by the Islamic State still face the possibility of extinction as the Christian population there continues to dwindle following the military defeat of the jihadi death cult and the rise of Iran-backed militias in the area. Aid to the Church in Need, an international humanitarian aid organization that has spent over $53 million to help Christians in Iraq in the last five years, published a lengthy report this week based on a series of surveys of Christians still living in the Nineveh Plains of Iraq. Through the surveys, the organization identified the major challenges facing Iraqi Christians who returned to their hometowns in northern Iraq following the Islamic State’s invasion of the Nineveh Plains and the city of Mosul in 2014. Sectarian and political tensions continue to be major factors driving the emigration of Christians from the region.

According to Baptist Press, Tribal Hindus persecuted a widowed, Christian mother of four before her body was found severely mutilated in the wilderness near her village in Chhattisgarh, India, sources said. The body of 40-year-old Bajjo Bai Mandavi was initially unrecognizable and appeared to have been eaten by wild animals when it was found two miles into the wilderness near her native Kumud village, Kuye Mari, May 29. She was last seen going into the wilderness to collect firewood May 25. She had suffered death threats, deprivation of water and shunning at the hands of villagers who were upset that she left their blend of Hindu and traditional tribal rituals. This led family members and area Christian leaders to believe she was raped and killed before animals fed on her body.

According to the BBC, Five people have been killed after attackers stormed a South African church, reportedly amid an argument over its leadership. South African police said they had rescued men, women and children from a “hostage situation” on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Saturday morning. They have also arrested at least 40 people, and seized dozens of weapons. Eyewitnesses say the men who stormed the International Pentecostal Holiness Church were part of a splinter group. The church’s leadership has reportedly been the subject of infighting since its former leader died in 2016. Police had previously been called to the church following a shoot out between members in 2018, South Africa’s IOL reports.

According to the Christian Post, Some 45 people attending Christian gatherings have reportedly been arrested in recent months in the capital city of Eritrea, a country ranked as the sixth worst in the world when it comes to Christian persecution. Rights groups are raising the alarm as recent reports indicate that as many as 30 people were arrested while attending a wedding ceremony for a Christian couple in the East African country’s capital city of Asmara in the last week of June. The London-based nonprofit Release Eritrea, which promotes religious harmony and human rights, released a statement this week explaining that the group of detainees was targeted by the regime in Asmara. The detainees are believed to have been taken to a local police station known as Kalai Medeber.

According to Baptist Press, International Mission Board senior leaders are urging Southern Baptists to use extreme caution if they are considering overseas missions travel for the remainder of 2020. As many countries continue to require quarantines or have not yet opened their borders, travelers could face unexpected circumstances, including quarantines upon re-entering the U.S. The future threat and spread of COVID-19 also remains an unknown factor. IMB personnel on the field are continually monitoring their local situations and governments’ restrictions. Many missionaries will not be able to host groups for the foreseeable future due to government-imposed travel bans and other factors related to the pandemic. Churches with long-standing partnerships and plans to travel soon should remain in close contact with their field contact for guidance. They should also continue to check travel restrictions and U.S. reentry guidelines, which could change day to day.

According to the Christian Post, At least a dozen Christians in Iran were reportedly arrested, some of whom were allegedly beaten, by Revolutionary Guard intelligence officers last week in three cities, according to a human rights monitoring group. Article 18, a London-based nonprofit that promotes religious freedom and tolerance for Christians in Iran, has reported on the arrests of Christians in three operations in the cities of Tehran, Karaj and Malayer that took place on June 30 and July 1. Along with the 12 Christians who were arrested, dozens of other Christians were forced to provide their contact details for future questioning, the organization noted.

In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!