First Christians Punished Under New Law in Iran (Whyte House Report 7.12.21)

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According to Mission Network News, Attackers kidnapped at least 140 students from Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna State, Nigeria. Early Monday morning, armed men smashed a hole in the school’s brick wall and took the students away at gunpoint. The Nigerian government has closed 13 other at-risk schools in response. Greg Musselman of The Voice of the Martyrs Canada says, “It’s not just land grabbing from the Christians. That’s a part of it. But there’s also a number of groups that are targeting Christians and then trying to Islamize the area. Interestingly, the government of Nigeria claims these are gangs that are doing this. But the Christians are saying, ‘No, these are Fulani Muslims that have been under an ideology of extremely strict Islam.’” But Christians everywhere must pray for their suffering brothers and sisters. Musselman says, “Every time there’s a kidnapping, it’s somebody’s child. And for us that are followers of Jesus, that’s a part of our family: the body of Christ. We can’t just say, ‘Well, that’s Nigeria again,’ and get fatigued. We need to continue to pray and intercede for the Baptist leaders and the other Christian leaders in the area. They’re getting worn down by this as well.”

According to Assist News Service, As football fever spreads throughout England and Europe during the Euro2020 soccer tournament, Mosaic Middle East reported the latest news from its football project at Harsham Camp in northern Iraq. In an email update to ministry supporters, the outreach said: “Our football project is run by local Iraqis and brings these refugees together, across religious and ethnic divides. It helps to protect the youngsters from radicalization — a very real danger in camps in Iraq where there is so little hope.” The ministry says: “We cover the costs of the football coach, the boy’s kit and equipment. Two years ago we paid for the pitch to be fully renovated including new drainage. We want to be able to make repairs to the pitch so if you are able to provide a donation it would be greatly appreciated.”

According to Mission Network News, SAT-7 is celebrating 25 years of ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. Joe Willey of SAT-7 USA says SAT-7 was founded by Dr. Terence Ascott. “This was after seeing how ubiquitous televisions were in the region. He was steadfast through civil war and unrest. He was deported and he faced many other dangers. But he wanted to use the media to make the Gospel available to people in the Middle East and North Africa, and then also support the Christian Church.” In addition, Willey says SAT-7 has moved beyond just television. Recently they released a streaming platform called SAT-7 PLUS. Willey says, “We also have a highly interactive and large social media following in the region. Now something I think is also very important is that viewers receive personal follow-up to their questions. We received thousands of stories of how SAT-7’s biblically-based programming is changing lives. It’s really powerful.”

According to Associated Press, A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Air Force is mostly responsible for a former serviceman killing more than two dozen people at a Texas church in 2017 because it failed to submit his criminal history into a database, which should have prevented him from purchasing firearms. U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez in San Antonio wrote in a ruling signed Wednesday that the Air Force was “60% responsible” for the massacre at First Baptist Church in the small town of Sutherland Springs, where Devin Kelley opened fire during a Sunday service. Authorities put the official death toll at 26 because one of the 25 people killed was pregnant. The attack remains the worst mass shooting in Texas history. The trial conclusively established that “no other individual—not even Kelley’s own parents or partners—knew as much as the United States about the violence that Devin Kelley had threatened to commit and was capable of committing,” Rodriguez wrote. Rodriguez said that had the government done its job and entered Kelley’s history into the database, “it is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting.”

According to Mission Network News, The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) held its 2021 graduation on June 19. The class of 2020 graduated as well, since the pandemic canceled graduation last year. Forty-eight students graduated from countries all around the Arab world. ABTS livestreamed the graduation celebration, featuring speakers, music, and a heartfelt prayer for God to empower the ministry of these new graduates. Watch the livestream here. Director of Partnerships Loulwa El Maalouf says, “We heard a few testimonies from students who are spread out in the Arab world. You also get to see the variety of students, the diversity of students that we are celebrating, coming from all different countries.”

According to Assist News Service, Morning Star News reports the first Christians to be punished under a newly amended law in Iran aimed at halting the growth of Christianity and other religious groups were sentenced to five years in prison for spreading “propaganda” against Islam after they refused to renounce Christ, sources said. Amin Khaki, Milad Goudarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi, all converts from Islam, were sentenced under Article 500 of Iran’s newly amended penal code, which states that “any deviant education or propaganda that contradicts or interferes with the sacred Sharia [Islamic law] will be severely punished.” Members of the Church of Iran, the three men were informed on June 26 that they had each been given the maximum prison sentence allowable under the amended article and also fined 40 million tomans (US$1,600). Another member of the church, Hamet Ashouri, was told the same day that his appeal of a 10-month prison sentence on charges of “propaganda against the regime” had been denied. Ashouri is also a convert from Islam. The three men have 20 days to appeal their verdict. Ashouri was given 10 days to report to Karaj Central Prison to start his sentence.

According to Mission Network News, Greg Kelley of World Mission says, “We just [learned] that two of our missionary bases were just totally destroyed. Missionaries are trapped. Right now, missionaries are trapped. Converts are surrounded by the enemy. Right now is the time that the body of Christ needs to rise up and pray for these precious lives that are in harm’s way.” This violence isn’t coming from just one group. Boko Haram, a terrorist army that rejects modern Western culture and Christianity, rampages in the country. The Islamic State, despite losses in the Middle East, continues to torment Nigeria. Meanwhile, the Fulani tribe continues to target Christians as well. Despite this, Nigerian Christians persevere in the Gospel. Kelley says, “Some of the most inspiring people in the world to me are brothers and sisters in Christ who are being incredibly persecuted. Many of them have lost family members to their persecutors. Yet they’re driven with compassion and love for those very people trying to kill them. They want to get the Gospel into those areas.”

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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16 says, “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 on the cross for your sins, 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 you.